October 4, 2018 / 7:18 PM / 2 months ago

Belgian nuclear agency to investigate reactor problems: expert

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgium’s nuclear safety regulator (FANC) will investigate whether Engie’s Belgian subsidiary Electrabel underestimated the concrete degradation at Doel 3 reactor, a senior expert at the agency said on Thursday.

Belgium faces an unprecedented power shortfall ahead of winter, with only one of seven nuclear reactors run by Electrabel scheduled to operate in November. The reactors account for 50 percent of the country’s consumption.

There are signs that warrant a probe into superficial repairs carried out at the plant, Simon Coenen, senior nuclear safety expert at the Belgian Federal Agency for Nuclear Control, told Reuters in an interview.

Electrabel said there was no issue with Doel 3, which is located in the port of Antwerp.

The company said in July that its teams had noticed during inspections at Doel 3 and during a planned stop of the reactor that the concrete ceiling of the building adjacent to the reactor building needed to be repaired.

Electrabel added that analyses had shown that in these installations, located in the non-nuclear part of the plant, the state of the concrete could be weakened as a result of the hot and humid conditions.

“We did the repairs at Doel 3. We changed the method, we put on a new roof,” said an Electrabel spokeswoman, noting FANC approved the repairs on July 12 and the reactor restarted on Aug. 4.

Coenen said with regard to the repairs done at Doel 3 and which would probably be needed at other stations, “there could be some indications that in the past the signs of this degradation were not taken into account to the right amount and with the correct importance.”

“There are no clear signs that there is negligence from their side but we have to investigate that and we will do that together with the licensee (Electrabel),” he said.

Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis; editing by Foo Yun Chee and Alexandra Hudson

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