Germany urges Belgium to shut down old reactors



German officials have called on neighboring Belgium to temporarily close down two aging nuclear reactors near the German border due to safety concerns.

Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks urged Belgium on Wednesday to take its Tihange 2 and Doel 3 reactors offline “until the resolution of outstanding security issues.”

Hendricks cited information provided by a German advisory body, the Reactor Safety Commission (RSK), saying there is apparently the risk that the Belgian officials cannot ensure the security of the reactors.

“The independent experts of RSK cannot confirm that the safety margins of Tihange 2 and Doel 3 can be maintained,” Hendricks said in a statement, adding, “That is why I believe it is right to temporarily take the plants offline, at least until further investigations have been completed.”

Back in March, Germany called on France to shut down its oldest plant at Fessenheim on the German border as soon as possible.

Facing public sensitivity to the issue of nuclear power, which is rooted in the 1986 Chernobyl disaster and Japan’s Fukushima meltdown five years ago, Germany plans to switch off all of its own nuclear reactors by 2022.

Fears have been high both in Germany and Belgium about the Tihange 2 and Doel 3 as the two reactor pressure vessels have shown signs of metal degradation. The Belgian government temporarily closed them but they resumed service last December after officials decided to extend their lives to 2025, under a deal to preserve jobs and invest in the transition to cleaner energy. The two reactors are 40 years old and located 60 and 130 kilometers (about 38 and 80 miles) away from German border respectively.

Hendricks said the temporary closure of reactors in Belgium would show that Belgium “takes the concerns of its German neighbors seriously.”

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