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Belgium To Give Up Nuclear Power 298

Posted by Soulskill
from the sorry-for-the-swear-word-in-the-headline dept.
AmiMoJo writes "Belgium's political parties have reached a conditional agreement to shut down the country's two remaining nuclear power stations. Older reactors will be decommissioned by 2015, with the final closures happening before 2025. The exit is conditional on alternatives being available. 'If it turns out we won't face shortages and prices would not skyrocket, we intend to stick to the nuclear exit law of 2003,' a spokeswoman for Belgium's energy and climate ministry said."
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Belgium To Give Up Nuclear Power

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  • They've been planning this since 2003, when they passed legislation to do so.

    • by Fluffeh (1273756)

      Not quite. Legislation was passed in 2003 requiring it, but the current news is that both political sides have finally hammered out a strategy, plan to do so and actually agreed to the implementation process.

      Actually, for politicians, eight years to plan turning off a few power plants seems almost speedy... *cough*

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by lordholm (649770)

        There was a very nice disclaimer though, which went something like "if alternatives can be found to replace the power plants". Without going with coal/oil (and Belgium is not very rich in hydro), there are not that many solid options. Effectively they are saying to the public that "yes we will turn them off" but in reality they are saying "yeah, we will turn them off (but you know... there are no realistic alternatives, so we will just kick the can in front of us and make a decision later)".

        • Slow and stupid. (Score:2, Insightful)

          by fyngyrz (762201)

          It's sad to watch whole countries shoot themselves in the foot over hysteria and foolishness. But those are the times we live in: where most countries have adopted a system where any two idiots can outvote an expert, whether those people are rank and file (straight democracy), or holding elected office (republics and so on.) And all this in environments where experts are actually rare.

          • by risom (1400035)
            I assume you are not from Europe? In the state in Germany where I live (Germany is a federation like the US), the percentage of renewable energy in the mix already is at 55%, and that happened without any coordinated strategy by the state. It is assumed that the percentage will rise to 65% in the next few years. Belgium is geographically quite similiar to Northern Germany, so I assume completly going renewable really is a viable option for them.
            • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

              by Taco Cowboy (5327)

              In the state in Germany where I live (Germany is a federation like the US), the percentage of renewable energy in the mix already is at 55%

              Please provide proof.

              Anyone can say anything.

              Please provide proof that an energy hungry country like Germany can obtain 55% of its total energy needs solely from renewable sources.

              Danke !

            • by Joce640k (829181)

              According to Wikipedia it's only 17 per cent. [wikimedia.org]

              That's probably higher on a windy day (heck, even here in Spain we can hit 40% on a windy day) but the leap from 17% to 100% is massive. A vast chasm. Maybe even impossible to achieve in practice.

              At some point you're going to have to burn fuel. If you stop using those cold war bomb manufacturing plants as energy sources then Nuclear is the best option.

          • Excuse me, but just because someone disagrees with you regarding the use of nuclear power, doesn't mean you can label them as reacting to "hysteria and foolishness". There are real, rational and coherrent concerns regarding nuclear power. If you disagree with that, then fine, but please don't simply label your opposition as hysterical or foolish.
    • It's ingenious really. Politicians get to say they killed nuclear power (15 years from now) so they appease the anti-nuke crowd. Pro-nukes wins either way, if reactors are replaceable and some technology does come along then we get cheap clean energy anyway, if not then the nukes stay around.

      Unless we find an alternative it's essentially pro-nuke legislation dressed up as greenpeace.

  • in other news, (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Son of Byrne (1458629)
    Ron Paul has said that if he is elected, then he will support the opening of two new nuclear power plants for every power plant that is decomissioned.
    • by GNious (953874)

      Honest question: How come Slashdot seems to be the only outlet recognizing Ron Paul's candidacy?
      When looking to news, or debates or whatever, they present O'Romney, Parry, Whats-her-name, and pizza-dude, but I hardly every hear Ron Paul being mentioned, even when he is right there on the screen.

