It’s better than nothing but it’s really not much. The government had promised a first agreement with Engie regarding the extension of two of our nuclear power plants. He was able to show a letter of intent (“non-binding”, underlines Engie) which says that the French group wants to talk about the subject. That’s already it, but we are still a long way from having extended Doel 4 and Tihange 3, these two reactors which could live for a few more years.
It’s better than nothing but it’s really not much. The government had promised a first agreement with Engie regarding the extension of two of our nuclear power plants. He was able to show a letter of intent (“non-binding”, underlines Engie) which says that the French group wants to talk about the subject. That’s already it, but we are still a long way from having extended Doel 4 and Tihange 3, these two reactors which could live for a few more years. Well, let’s assume that there is an agreement at the end of this year, as the government promises, with the creation of a joint State/Engie company which should share the profits and operating costs. What will Engie claim to get on this boat? This is the question that bothers a lot of people today. However, other questions concerning our supply should make us jump. Because even if Tihange 3 and Doel 4 are put back into service, the two reactors will not be woken up until the end of 2026 and we will still have three problems on our hands. First, how to fill the gap (a little over a year) between the shutdown of all the plants in 2025 and the restart of the two reactors, scheduled for November 2026 at the earliest? We are counting on the construction of at least three gas-fired power stations. But gas, Europe asks us to consume less. In addition, a plant in Vilvoorde was refused its permit. And another, in Seraing, is the subject of a surreal political battle. Today, we still do not know how to pass the warm New Year 2026. Second, how to compensate for nuclear production that has been definitively abandoned, whatever happens? The regulators have looked into the subject, added up the capacities in renewables, gas-fired power plants, etc., but we are still too short, especially if we add to current demand that of the fleet of electric vehicles to come. And thirdly, what to do in 2037, when the two reactors which will have been extended (if all goes well) for 10 years will be definitively shut down? You will find in this magazine food for thought. Jean-Marc Jancovici, whom we interviewed, recalls that it is the characteristics of fossil fuels and especially of oil that have allowed the development of the current industrial civilization. The exit from fossil fuels will therefore not be obvious. In a country like ours which is barely 31,000 km2, the area is not unlimited if we want to build wind farms, solar farms, have land for the production of biofuel, forests for biomass, continue to drive individual cars and live in houses with gardens. Without nuclear power, our standard of living risks being reduced to a trickle. Admittedly, there are other tracks than the atom, but they are not as powerful and sometimes emit CO2. You will see in the following pages that biomethane, if properly mobilized, could meet a large part of household gas needs. The fact remains that if we want to know how to get through the winter of 2037, it’s time to have a real debate on nuclear power. The question is burning if we do not want to fall back into the extremely precarious situation that we live in today. In a properly managed country, we should decide now on our energy policy in about fifteen years. Because that’s how long it takes to build new power plants. Some of our neighbors (France, Netherlands, United Kingdom) have already taken the plunge and will expand their nuclear fleet. Could it be that for once we didn’t wait until it was too late?