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Belgian report Belgian report
by Euro Reporter
2012-09-03 09:24:34
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Belgium shuts down nuclear power plant

Belgium has temporarily shut down one of its seven nuclear power plants after the country’s atomic energy regulator discovered “several anomalies”, including possible cracks, in the tank containing the reactor’s core. The suspected fractures at the Doel 3 reactor, 25km north of Antwerp, which provides a sixth of Belgium’s nuclear-generated power, do not pose any health and safety threat, said AFCN, the country’s nuclear watchdog, but the plant will remain shut at least until the end of this month. According to preliminary analysis, the steel tank, produced by Rotterdam Drydocks, a Dutch company that went bankrupt in the mid 1980s, has been damaged by radiation, which created fractures inside it. Several other nuclear sites around the world – including the US, Germany and Spain – use tanks produced by the same company, according a nuclear energy expert who asked not to be named.

Karina De Beule, AFCN spokesperson, said the regulator had been in touch with its counterparts around the world, but had been unable to determine how many reactors abroad use similar tanks to the one at Doel. “We are talking with all regulators as we would in any emergency situation ... it is essential to co-ordinate efforts,” Ms De Beule said. “At present we can guarantee that there are no risks to workers, citizens and the environment.” The premature closure of Doel 3 could lead to a severe energy shortage during the winter, according to Elia, Belgium’s grid operator. “The sudden closure of the plant could seriously affect energy security in the country during peak hours of the winter period ... that’s around 6pm on a cold winter day,” said Lise Mulpas, a manager at Elia.

The Doel 3 station, operated by Electrabel, a subsidiary of France’s GDF Suez, is scheduled to be decommissioned in 2022 as Belgium – which currently relies on nuclear power for about 50 per cent of its energy needs – plans to close all its atomic power stations by 2025. But unless GDF can prove that the reactor can function safely, it may be decommissioned earlier, as replacing or repairing the tank would not be economically viable, the AFCN said.


Ex-wife of Belgian paedophile killer settles into convent life after early release

The screaming, insults and scuffles that accompanied the nighttime’s arrival of one of Belgium's most despised criminals at a bucolic convent have abated. Protestors chant slogans outside the Poor Clares Monastery in Malonne, Belgium, Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012. One of Belgium's most despised criminals, the former wife of a paedophile and child killer who let two of his victims starve to death, left prison for a convent late Tuesday after serving barely half her 30-year sentence. A local legislator who suggested in a Tweet that Michelle Martin, the woman who let two 8-year-old girls starve to death in a cellar and helped her paedophile husband carry out horrific abuse 16 years ago, should be "taken down," said on Wednesday that his comment should not be taken seriously.

And political talk is cantering on how to toughen the conditions for early release in Belgium to avoid having a criminal like Martin walk free after serving only 16 years of her 30-year sentence. Meanwhile, Martin started her first day at the Clarisse convent in the village of Malonne on Wednesday. She will have to work for 20 hours a week to compensate for her living costs as she seeks, in the words of her lawyer, atonement for her crimes.

After an eventful arrival Tuesday night, police remained on guard outside the convent on Wednesday. The masses of journalists jockeying for a glimpse of Martin started dwindling. As the car carrying her sought its way through Malonne late Tuesday, some stones were thrown and the vehicle was kicked. "To go through this on the very day with such violence, I think it left an impression on her," said Martin's lawyer, Thierry Moreau. He said he hopes a time will come, once the furore has died down, when Martin will be fully reintegrated into society.


Belgium economy minister calls for new electricity pricing-report

Belgium's government should start work as soon as September to reduce "scandalously high price differences" between the country's energy providers, Economy Minister Johan Vande Lanotte said Sunday in an interview with Belgian daily De Tijd.

He wants a system where electricity providers’ base consumer costs on the international market price, plus a margin, as is in place for fossil fuels. Currently, electricity prices in the country vary as much as 60% between operators, "which can mean only one thing--they are taking a huge margin," Mr. Vande Lanotte said.

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