Belgium shuts down nuclear plant


BELGIUM HAS temporarily shut down one of its seven nuclear power plants after the country’s atomic energy regulator discovered “several anomalies”, including possible cracks, in the tank containing the reactor’s core.

The suspected fractures at the Doel 3 reactor, 25km north of Antwerp, which provides a sixth of Belgium’s nuclear-generated power, do not pose any health and safety threat, said AFCN , the country’s nuclear watchdog. But the plant will remain shut at least until the end of this month.

According to preliminary analysis, the steel tank, produced by Rotterdam Drydocks, a Dutch company that went bankrupt in the mid-1980s, has been damaged by radiation, which created fractures inside it.

Several other nuclear sites around the world – including the US, Germany and Spain – use tanks produced by the same company, said a nuclear energy expert who asked not to be named.

Karina De Beule, AFCN spokeswoman, said the regulator had been in touch with its counterparts around the world, but had been unable to determine how many reactors abroad use tanks similar to the one at Doel.

“We are talking with all regulators as we would in any emergency situation . . . it is essential to co-ordinate efforts,” said Ms De Beule. “At present, we can guarantee that there are no risks to workers, citizens and the environment.” – (Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2012)