  • by WindBourne (631190) on Tuesday November 01, 2011 @10:19PM (#37915414) Journal
    What is bothersome is that proof is now showing up that droughts and climate issues are man-made. Now, they are looking to close their nuke plants. Foolish. Instead, it should remain part of their energy matrix until they get enough other energy and storage going.
    • by Dr. Spork (142693)
      France also export a lot of electricity to their neighbors and have just about the lowest per-kWh prices in Europe. It's French power (plus new brown coal burning plants, yuck!) that will make up for the impending loss of nuclear plants in Germany. I bet the story of Belgium will be somewhat similar.
      • by Fluffeh (1273756) on Tuesday November 01, 2011 @11:37PM (#37915880)

        It's French power (plus new brown coal burning plants, yuck!) that will make up for the impending loss of nuclear plants in Germany.

        Why is that (aside from the brown coal plants) a bad thing that a country decides to buy cheap electricity from another? Especially when it's all in Europe where you can throw a stone across three countries?

        From a political point of view, it is actually rather sensible. You drop the cost associated with maintaining aging nuclear facilities which offsets the price you buy it for from France who will no doubt be happy to sell it to you, your country doesn't get any worse in terms of emissions and in the terrible event that something goes wrong at the plant, you will sleep happily in the political knowledge that the meltdown didn't happen in your country.

        • Especially when it's all in Europe where you can throw a stone across three countries?
          [...]
            you will sleep happily in the political knowledge that the meltdown didn't happen in your country.

          We may be safe from the political fallout; unfortunately not the other kind. ;)

        • in the terrible event that something goes wrong at the plant, you will sleep happily in the political knowledge that the meltdown didn't happen in your country.

          You might want to take a look at this this map of french nuclear reactors [wikipedia.org] and notice along which border the top 3 are located. The (significant) costs of this will be borne by the people as usual and the politicians get another board position to retire to. What's wrong with this picture ?

        • by AmiMoJo (196126)

          in the terrible event that something goes wrong at the plant, you will sleep happily in the political knowledge that the meltdown didn't happen in your country.

          If something did go badly wrong in France the whole of western Europe would have a problem. When the Chernobyl accident happened it affected EU countries as well as Russia.

          Back to the topic at hand the EU is looking to build large solar thermal plants in northern Africa. Expect Libya to get them in the next few years. Handy how France and the UK helped liberate them, but I'm sure it was purely altruistic and in no way an attempt to secure valuable resources.

      • France also export a lot of electricity to their neighbors and have just about the lowest per-kWh prices in Europe. It's French power (plus new brown coal burning plants, yuck!) that will make up for the impending loss of nuclear plants in Germany. I bet the story of Belgium will be somewhat similar.

        The belgian energy market is owned by Electrabel, which in turn is owned by the french GDF Suez. We will very soon by forced to import even more energy from France. Of course the two are completely unrelated (!)

        • And as the ability to produce one's own energy decreases I would expect a rise in prices to export it from another country. Supply and demand and all that.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      Only France? The UK has affirmed it's stance that new reactors are needed and will be built...

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by umghhh (965931)
      Well this is indeed a false dichotomy i.e. either nuclear or fossil based energy as options. The fact is that both types have serious consequences only for nuclear these are not as yet quite as profound as for fossil ones which by the way are not only reason why our climate change. Another thing is that going for nuclear is not solving much anyway - you assume that nuclear is replacing something which it may but to what extent if at all is unknown. What I see is that our energy consumption is on level uns
  • They felt this way in 2003, they're confirming they still feel this way today, and those plants will probably be at the end of their design life by the time they are decommissioned anyway.

    If they happen to change their minds anytime in the next 14 years, they can always start the construction of new plants then.

    It's not as if they're so far from France that they're safe from nuclear power generation accidents or anything...

