Electrabel was unhappy with the government’s decision, however, and threatened to close its reactor at Tihange in Wallonia at the same time, in protest at the decision by federal energy secretary Melchior Wathelet. Under the government’s plan, Tihange is scheduled to remain open until 2025. The decision was hailed as a “Belgian compromise” between environmental concerns, the demands of Electrabel, concerns over the security of Belgium’s energy supply and an agreement on prolonging the life of Belgium’s nuclear reactors reached in 2009 between the last government and Electrabel’s parent company GDF Suez.
On the first point, Greenpeace called the compromise “completely unacceptable”. A 2003 agreement on phasing out nuclear power allowed a reactor to stay open to ensure energy supply stability, but not in terms of a prolongation of 10 years, it said.
Security of supply was also the concern of the Flemish chamber of commerce Voka, whose directorgeneral Jo Libeer said the decision was now an opportunity for investment in other means of producing electricity. “Whether it’s nuclear energy or some other source makes little difference to us,” he said. “We simply have to have enough capacity in this country so that we do not have to depend on electricity imports.”
Wathelet responded to the threat from Electrabel by citing a provision of the law which would allow the government to forbid the company from closing Tihange to ensure stability of supply. Electrabel’s threat was a “bluff ”, he told VRT current affairs programme Terzake.
Electrabel later nuanced its position. “Electrabel’s position may in no way be described as blackmail,” it said in a statement. “The decision to close Doel I and II is one which is the responsibility of politicians, although the closure of high-performance industrial installations would not be Electrabel’s first choice.”