“The war is changing the way we look at energy in a very radical way,” said Prime Minister Alexander De Croo. Belgium must get rid of its ‘painful dependence’ on fossil fuels from abroad. This is partly to reduce the sky-high energy bill and “to give Russia fewer resources to finance that terrible war.”
Belgium argued for a long time about the closure of the reactors in Doel and Tihange, not far from the Dutch border. The current government coalition decided to continue with the ‘nuclear trip’, which had been planned years ago, the crown jewel of the Flemish Green and the Walloon Ecolo, and to temporarily deploy additional gas-fired power stations. But coalition partner after coalition partner and ally after accomplice changed his mind. The green parties also gave in to this.
The government parties have now agreed that they will try to extend the lifespan of Doel 4 and Tihange 3, the youngest in the country, until 2035, says energy minister Tinne Van der Straeten (Groen). In return, the Greens have negotiated that Belgium will invest an extra 1 billion euros in the transition to renewable energy. This would give it “an unprecedented acceleration”. Replacement gas-fired power stations will be built anyway, to ensure that Belgium never runs out of electricity or sees the price explode again.
It is not yet certain that the power stations will actually remain open. The government has yet to negotiate with manager Engie, who says it is too late for that. But according to experts, it’s a money issue.
The farewell to nuclear energy is meeting increasing resistance across Europe. The Netherlands and France, among others, want to build new nuclear power plants. Germany is one of the few remaining countries that seems to be holding out.