It is a fear that is felt in the vicinity of the Belgian Tihange nuclear power plant: the power plant will go wrong for once. One of the three reactors has had thousands of cracks for years, but reactor Tihange 2 is still in operation.
German, Dutch and Luxembourg authorities and several local residents went to court in 2016 to demand the closure of the reactor. Tomorrow the judge will decide whether that is actually necessary.
The lawsuit has been filed against operator Electrabel, the Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (FANC) and the Belgian State. According to the plaintiffs, the operator cannot demonstrate that the reactor is safe. The FANC would also neglect its control function.
According to Jos Gulikers of action group Stop Tihange, millions of Dutch, Belgians and Germans are at risk:
The nuclear power plant has been struggling for years. In 2012, hairline cracks were discovered in the steel walls of the reactor vessels of reactor 2. Similar problems were also observed in another Belgian nuclear power plant in Doel near Antwerp. Between 2005 and 2015, 93 emergency stops were made in both nuclear power plants.
Last year, Tihange 2 was restarted after months of repairs. The FANC had repairs carried out on the concrete and a new roof plate was installed in the bunker building of the power station.
Impending power shortage
Belgium still wants to keep the power stations open, because otherwise there would be a power shortage. According to the Belgian inspectorate, keeping Tihange open for longer is justified, but the surrounding countries think differently. In the event of an accident, more than five million people are at risk within a radius of 75 kilometres.
That is why Germany and Luxembourg have already insisted on the closure of the plants, and the House of Representatives wanted the Dutch government to do the same in 2016. But then Minister Schultz did not see any point in doing so at the time.
In 2016, the German city of Aachen, two German Länder, Wiltz, Maastricht, Luxembourg and local residents brought proceedings against the operator and the Belgian government. According to them, the authorities are doing too little to protect the surrounding area and local residents. In doing so, they say it is violating Belgian and European laws.
The question is whether the government and the inspectorate knew about the many cracks in the concrete. According to the German magazine Der Spiegel, they had already been discovered during the construction of the reactor in 1975. According to the plaintiffs, a licence for the activation of the reactor should therefore never have been issued.
The Belgians have always maintained that the reactors are safe, yet Belgium will stop using nuclear energy in 2025. Tihange 2 is scheduled to close down as early as 2023.
Perhaps tomorrow the judge will decide to close the reactor earlier. Incidentally, the verdict is not final. Both parties can still appeal and then possibly appeal in cassation.