    • by Znork (31774)

      More likely they will be far, far beyond the end of their design life by the time they're decommissioned, and they'll probably get decommissioned because they get a serious accident due to running far, far beyond the end of their design life because they weren't replaced by new reactors or anything else.

      Ah, well, I've gotten my own hydro power facility now so my needs are more than covered (well, will be once I bring the turbine on-line).

  • by danbuter (2019760) on Tuesday November 01, 2011 @10:31PM (#37915500)
    Both are already major energy providers to the rest of Europe. With Belgium and Germany shutting down their nuclear plants, both countries are going to make billions.
    • by Idou (572394)
      Why make a mess at home, when you can just pay someone else to deal with the mess?
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Demonantis (1340557)
        The crux of the anti nuclear movement is it creates a more dangerous industry forcing the government to rely on using past their prime plants. If France and Russia are willing to stay at the edge of nuclear development more to them. They will be safer then Belgium and Germany maintaining their old plants.
        • by Idou (572394) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @12:39AM (#37916216) Journal
          The crux of the nuclear industry is that old plants are already paid for and depreciated. They are far more profitable than new plants. Also, safety measures cost money, so a profit maximizing business will try to minimize safety measures where possible (including building safer new plants). When things do go wrong, things are so bad that the government has to bail out the owners (just like the banks), so they face limited downside risk with the old plants.

          I am afraid you give way too much credit to the anti-nuke movement, and way too little credit to corporate greed.
    • by TooMuchToDo (882796) on Tuesday November 01, 2011 @11:22PM (#37915802)

      Belgium has quite a bit of a renewables coming online:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_in_Belgium#Renewable_energy [wikipedia.org]

      I'll be the last person to bash nuclear. New designs are safe, efficient, and cost effective. But once you put enough solar and wind generation out there, and back it with proper storage/buffering facilities (large battery/flywheel banks, pumped storage, etc), the argument is moot.

      The price of solar is dropping so fast, solar businesses are struggling to stay afloat. Their loss is our gain, and you'll continue to see the price per watt of solar plummet. Wind is only getting more efficient, as gearboxes are being replaced with more efficient magnetic bearings and transfer systems:

      http://www.treehugger.com/sustainable-product-design/super-smooth-magnetic-bearings-glide-closer-to-the-mainstream.html [treehugger.com]

      http://www.technologyreview.com/energy/25188/page1/ [technologyreview.com]

      If you read my second link, you'll see GE is building 4 MW direct drive turbine systems. Yeah, 4 megawatts. As efficiency continues to scale up, you'll see windfarm nameplate capacity rival the largest coal and nuclear plants. Yes, yes, you'll still have to deal with generation peaks and valleys, but the energy is there for the taking!

      • From your Wikipedia link.
        =============
        In 2000, nuclear power contributed to 58.24% of the 78.85 TWh (total rate: 9 GWe) produced domestically.[7] ... and ...
        In 2000, renewable energy was used for producing 0.71% of the 78,85 TWh of electricity produced domestically.
        =============
        There was a rather optimistic projection of full exploitation of offshore wind at 17TWh, assuming this was possible.

        If the two plants are producing over half of that 79TWh, looks like wind has a ways to go to come close to replacing

      • by Solandri (704621)

        If you read my second link, you'll see GE is building 4 MW direct drive turbine systems. Yeah, 4 megawatts. As efficiency continues to scale up, you'll see windfarm nameplate capacity rival the largest coal and nuclear plants.

        This is a common mistake - comparing peak (nameplate) capacity to peak capacity. For actual power generation rates throughout the year, you have to multiply by capacity factor.

        For nuclear, capacity factor is about 0.9. That is if a nuclear reactor has a peak generating capacity o

      • by thegarbz (1787294)

        The price of solar is dropping so fast, solar businesses are struggling to stay afloat. Their loss is our gain, and you'll continue to see the price per watt of solar plummet.

