Reactor Safety Commission opinion published
Germany‘s Reactor Safety Commission (RSK) has published an opinion on the defects referred to as crack zones in the reactor pressure vessels of the Tihange 2 and Doel 3 nuclear power plants. Most of the German experts‘ questions relating to safety issues are now resolved, although one aspect still requires additional study. For that purpose, German and Belgian experts have agreed to cooperate in research projects.
Germany’s environment minister Svenja Schulze stated: "In 2016, asking Belgium to shut down the Tihange 2 and Doel 3 nuclear power plants as a precaution was the right thing to do, given that a number of safety issues were still unresolved. Belgium unfortunately did not comply with this request. However, our experts have since established close working relations with Belgium at the technical level and have been able to clarify most of the unresolved issues. We appreciate the fact that Belgium has agreed to joint additional experiments aimed at further validating the chosen methods."
In April 2016, the independent Reactor Safety Commission conducted a provisional rapid assessment of the Tihange 2 und Doel 3 reactors‘ safety reserves under accident conditions. The commission concluded that there was no concrete evidence that the safety margins were exhausted. On the other hand, the commission could not confirm either that safety margins were reliably respected. The RSK stated the need for additional demonstrations and method validations.
The provisional assessment was followed by an in-depth exchange among experts from both countries to resolve the questions raised by RSK. The answers given satisfied the RSK representatives. A question on experimental validation of calculation methods for crack zones was also answered, whereby it became apparent that additional experiments could help achieve results that are more robust. For this purpose, Belgium agreed to participate in an ongoing research project run by University of Stuttgart’s materials testing institute that might contribute to further elucidating the issue.
Svenja Schulze also commented: "The recent RSK assessment does not change my overall critical attitude towards old nuclear power plants in our neighbouring countries. Nuclear power will always carry a residual risk. Therefore, I am happy whenever a nuclear power plant is decommissioned early and I will continue to advocate for a nuclear phase-out in our neighbouring countries. I believe that life extensions are the wrong approach under any circumstances and I told the Belgian government so. I will take the Belgians at their word that there will be no life extensions for Doel and Tihange." Belgian legislation stipulates a nuclear phase-out by 2025. Tihange 2 is to be shut down in 2023, Doel 3 in 2022. Belgium’s competent minister, minister of the Interior Jan Jambon, confirmed this situation on the occasion of Svenja Schulze’s first official visit to Brussels on 22 May 2018.