That colossal beam in the left’s eye

Centrale Doel

A couple days ago our government made the decision to keep our two oldest nuclear reactors (Doel 1 and 2) open for the next ten years. Those reactors were planned to be closed in 2015, but will now close in 2025. The government took this decision in order to secure our energy needs in the next years. The decision is not final. First Electrabel and FANC (Federal Agency for Nuclear Control) have to agree.

As expected, the opposition parties, sp.a (Flemish Socialist Party) and the Greens, were not amused. Neither was Bond Beter Leefmilieu (“Federation Better Environment”) and Greenpeace. They accused the government of being the slave of Electrabel (an electricity provider), helping them to reach monopoly again. They also claimed that the solution is inefficient, dangerous, that nuclear is a energy source is a “energy source of the past” anyway and this move would discourage the investors in alternative energy sources? There was also the claim that huge investments will be needed for the check-up additional security costs of the reactors in the wake of Fukushima and the question “who will have to pay for this?”.

What I missed in their objections was some sense of reality or at least an alternative. The fact is that the previous (left wing) governments neglected our power security and only focused on wind and solar, which are now part of the problem because they don’t contribute to our energy security.

This make me wonder what they would do exactly? Just pulling the plug now, even if we currently have no reliable alternatives? We are already structurally depending on importing electricity from abroad. With no new power plants in the near future, some older installations that need to close in 2015 and the problems of limitation on import of electricity from France and The Netherlands, that could spell disaster. Are they really serious here or are they just playing a political game?

It is easy to shout that the current (right wing) government has no long term vision, just because they have a different vision on energy security for the future. The current government is saving what can be saved and securing our energy production in the next years.

It was no secret that nuclear energy would be phased out starting from 2015. It was known since 2003. The (at that time left wing) governments had 12 years to prepare this. Alas, during all those years previous goverments “forgot” to plan for replacing nuclear power with other reliable power sources, including a socialist Minister of Energy for the last five years. Now we are at the point that we should close the oldest nuclear plants down and there is nothing to reliably replace this capacity with. Yet, they seems very eager to close down those nuclear power plants and even blaming the current government for a lack of long term vision… while it was exactly their long time vision that brought us into troubles, so I am not really sure what they are talking about. Unless of course they don’t have a clue about the real output of the wind/solar installations in a grid that should deliver electricity in a continuous way.

And what about that exuberant price we have to pay to make this nuclear plants ready for another decade? We hear that it will cost “several hundred thousands euro”. When more specified, it is said somewhere around 600,000 – 700,000 euro. This seems a huge amount, especially in a tiny country as Belgium. But for example the amount we pay for alternative energy are in a different ballpark altogether. The subsidies amount to more than 1 billion euro (and rising).

Just for onshore wind, solar and biomass.

Just for Flanders (about half the size of Belgium).

Just for ONE year.

So, for the whole of Belgium and for all intermittent energy sources, this would be much, much more than that 1 billion euro!

Then we didn’t even talk about the costs of offshore wind parks, extra infrastructure needed for putting the electricity on the grid, expensive measures that need to be implemented to prevent electricity going to waste because of the intermittent nature of wind/solar, backup that needs to be running in the background,…

If we compare this check-up fee additional required security measures (for Belgium) with the current “investments” done in wind, solar and biomass (for Flanders), then 700,000 euro for 10 year is just peanuts. If we both take these investments per year, we get this:

Comparison additional security measures Doel 1 and 2 (Belgium) and subsidies alternative energy (only Flanders)

Comparison additional security measures Doel 1 and 2 (Belgium) and subsidies alternative energy (only Flanders)

For some reason, something about a splinter and a beam comes to mind.

2 thoughts on “That colossal beam in the left’s eye

  1. manicbeancounter

    The lesson from Fukushima was that Belgium needs to protect itself a from magnitude 9 earthquake, that will lower the coastline by a metre, and the consequent tsunami originating in a deep sea trench not far from the coast. The reactor remained intact, but the backup diesel generators got flooded despite being on high plinths.
    A little knowledge of physical geography of the North Sea coast and records of earthquakes in the low countries will conclude that the possibility of this situation occurring in Belgium is about as probable as a reactor being zapped by the alien invaders.
    I provide this report at a 50% discount. Will give you a 20% commission payment if you can act as agent for billing and fee collection.


    1. trustyetverify Post author

      Thanks for bringing in some of that famous British humor. That would be a great report to make 😉

      When rereading the post, “Checkup” is not a good word to use to describe these costs. What I really meant were the costs of implementing additional security measures from such a report. The report is already made (the stress tests of European nuclear power plants) and, as far as I could find, those tests didn’t consider scenarios like Fukushima-style tsunamis.
      After those tests, an action plan was made to strengthen the weak point points, but since Doel 1 and 2 were planned for shutdown in 2015 anyway, they were exempt from implementing some of those measures. Now the government wants to keep Doel 1 and 2 open for an additional decade, those remaining measures revealed by those tests, still need to be implemented. That is the 700,000 euro that was mentioned.

      I will replace it with a better wording in the post.



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