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Nuclear exit

October 31, 2011

Belgian's main political parties have reached an agreement to shut down the country's two nuclear power plants on the condition that they can find alternative sources of energy to prevent energy shortages.

A nuclear power plant in Switzerland
Belgium wants to shut down its two nuclear plantsImage: SIGI TISCHLER / APA / picturedesk.com

Belgian's political parties have reached a conditional agreement to phase nuclear power by 2025, if they can find an adequate supply of energy from alternative sources by that time.

Belgium currently has seven nuclear reactors at two nuclear power stations, at Doel in the north, and Tihange in the south. The three oldest reactors are set to be shut down by 2015, with the rest taken off the grid by 2025.

The agreement confirms a decision taken in 2003, which was shelved during Belgium's political stalemate. The country has been without a federal government for 18 months, after coalition talks repeatedly failed following the elections in April 2010.

Alternative resources

Belgian's power stations are operated by Electrabel, which is part of GDF-Suez. The company's share price fell nearly 5 percent on Monday.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, nuclear energy provided some 55 percent of Belgian's electricity in 2009. Well over 90 percent of the domestic production production of energy comes from nuclear plants. The country is forced to import gas and oil to keep its national grid running.

Although Belgium had long planned its nuclear exit, public hostility to nuclear power has grown since Japan's nuclear disaster at Fukushima earlier this year. That prompted Germany, Europe's biggest economy, to announce it would shut down all its nuclear plants by 2022.

Belgium will now negotiate with investors to see how it can find new capacity to replace the 5,860 MW that will be lost if the nuclear phase-out goes ahead.

Author: Joanna Impey (dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Nancy Isenson