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Worry About Aging Belgian Nukes

on June 13, 2017 - 2:06pm

Tihange 2 nuclear reactor. Photo by Michielverbeek - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5747203

By Homeland Security News Wire:

More micro-cracks have been discovered at the Belgian Tihange 2 nuclear reactor near the German border. safe. The worries in Germany about radiation leaks from the old reactor are strong.

Last year, the government of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, which is on the other side of the Belgian-German border, purchased iodine tablets for distribution to the public in the event of radiation leak. Belgium relies on its two 40-year old nuclear reactors for 39 percent of its energy needs, and has extended the operational life of both, even though they were supposed to be decommissioned a decade ago.

Nuclear experts have discovered seventy new micro-cracks in the high-pressure boiler at the aging Tihange 2 nuclear reactor in Belgium.

The cracks have been discovered since the last inspection was conducted in 2014.

DW reports that in response to questions by Green Party members in the Belgian parliament, Belgian Interior Minister Jan Jambon said the experts were able to detect the cracks by using ultrasonic technology and positioning the equipment they use camera in a different direction.

Jambon said that the newly discovered cracks do not raise questions about the operational safety of the Tihange nuclear power plant, and that it will continue to operate.

Tihange is located only thirty-seven miles from the German border, and German politicians have for years demanded that it be shut down.

The worries in Germany about radiation leaks from the old reactor are strong. Last year, the government of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, which is on the other side of the Belgian-German border, purchased iodine tablets for distribution to the public in the event of radiation leak.

The Tihange power plant is more-than forty years old. It houses three reactors, which, over the years, have been shut down several times for a series of incidents due to maintenance and safety concerns. Critics note that the original life span of the plant was thirty years, and that the plant should have decommissioned a decade ago.

The Belgian newspaper Belga reported that as of 2015, nuclear inspectors had found 3,149 points of damage of different severity to the Tihange 2 reactor. With the latest inspection, the number of points of damage has reached 3,219.

Experts say that the high number of problems is the result not only of the age of the reactors, but of less-than-attentive maintenance practices at the site.

The Belgian government is also faces questions about the safety of the country’s second nuclear reactor. Last November, inspectors found cracks at the Doel 3 nuclear reactor near Antwerp.

Nuclear power provides nearly 40 percent of Belgium’s electric supplies, which forced the government to extend the operational life of the two reactors as the country is looking for other power sources.

In the wake of the 2011 Fukushima disaster, Germany has been phasing out its own nuclear power, a process which is scheduled for completion by 2022.


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