Germany asks Belgium to shut down two nuclear reactors

Germany asks Belgium to shut down two nuclear reactors

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Germany urges Belgian government to close down the Doel 3 and Tihange 2 nuclear reactors. Belgium, however, has rejected the request

Germany asked Belgium to take two nuclear reactors offline because of safety concerns. However, Belgium’s authorities have rejected the German request, saying there is no need “from a nuclear safety point of view”.

Germany’s Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks urged Belgium on Wednesday to take its Tihange 2 and Doel 3 reactors offline “until open safety questions are cleared up.” German officials have cited concerns over the safety of the reactor pressure vessels.

Hendricks said in a statement that taking the reactors offline “would be a strong precautionary signal and would show that Belgium takes the concerns of its German neighbors seriously.”

Hendricks’ request stems from a report from Germany’s independent Reactor Safety Commission (RSK), which concluded that security reserves at the two reactors were sufficient for normal operation, but problems could arise in the event of a fault.

Belgium, however, has rejected the request, arguing the facilities met with the strictest safety standards.

Belgium’s official nuclear safety agency (AFCN) said the two plants “respond to the strictest possible safety requirements.”

The agency “is always willing to collaborate with their German counterparts… but only as long as a shared willingness to cooperate in a constructive fashion is demonstrated,” it added in a terse statement.

Germany has often voiced safety concerns about the two reactors due to their proximity to German soil.

The two reactors in question are the Engie SA’s Tihange-2 and Doel-3 atomic plants, which are located close to the German border. The Doel and Tihange power stations have been in service since 1974-1975, and were scheduled to be shut down in 2015 as the reactor pressure vessels at both sites have shown signs of metal degradation, raising fears about their safety.. But the Belgian government in December decided to extend their lives to 2025.

The reactor at Tihange is located just 60 kilometres (40 miles) from the German border, while Doel is about 130 kilometres away, and close to Antwerp.

Nuclear reactors in Belgium

The German Environment Minister, Jochen Flasbarth, said that this was indeed an unprecedented request from a neighboring state, but it reflects serious concerns. German authorities are not satisfied the two reactors are safe.

In Germany, the public mood swung against nuclear power following the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. The European country plans to switch off all of its own nuclear reactors  by 2022 after Japan’s Fukushima meltdown. This is why nuclear reactors outside the country, but in vicinity, are a huge concern to Germany.

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