Today, Doel3 will be the first Belgian nuclear reactor to close, in accordance with the exit law voted in 2003. For the Greens it was supposed to be a trophy, but it is turning into a ball and chain.
The closure of the first nuclear reactor, in the midst of an energy crisis, falls very badly for environmentalists. So badly that several parties (MR, CD&V, N-VA) surfed on this painful timing for the greens to suggest that it was possible to let the plant run this winter.
It was the boss of the Doel power station himself, Peter Moens, who brought everyone to their senses: you can’t improvise with nuclear security he said, the plant will therefore be shut down as planned.
Despite the reels of some politicians Doel 3 will be the first reactor to close and take the path of dismantling as decided in the exit law of 2003. It is a victory for the greens, one of the great historic battles of environmentalists Belgians becomes concrete.
But this victory comes at the worst of times, we are not going to pop the champagne at Ecolo. Lhe party finds itself in a very delicate situation and the polls are bad.
Even if the greens have made a 180 degree turn and are negotiating the extension of two power stations for ten years, Ecolo still embodies the fight for the end of nuclear power. However, closing capacities when prices are exploding and citizens have to make an effort is a murderer in public opinion. The other parties know this and support where it hurts.
Of course, the price increase did take place with seven nuclear power plants open.
Of course it was the Michel government, without the Greens, in 2017 that endorsed the closure agenda and chose to build gas power plants. Of course, if Belgium had planned a strategy to replace nuclear power for 20 years, we wouldn’t be there.
But, as often, the details don’t seem to matter too much. The trap is closing: Ecolo bears most of the political weight of the energy crisis and rising prices.
Lack of clarity
It must be said that Ecolo is not very clear about its choices. Historically, the greens have always considered that nuclear power, which produces continuously, was a brake on the development of intermittent renewables. It was one or the other. Gas, which is easier to operate and inexpensive, was presented as the ideal energy to make the transition to 100% renewable in 2050, even if it was a fossil fuel and made us dependent on producing countries.
Now that Gas is very expensive and dependence on Russia is impossible, this plan, inspired by the German energiewende, has become unsaleable. But what then is Ecolo’s plan? It’s not very clear. The extension of two reactors seems to suggest that old nuclear power is no longer an obstacle to renewables, even if Ecolo does not say so clearly.
If this is the case, then one can wonder why the greens do not agree to extend more than two reactors, and why not over 20 years rather than 10? The newspaper Le Soir shows this morning that the extension of all the reactors is industrially almost impossible (seismic standards, protection against aircraft crashes, fragility of certain tanks). The extension of more than two reactors would require a downward revision of the regulatory framework for nuclear safety.
Faced with the complexity of the issues, the greens often communicate awkwardly. Whether nuclear is not the solution as Jean-Marc Nollet says, so why extend two reactors? And if we prolong why say that it’s a chimera of the past as Georges Gilkinet says? The discomfort is great.
The closure of several reactors by the 2024 elections was supposed to comfort Ecolo at the polls. The energy crisis has reversed the situation, each closure now risks costing the greens. Neither flowers nor crowns for Doel 3, nor laurels for Ecolo.