Tihange: do you have to be an engineer to see the danger?

A reaction of Francis Leboutte, civil engineer, to the recent media coverage of the extension of the Tihange power plant

Report on RTL.be (November 10, 2015): a former Tihange engineer sounds the alarm: « Extending the power plants is criminal ». « According to a former engineer who participated in the construction of the Tihange nuclear power plant in the 1970s, the plant was designed to last 40 years and now carries risks. He confided in our colleagues at Soir Mag and one of our teams. » (Read more and see the video report here: http://www.rtl.be/info/belgique/societe/un-ancien-ingenieur-de-tihange-tire-la-sonnette-d-alarme-prolonger-les-centrales-c-est-criminel–769633.aspx).

Reading the comments on the RTL.be website, surprisingly presented in two separate tabs, the first one named « RTL », the second one « Facebook », I felt like adding my own, quite irritated by the usual comments on the necessary and indispensable « competence » of all, including that of Electrabel’s engineers:

« You don’t need to be an engineer to understand that nobody really masters the nuclear technique and has no control over the possibility of a major accident at Tihange or elsewhere (for the sceptics: note that it is a civil engineer who tells you this). For example, the older a reactor gets, the more fragile its components become and the more likely they are to fail, especially those subjected to the intense neutron bombardment emitted by the fuel rods. Some of this equipment, such as the reactor vessel, is not replaceable and we cannot assess with certainty the state in which it is: we can therefore see where this leads us… If there had not been a combined military and financial interest, taking precedence over politics and democracy, nuclear electricity production would never have seen the light of day ».

To learn more read :

  • Laponche Bernard, Dessus Benjamin. Ending nuclear power — Why and how. Éditions du Seuil, 176 p. (written by two engineers).
  • Collective of the Utopia movement. Nuclear: Received ideas and exit scenarios. Editions Utopia, 2011 (a small, well-made and inexpensive book — 4 €).

One of many books on the subject:

  • This article I wrote on the subject: http://liege.mpoc.be/doc/energie/nucleaire/-articles/Leboutte-Francis_mpOC_Nucleaire-TechniqueContreNature_mars2013.pdf)
  • The Kairos newspaper (the current and next issues include a feature on nuclear power — https://kairospresse.be)
  • Delfour Jean-Jacques. The nuclear condition. Reflections on the atomic situation of humanity. Breakaway, 2014, 296 pp. (written by a philosopher).

The organization of the readers’ comments on the RTL.be website makes me think that the evolution of this online press is really shitty. To post a comment, you first have to register according to one of the two following possibilities: either through a Facebook account (!), or through a Media ID account (?).Not being on Facebook and refusing to be, I opened a Media ID account. Media ID is a Belgian thing that answers to I don’t know what dark objective: on the Media ID website we can read that this « initiative was launched by major Belgian media companies. Its shareholders (November 2014) are L’Avenir, De Persgroep, Mediafin, Mediahuis, Rossel, Roularta, Sanoma, IPM, RTL and VRT. « To open this Media ID account, you have to provide, in addition to your email address, your postal address and your date of birth, but until then, nothing prevents you from providing a false address and a false date…


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