Five ‘unforeseen events’ at Belgian nuclear sites this year

Five ‘unforeseen events’ took place at Belgian nuclear sites over the past year, according to data published by the Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (FANC). The data were released amid negotiations on the lifetime extension of two Belgian nuclear reactors.

Events are ranked according to the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES), which classifies incidents in seriousness from 1 to 7 (from minor anomaly to major incident). Anything from level 2 is classified as an incident. Starting from level 4, they are considered an accident.

This year, FANC recorded a total of five nuclear events, all classified as level 1 anomalies. They took place in units two and three of the Tihange 3 power plant and unit four of the Doel power plant, as well as on a site controlled by Belgian nuclear waste management company Belgoprocess.

In November, the Tihange 3 nuclear power plant was briefly closed due to health and safety concerns by the Federal Agency for Nuclear Control, which has since put the plant under tighter supervision.

The origin of one incident, recorded at Tihange 3, is still under investigation. A signal indicated a drop of pressure in the reactor lasting for 50 milliseconds, causing the automatic shutdown of the reactor.

According to information revealed following the incident in the Federal Parliament by politician Samuel Cogolati, on the basis of an internal communiqué from the power plant, the radio waves from a mobile phone may have triggered the incident.

The FANC data were released amid negotiations on the lifetime extension of Doel 4 and Tihange 3. The Belgian government is aiming for a deal with nuclear operator Engie before the end of 2022, but is still negotiating as of 30 December. A weekend deal is not being ruled out.


Doel nuclear power plant in Doel, Beveren © BELGA PHOTO DIRK WAEM

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