The current plan of the Belgian Government is to keep the two youngest nuclear power reactors (Doel 4 and Tihange 3) open for ten more years (called “plan B”). That was a blow for our Minister of Energy who, as a member of the Flemish green party, relentlessly advocated for a complete nuclear exit (“plan A”). This makes her statement in an interview on current affairs program Terzake rather curious (translated from Dutch, emphasis by the Minister in the interview)
The essence is security of electricity supply. The most performing power stations that we have are our two youngest nuclear power stations, which lifespan we are going to extend by ten years, at my initiative, at my request.
This statement in which she praised herself for keeping the two youngest nuclear reactors open came as a complete surprise to me and many others. She made it very clear in the past that she wanted nuclear electricity production gone, all of it and as soon as possible. This sudden emphasis on herself as the one who initiated and requested this elongation is therefor pretty remarkable.
Nothing seemed to point to her being supportive of delaying the closure of two reactors. In some precarious situations, plan B was not even on the table. Many expected it at least considered in December of last year when energy prices soared and when it became clear that a crucial natural gas power plant would not be able to come into operation. It was not on the table, as she admitted in an interview (although very reluctantly, it took an incredibly persistent journalist, who kept repeating the question until she finally answered). That is not how someone who wants to be remembered as having taken the initiative to request plan B would react.
Plan B was also not on the table at the end of February of this year when the war in Ukraine started, gas prices went completely through the roof and she also experienced fierce resistance from her coalition partners. She nevertheless wanted to keep plan B off the table as she showed in this tweet (translated from Dutch, my emphasis):
The government will decide on the basis of affordability and security of supply and I will add a third criterion: energy independence.
2 GW represents 2% of our energy supply. We need an agreement for 100% of our energy supply.
Suddenly adding an extra criterion is not something that someone who wants to be remembered as having taken the initiative to request plan B would do.
Just to say that until not that long ago she was strongly against delaying the closure of reactors. Her self-congratulation was however not the only surprise that she had in store for us. A news paper article was published the next day in which a journalist asked her whether we need to temporarily keep another two additional nuclear reactors open in order to bridge the coming winter. The answer blew me away (translated from Dutch):
We could put them to good use, yes.
Until then we got to hear that the closure of nuclear reactors would not affect the electricity supply, but now she seems to admit that the nuclear reactors that were supposed to close in October this year (Doel 3) and February next year (Tihange 2) could have been useful for securing the electricity supply the next winter?!?!?
On the one hand, her newly acquired position could make some sense (at least politically). As seen in a previous post, a recent poll found that 81% of the Flemish people are in favor of keeping (some) nuclear reactors open. Even in the group of Green party voters (who are the most critical of nuclear power), 52% is in favor of keeping (some) nuclear reactors open. In the light of a downward spiraling popularity of the Flemish green party, the sky high energy prices and the Prime Minister currently hinting at potential electricity shortages in the next 5 to 10 winters (!), it is a rather safe bet to change position on the issue and going from a total nuclear exit is the only option! over maybe two reactors can be kept open for a while finally to gosh, it is a pity that we can’t have more nuclear reactors open next winter…
On the other hand, it leaves me with a bitter aftertaste. Did she change her position because it is currently politically the most advantageous thing to do? Or was she actually gambling with the security of supply for dogmatic ideological reasons? I surely hope it is the former, but I fear the latter is more likely.
Heh heh heh. Freezing in the dark and being beaten by angry voters are better arguments than safety comparisons. Perhaps the windsock read Fred Hoyle’s “Commonsense in Nuclear Energy”
I don’t think that she will freeze in the dark, but voters can surely vote her and her party out in the next election.
“Did she change her position because it is currently politically the most advantageous thing to do?”
The very definition
Of a professional politician!
Or: Any lie will do if it keeps me in power.
I think they badly needed some damage control and doing some concessions (keeping two reactors open) wouldn’t hurt that much, knowing that most Flemish people disagree with a (total) nuclear exit anyway.
This exact situation happened before. In the beginning of the century, they were also in the then coalition (their price back then was the start of the nuclear exit). The next election they lost all their seats..
They came back in the meanwhile and in the current coalition their price was the completion of the nuclear exit, but their popularity is going steadily down again. So that story might repeat next election, depending on whether they will recover in the next year or not.