Belgium shuts nuclear reactor for possible cracks

Belgium has interrupted the use of one of its seven nuclear reactors, after suspicion was raised that one of its components might be cracked, according to the local atomic regulator.

The Doel 3 reactor, located around 25km north of Antwerp provides around 16 percent of the country’s nuclear energy. The suspected damages aren’t thought to pose a safety threat, according to Belgium’s nuclear watchdog AFCN, but activities will remain halted at least until the end of August.

“We have found anomalies,” said Karina De Beule, spokesman for the ACFN. “At present we can guarantee that there are no risks to workers, citizens and the environment.”

The event has so far been classified as level 1, on a scale where Chernobyl-level accidents are scored a 7. De Beulle has said the anomalies found on the reactor so far might be insignificant, in which case they will be fixed and the reactor will reopen; but the investigation might also reveal a significant threat to the integrity of the reactor.

So far, preliminary analysis suggests that the inner steel tank might have been affected by years of exposure to the radiation within, causing fractures. The equipment was produced by Rotterdam Drydocks, which went bankrupt in the 1980s. Similar tanks are used by many other nuclear sites around the world, including in the US, Germany and Spain.

Since the Fukushima reactor disaster last year many European countries have vowed to phase out their nuclear reactors. Belgium plans to have moved on from the technology by 2025. The Doel 3 reactor is scheduled for permanent closure in 2022.


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