Beligan Doel 1 reactor shut down

Belgium's Doel-1 reactor was shut down on Feb. 15 after reaching its 40-year maximum operational lifetime cap.

Under Belgium law, reactors must be permanently shut down after 40 years; however, Electrabel, which operates the 433 MWe pressurized water reactor (PWR) is seeking government permission to restart Doel-1 and extend operation of Doel-2, scheduled for closure in December 2015. The subsidiary of GDF-Suez is arguing exceptional circumstances triggering the need for the units.

Of Electrabel's seven reactors, two more -- Doel-3 and Tihange-2 -- have been shut down because of thousands of crack indications in their pressure vessels.

Only two days before the Doel-1 closure, the Federal Agency of Nuclear Control (AFCN) said that the number of identified defects in the pressure vessels of Doel-3 and Tihange-2 had increased by several thousand: 

"This means that Electrabel now has to take into account 13,047 flaw indications for Doel 3 and 3,149 flaw indications for Tihange 2 in its calculations," Jan Bens, head of the Belgian Safety Authority AFCN, said. "This is possibly a worldwide problem for the whole nuclear sector. The solution lies in carrying out detailed inspections in all 430 nuclear power plants worldwide."

Electrabel previously received a lifetime extension from the Belgium government for its Tihange-1 unit.

The Doel-1 closure brings the number of operational units in the world back to 390.