        This is a false argument. The people who supply and build our systems going broke is not our gain. It has a fixed floor. The prices will either continue to plummet making it completely unviable to enter the solar business (the largest solar manufacturing plant in Australia has already closed and shipped off to ... you guessed it ... China), they hit a break even point, or the quality suffers to a point where solar panels don't last as long as they do anymore (I still have a 35 year old hifi in my house, how

  • 50 years ago (Score:4, Interesting)

    by circletimessquare (444983) <circletimessquare&gmail,com> on Tuesday November 01, 2011 @10:40PM (#37915556) Homepage Journal

    1. the space industry was booming

    2. the nuclear industry was booming

    3. the computer industry was just a support system for the real heroic industries

    now: the computer industry is the preeminent world industry (in terms of influence, company valuations, etc), and the space industry and nuclear industry are frail, aged, and dying

    not exactly what people imagined 50 years ago, in policy making and the popular imagination

    • Actually, the space industry is beginning to burgeon. It's just move into private industry, which is a good thing.
      • by Hentes (2461350)

        Not really, the private sector is only interested in LEO and quick profits, they are not making new discoveries.

    • Well, the problem was not with the popular imagination, but the poor policy making. The US would be fully energy independent today, and nuclear would be a brilliant, thriving industry, if only it had proceeded in a different direction. Indeed, the entire world would be a very different place, with the proliferation of cheap, safe energy, and reduced friction over fossil fuel resources. Maybe not too cheap to meter, but energy cheaper than from coal is quite possible with Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors.

    • by cdrguru (88047)

      I think the one constant has been the porn industry.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'm from Belgium and this has been discussed since 2003... why now? Knowing that Electrabel until recently was the owner of these 2 power, the following may explain why the decision has been taken to decommission them:

    From the Wikipedia page for Electrabel:

    For a long time a majority stake in Electrabel was held by the French company Suez. In 2005, Suez increased its stake to 96.7% and a squeeze-out of the remaining shareholders was completed on 10 July 2007, when the company was delisted from the stock exchange. Following Suez's 2008 merger with Gaz de France, Electrabel is now a subsidiary of GDF Suez.

    I won't speculate on the exact economic benefits it will bring to GDF, but lets be clear the decision wasn't made for climate or anti-nuclear reasons. This decision will certainly assure the energy monopoly of GDF in Belgium.

  • !Tautology (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Citizen of Earth (569446) on Tuesday November 01, 2011 @11:03PM (#37915690)

    If it turns out we won't face shortages and prices would not skyrocket, we intend to stick to the nuclear exit law of 2003

    if (false && false) exit_nukes();

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 01, 2011 @11:05PM (#37915698)

    Crunching the numbers, the health effects from a normally operating coal plant (+10% cancer rate within 20 km) is about the projected effect of Fukushima's fallout for inhabitants within 30 km. Long term effects of coal outside this range are also similar (same order of magnitude), regular functioning coal vs. major nuclear accident.
    Furthermore, the majority of the long term Fukushima radiation effect (Cs) has a half-life of two years, were much of the cancer effect from coal is permanent due to chemical ground water and soil contamination.

    • Not to mention all the negative effects that come from mining coal, both to the environment AND to the miners inside. Whereas a nuclear plant consumes a lot less fuel and thus the secondary effects from mining for nuclear fuel are much less significant. Long- and short-term primary and secondary effects that are the result of coal plants are way worse than from nuclear plants, it just so happens that no media seems to mention that in a way that the general public would understand.

