The Belgian government was working on Friday on a new energy “strategy”, which would reduce dependence on Russian hydrocarbons against a backdrop of war in Ukraine and could act to renounce the abandonment of nuclear power in 2025.
The promise of a gradual exit from nuclear power has been enshrined in Belgian law since 2003, and giving it up would constitute a reversal for the ecologist party (Ecolo-Groen). He had managed to win this trophy during his first participation in a federal government 19 years ago.
This same party, which came out among the winners of the 2019 elections, is today associated with the ruling coalition, with the Liberals and the Socialists in particular. The government agreement concluded in the fall of 2020 reaffirmed this objective of gradually closing the country’s seven power stations by 2025.
But since February, with soaring energy prices linked to the war in Ukraine, environmentalists have agreed to consider an alternative scenario which consists of maintaining for another ten years, until 2035, two gigawatts of capacity the two oldest power stations in the park.
This option, which requires renegotiating with the operator, the French group Engie, was to be debated on Friday between all the parties in the coalition – seven in total –. The meeting started at the end of the morning, according to a source close to the government.
“Given the high dependence on fossil fuels and the geopolitical tensions making prices very volatile, we are examining whether and under what conditions the 2 GW nuclear capacity, more precisely (the plants) Doel 4 and/or Tihange 3, could be extended for a period of 10 years”, indicates a preparatory note of the Minister (Groen) of Energy Tinne Van der Straeten.
She recalls that “more than 90%” of the energy consumed in Belgium comes from abroad, and that this EU country imports from Russia “30% of its oil, 25% of its uranium and up to 6 % of its natural gas”.
In this context of war, “all European countries are adapting their energy strategy,” said Prime Minister Alexander De Croo. In addition to the expected decision on nuclear power, the Flemish liberal spoke on Thursday before the deputies of increased use of renewables (wind turbines, solar panels), “the only form of energy which year after year becomes cheaper”.
To accelerate the step towards climate neutrality – the objective for 2050 – Ms. Van der Straeten proposed a vast plan for investment in clean energies at a cost estimated at 8 billion euros over the next three years.
The discussions, which promise to be difficult, could last until late Friday, or even Saturday. The French-speaking Liberals would like to extend four nuclear power plants. They have not spared their criticisms of the planned use of gas-fired power stations – considered polluting – to replace the atom.