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Belgium's Tihange reactor partially evacuated following terror strikes

Officials have ordered the removal of non-essential staff from the Tihange nuclear reactor, east of Brussels. Authorities had earlier tightened security around the country's nuclear sites.

Tihange's operator, ENGIE Electrabel, confirmed on Tuesday that the plant had not been evacuated and that only non-essential staff were allowed to leave. Those necessary for ensuring the plant's safe operations were staying back.

Electrabel's statement came shortly after public broadcaster VTM announced that Tihange had been evacuated. Police and military personnel had been deployed in the area around the reactor, Belgian news agency Belga reported.

Authorities ordered employees to leave hours after

terrorists struck the airport and a metro station in Brussels

, killing over 30 people and injuring several more.

High alert since February

Belgian officials have been monitoring nuclear sites since February, when investigations into last year's terror attacks in Paris revealed a video tracking movements of a man linked to Belgium's nuclear industry.

Following the finding, the interior ministry ordered 140 soldiers to protect the Tihange and Doel reactors as well as the country's nuclear research and storage facilities. The ministry however denied there was any direct link between the video and its decision to tighten security.

Tihange is located in Belgium's Liege province, close to the German border. The 40-year-old reactor, together with the Doel power plant, was scheduled to be shut down in 2015. Belgian officials however decided to extend the operation to 2025 under a deal to preserve jobs and invest in clean energy. Belgium's neighbors, including Germany, have expressed concerns over possible cracks and leaks the aging reactors may develop, endangering nearby areas.

mg/msh (Reuters, dpa)

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