The government also signalled its interest in small modular nuclear reactors and said it will invest €25m a year in this field for the next four years.
One reactor at both the Doel and Tihange nuclear power station will have their lives extended by 10 years to 2035, the government said in a statement. “This extension will strengthen our country’s independence from fossil fuels in a chaotic geopolitical environment,” it said.
The statement said a draft law on the extension of the Doel-4 and Tihange-3 nuclear units will be submitted to the cabinet – the Council of Ministers – for approval by the end of March.
Belgium had previously declared it would phase out nuclear power by 2025.
The government said it will ensure the move will not crowd out renewable electricity production and that excess production could be used to launch the hydrogen market in Belgium.
The government added it will invest €1.1bn to accelerate independence from fossil fuels. It said renewable energies will be accelerated through additional investments in offshore wind power, hydrogen, solar energy and sustainable mobility.
After months of debate on the future of nuclear, Belgium’s seven-party coalition government agreed a compromise in December that the country’s last nuclear power plant would close in 2025 provided it did not lead to energy supply shortages.
But the coalition backtracked on the plan because of rising energy prices and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In January, Belgium’s nuclear regulator gave its provisional approval to extend the life of Doel-4 and Tihange-3 and urged the government to make a final decision in the first quarter of 2022.
Belgium has a fleet of seven reactors – four at Doel and three at Tihange – providing almost 40% of its electricity production, the sixth highest percentage in the world.