Belgian nuclear reactor shut at least until year-end

BRUSSELS Mon Aug 27, 2012 12:45pm EDT

BRUSSELS Aug 27 (Reuters) - Belgium will not reopen a nuclear power reactor which was closed over safety concerns until at least the end of the year, the government said on Monday.

Belgium halted the 1,006 megawatt Doel 3 reactor operated by GDF Suez unit Electrabel earlier this month after the discovery of suspected cracks in the core tank.

Cabinet members summoned the energy secretary and the head of the nuclear control agency on Monday to answer questions on Doel 3 and Tihange 2, whose core tank was also built by the now defunct Dutch company Rotterdamsche Droogdok Maatschappij.

The government said there were no risks to public safety and no threat of blackouts in the peak winter months. However, it was too early to say how long tests on Doel 3 would take and when it might be running again.

"The decision won't be before the end of the year at the earliest," Interior Minister Joelle Milquet told a news conference.

The 1,008 MW Tihange 2 reactor in the south of the country is also due to be closed for inspection in September.

Inspections are scheduled at Belgium's other five reactors in 2013.

The Doel 3 reactor had been scheduled to close in 10 years' time, according to a nuclear exit plan the Belgian government adopted in July.

Belgium has long considered a complete exit from nuclear energy, but that will depend on its having enough alternative sources of energy in place.

Around 57 percent of its electricity came from nuclear reactors in 2011.

Last month, Belgium postponed the planned closure of its oldest nuclear reactors, Tihange 1, by a decade. (Reporting By Ben Deighton; writing by Philip Blenkinsop, editing by William Hardy)

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