      • by ATMAvatar (648864)
        The deaths and ill-health caused by coal plants is consistent and expected. The deaths and ill-health caused by a nuclear meltdown is unexpected. The unfortunate but inevitable human psychological reaction is to assume that (despite all the statistics proving otherwise) nuclear power plants are less safe. It's no different than our reaction to 9/11 versus heart disease, where we have spent hundreds of billions of dollars reacting to the former while the latter kills several orders of magnitude more peopl
  • France has a power plant near Givet [google.com], which is situated in a "peninsula" of French territory going into Belgium. That's going to be pretty convenient when Belgium needs to buy massive amounts of power from abroad (hint: Belgium is very poorly endowed for hydro/solar/geothermal energy)

    • by rbrander (73222)

      You're half-way there. France already sells Italy a substantial fraction of Italy's power. Add in Germany and now Belgium, and one starts to see a nice national business for the French, exporting the results of decades of investment and mass-production of nuclear power plants and operators, and the whole fuel chain. It will keep getting cheaper by the unit, the more they do. France is undoubtedly the mainstay of the OECD analysis that nuclear is actually the most competitive investment, with the provi

      • by arose (644256)
        Does this "whole fuel chain" include trying to stash the waste in Germany? Plants on the boarders, spent fuel out of the boarders. Spread the nuclear love, why keep it in your backyard?
        • by Zironic (1112127)

          I think a large reason that a lot of nuclear reactors end up on the border is because you have to build them next to running water, by coincidence running water is also the most practical place to draw a border after a peace agreement.

  • I've been reading foundation recently, and it's spot on. Nuclear power plants breaking down because they're old and in disrepair? Train new technicians and build new plants? Unthinkable! Restrict nuclear power! Nuclear power is one of the only viable mid-term energy sources until we can get ourselves on to decentralized green energy, and even then it's incredibly useful for base load, non-intermittent power generation. We're now trying to get off of it for what exactly? Solar's not that viable in Europe as

  • It was seventy year ago that Roosevelt sign an executive order to begin nuclear development. Now, the two largest uses of fission energy are boiling water and fueling bombs that never explode (thank goodness). Is that progress?
    • by robot256 (1635039)
      I'll agree on the bombs part, but "boiling water" seems a mite simplified for "powering whatever the hell we want with electricity". Or were you expecting us to have proton beams and fusion factories by now? Just what else can you do with decaying plutonium?
  • The French knows how to build good quality plants. They don't skimp on concrete and steel. Their plants very different from the junk that GE built in Japan.
  • and let me say this: This is the country which has run without federal government for over 500 days now. It is also the country which sold most of its electricity infrastructure to French companies and now wonders why they pay so much more for electricity than their neighbouring countries. The last elections were won by a right-wing party (NVA) which is kept out of the negotiations for the next government because they were too greedy. If this party can turn its votes into ministers before 2015, the whole
  • Its a good thing that all European countries get along so well with their neighbors, and that they always will.

    If history is any lesson, this should continue to work smoothly for hundreds of years!

  • If you have a plentiful source of cheap energy you should quit nuclear too. The condition is rational, whether it will be true by 2025 is another question.

  • I'm Belgian and I worked in the senate when the decision was made in 2003 to buy support for the government from the green parties. It was clear then to political insiders that the nuclear power plants would not close in 2015, and it is just as clear now. Notice the IFs in the statement. We will face shortages and prices will skyrocket if we close the nuclear power plants, so we won't. Why are they saying this then? Once again to buy support from the green parties, this time not for the government but for t
  • Only 2 to 5% nuclear (Score:4, Informative)

    by Aries-Belgium (1530499) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @05:51AM (#37917624)
    I'm from Belgium and on my electric bill there is a list of energy sources from which my electricity is made of. Nuclear only has a 2% portion. Most of the energy comes from renewable energy. And that's even for the standard energy plan, and not the green energy plan, my provider is offering. Even the largest energy provider, Electrabel (which is in French hands: GDF Suez), only uses about 5% nuclear for their energy. Most people think of nuclear energy as being clean. And that's true as there is no emission of damaging gases or something. But what about the nuclear waste that has to be stored for a few thousands of years (although this is only a theoretical assumption). We can't keep shoving our problems into the ground and putting them off for later. It's time to start thinking of the future.

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