NUCLEAR: MARGHEM AND MICHEL ABOVE THE LAW

Communiqué de presse de Fin du Nucléaire

Illustré par :

With a law passed in June 2015, the Belgian parliament ratified the choice of the Michel government and its Energy Minister, Marie-Christine Marghem, to extend the operating life of the two oldest reactors at the Doel atomic power plant, known as D1 and D2(1).

No doubt these authorities imagined passing this decision in the same way as the extensions of 2003 and 2012, that is, without consulting the citizens and ignoring international conventions and the law’s requirements. This was without counting on the annulment appeal filed by the associations Inter-Environnement Wallonie (IEW) and Bond Beter Leefmilieu Vlaanderen (BBL) before the Constitutional Court, in January 2016. The appeal alleges violation of the Espoo and Aarhus Conventions as well as of several European directives, the Habitats Directive, the Birds Directive and the EIA Directive(2). It is revealing of the functioning and practices of the state that, at the time the Aarhus Convention was transcribed into Belgian law in December 2002, the government was preparing the first law on the extension of atomic reactors, already without any consultation with the population.

In June 2017, a year and a half after the appeal was filed, the Constitutional Court found it necessary to ask the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) about the interpretation of these conventions and European directives, which had the first effect of extending the duration of the proceedings by 2 years. In fact, 3 and a half years after the appeal was filed, it was only on July 29, 2019 that the CJEU issued its ruling, which is summarized in the title of its press release as follows(3) :  » The Belgian law extending the life of the Doel 1 and Doel 2 nuclear power plants was passed without the required prior environmental assessments « ; with the subtitle:  » However, it is not excluded to temporarily maintain the effects of the extension law in case of a serious and real threat of disruption of the electricity supply « .

Clearly, by extending the life of the two reactors without first conducting an environmental impact study, Minister Marghem and the Michel government have violated the law, which more than any other they must know and respect. On the other hand, the only reason that could have or could today justify keeping these reactors in operation would be a  » serious and real threat of disruption of the electricity supply « . Yet all the evidence available in 2015 showed (and still shows) the uselessness of these reactors in terms of security of electricity supply:

- The Commission de Régulation de l’Électricité et du Gaz (CREG) had issued a negative opinion on the extension. This opinion had been ignored by Minister Marghem who also argued that the CREG should deal with prices and not volumes…(4)

- During the period 2012–2018, the average utilization rate of Belgian atomic reactors fell to about 70% instead of the 90–95% considered normal for this type of reactor, which is equivalent to the loss of a quarter of the nuclear fleet, i.e. the disappearance of a large reactor (1GW) plus that of a small reactor (0.5GW)(5). Reactors D1 and D2 have a lot to do with it. Indeed, in April 2018, the D1 reactor entered the annals of national history by recording the first leak in the primary circuit of a Belgian reactor, which led to a 10-month shutdown, along with D2, its twin brother. These two reactors are therefore anything but a safe source of electricity, but above all these events have shown that it is possible to do without them, without the slightest blackout ensuing.

- 4 years after their extension, the safety upgrade works foreseen in the November 2015 agreement between the Belgian State and Electrabel, estimated at an amount of €700 million, have still not been completed. This work is finally expected to begin in late 2019 and will require a further shutdown of at least 7 months. Not to mention that nothing has been budgeted or planned to bring them into compliance with the new anti-seismic standard issued in 2014 by the Western European Nuclear Safety Association (WENRA)(6) — and the convention — under the pretext put forward by the AFCN that it  » has not been transposed into binding legislation « .(7).

From these elements, it is clear that it would be inconsistent and irresponsible to consider that such obsolete and unreliable reactors are essential to ensure the security of Belgium’s electricity supply, as Energy Minister Marghem has repeated throughout her mandate.

What is striking in the discourse of the authorities, but also in the highly technical considerations of the Courts of Justice concerned, is the total absence of consideration of the risk that these obsolete reactors pose to the Belgian and European populations. The older these reactors get, and the longer their expected life span of 30 years, the more dangerous they are and the greater the probability of a major atomic accident(8). The priority is clearly that of Engie-Electrabel and its shareholders, at the expense of the Belgian citizens who, after having ensured large profits to the above-mentioned, must assume the risk of an atomic disaster and almost all the financial consequences that would result.

All that remains is for the Constitutional Court to make up for lost time and demonstrate its independence by confirming that the shutdown of the D1 and D2 reactors does not constitute a  » serious and real threat of disruption of the electricity supply « , ordering them to be stopped until an environmental impact study has been carried out.

Contact : Frédéric BlondiauFrancis Leboutte — info@findunucleaire.be

32 (0) 4.277.06.61 — www.findunucleaire.be

Notes et références
  1. Comme les 5 autres réacteurs belges, conçus pour durer 30 ans, ils avaient déjà été prolongés de 10 ans par la loi du 31 janvier 2003 due au ministre de l’Énergie Deleuze et au gouvernement Verhofstadt. Dès 2012, le réacteur Tihange 1 (T1), mis en service en 1975 comme D1 et D2, avait été prolongé de 40 à 50 ans par le ministre de l’Énergie Wathelet et le gouvernement Di Rupo.
  2. Convention d’Espoo : convention internationale sur l’évaluation de l’impact sur l’environnement dans un contexte transfrontière conclu à Espoo le 25 février 1991 et ratifiée par l’UE en juin 1997.– Convention d’Aarhus : convention internationale sur l’accès à l’information, la participation du public au processus décisionnel et l’accès à la justice en matière d’environnement, signée à Aarhus le 25 juin 1998 et transcrite dans une loi belge promulguée en décembre 2002.– Directive Habitats : directive 92/43/CEE du 21 mai 1992, concernant la conservation des habitats naturels ainsi que de la faune et de la flore sauvages.– Directive Oiseaux : directive 2009/147/CE du 30 novembre 2009, concernant la conservation des oiseaux sauvages.– Directive EIE (étude d’incidence sur l’environnement) : directive 2011/92/UE du 13 décembre 2011, concernant l’évaluation des incidences de certains projets publics et privés sur l’environnement.
  3. Communiqué la CJUE et le texte intégral de l’arrêt .
  4. Le 2 décembre 2015 à la RTBF. De même, la ministre n’avait pas non plus respecté l’avis du Conseil d’État selon lequel une disposition financière de la convention entre l’État et Electrabel était une couverture des risques économiques pris par l’opérateur, ce qui le favorisait par rapport aux autres producteurs d’électricité.
  5. Les réacteurs D1 et D2 font chacun environ 0,5GW de puissance électrique, les 5 autres réacteurs faisant chacun 1GW.
  6. « For the specific case of seismic loading, as a minimum, a horizontal peak ground acceleration value of 0.1g shall be applied… », WENRA Safety Reference Levels for Existing Reactors (2014).
  7.  Respect de la norme antisismique : voir le site de l’Agence fédérale de Contrôle Nucléaire (AFCN).
  8. Voir « Pour la fermeture immédiate des 5 réacteurs belges les plus dangereux », un article publié à l’initiative de l’ASBL Fin du nucléaire et signé par 14 ingénieurs civils et docteurs en physique, www.findunucleaire.be/com.htm.
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