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Fire Shuts Down Belgian Nuclear Plant

Greenpeace campaigner warns of risks of reliance on aging nuclear reactors

Tihange nuclear power plant seen from the fortress of Huy.  (Photo: Uploaded by Hullie/CC BY-SA 3.0)

An electrical fire on Sunday forced the temporary shutdown of a nuclear reactor in Belgium.

According to a statement by Elia, the county's transmission system operator, the fire broke out at Electrabel's high-voltage power station at the site of the Tihange 3 nuclear reactor, one of seven nuclear reactors in Belgium.

As a result of the transmission fire, which occurred outside of the nuclear zone, the reactor was put offline—the fourth nuclear reactor now offline in the country.

Belgium's Le Soir reports that no one was injured.

Preliminary investigations indicate it was the result of a technical failure, according to a spokesperson for Electrabel.

Eloi Glorieux, Senior Energy Campaigner for Greenpeace Belgium, wrote at the organization's blog that this latest incident shows once again that the country's reliance on large centralized nuclear power plants is unwise. Keeping aging reactors online will only result in more forced shutdowns and supply problems, while risking enormous socio-economic costs and the potential of serious accidents, he wrote.

The new shutdown and the country's reliance on nuclear power could worsen Belgium's energy situation this winter. As Reuters reported: "Belgium's power supply security became a concern after three reactors, accounting for about half of its nuclear capacity of 5,700 megawatts (MW), were taken offline because of cracks in their steel reactor casings."

In their Winter Outlook report released Monday Europe's' Transmission System Operators write: "The situation in winter 14-15 will potentially be very stressed for the Belgian system," due in part to the nuclear reactors being offline. This situation will cause Belgium to be energy import-dependent for the winter, the report states.

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