* Doel 3 reactor to remain shut until end of August at least
* Government has not yet made alternative plan -spokeswoman
* Shares of GDF Suez fall as much as 2.6 pct on Thursday
(Adds government, analyst comments)
By Robert-Jan Bartunek
BRUSSELS, Aug 9 An investigation into possible
cracks in the core tank of a Belgian nuclear power plant will
close one of its reactors until the end of August at least,
Belgian regulator FANC said, casting doubt over the government's
plan to keep it open until 2022.
The 1,006 megawatt Doel 3 reactor, operated by GDF Suez
unit Electrabel, is scheduled to close in 10 years'
time, according to a nuclear exit plan the Belgian government
adopted in July.
"FANC will only give a permit for further operation if
convincing arguments can be made. The aim is to guarantee
safety," the agency said in a statement.
The government awaits the outcome of the inspection and has
not yet made contingency plans should the reactor, one of four
at the plant, remain shut, a spokeswoman for Belgium's state
secretary in charge of energy said.
"In case the regulator tells us that the reactor cannot be
restarted, we will adapt the plan we proposed in July, but for
the moment there is no plan B," the spokeswoman said.
Shares of GDF Suez lost as much as 2.6 percent on Thursday,
making it the weakest performer on the STOXX 600 European
Its unit Electrabel made no comment.
The regulator said the 1,008 MW Tihange 2 reactor in the
south of the country would also be closed for inspection in
September. Inspections are scheduled at the country's other
reactors in 2013.
GDF Suez is expected to trim significantly its 47-year old
nuclear business now that Belgium, the only nation where it
operates nuclear plants, is phasing out its reliance on atomic
Belgium has long considered a complete exit, but that will
depend on its having enough alternative sources of energy in
"In terms of alternatives, if the Belgian government decides
to phase out nuclear power eventually, then the only
alternatives are imports of electricity or gas and coal. Belgium
is not the worst in terms of supply. They are well connected to
the European grid," said Serge Gas, head of communication at the
Paris-based Nuclear Energy Agency.
EU member states are responsible for determining policy to
nuclear power and the energy mix in general, but the European
Commission has initiated a series of stress tests as part of
efforts to ensure safety following Japan's Fukushima nuclear
They were meant to be completed before the Commission's
August summer break, but European states have been given extra
time for further assessments.
(Additional reporting by Barbara Lewis; editing by Mark Potter
and Jane Baird)