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Belgium / Nuclear Helps Turn Country Into Electricity Exporter, Latest Figures Show

By David Dalton
10 January 2020

Seven reactor units are producing almost 50% of generated power
Nuclear Helps Turn Country Into Electricity Exporter, Latest Figures Show
The Tihange nuclear power station in Belgium.
Almost half of the power generated in Belgium came from nuclear plants in 2019, a year that also saw the country export more electricity than it imported, statistics from Elia, Belgium’s electricity transmission system operator, have shown.

The country’s fleet of seven commercial plants – three at Tihange near Liège and four at Doel near Antwerp – generated 48.8% of electricity, a figure that was in line with the 50% total for 2017, but significantly higher than the 31.2% generated in 2018 (31.2%), a year marked by the “significant unavailability” of several reactors.

Doel-3 was shut down for checks on its reactor pressure vessel and Tihange-2 for work to resolve concrete degradation and stability issues in a bunkerised building that houses backup safety systems.

The nuclear share was also higher than any other energy type. Gas was second at 27.2% and offshore wind was third at 5.5%.

Belgium exported more electricity than it imported. Elia said that in 2018 Belgium imported 20%, or 17.5 TWh, of its energy mix, but in 2019 it exported 2.1%, or 1.8 TWh.

This turnaround was partly the result of an increasingly Europeanised market, but primarily because of the good availability of Belgium's generating facilities, especially its nuclear power stations.

“The development of interconnections is also playing a role in the circulation of these electricity flows,” Elia said. “Belgium had not been a net exporter of electricity for almost 10 years, the last time being in 2009 and 2010, when total net exports represented 2.8% and 0.2% respectively of Belgium’s energy mix.”

Plans to shut down Belgium’s seven reactor units were established in a law of 2003 and confirmed in 2015 and again in 2018.

A commission was appointed to assess the impact of the phaseout, scheduled to be completed in 2025, but no findings have been announced.

In July 2019, Elia said the country will need around 3.9 GW of new power generating capacity to cope with the shortage which is expected to arise from the nuclear phaseout.

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