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Luxembourg protests against Belgium nuclear plans
Nuclear energy

Luxembourg protests against Belgium nuclear plans

by John MONAGHAN 2 min. 20.03.2022
Belgian decision to extend lifespan of nuclear reactors because of the Ukraine war prompts furious response
The lifespan of one of the reactors at Tihange, near Liège, is being extended until 2035 under the Belgian government's plan
The lifespan of one of the reactors at Tihange, near Liège, is being extended until 2035 under the Belgian government's plan
Photo credit: Reuters

Luxembourg has lodged a letter of complaint with Belgium after the country announced on Friday it will delay the closure of its nuclear power plants by a decade as a result of the Ukraine war, in the latest rift between the Grand Duchy and its neighbours over nuclear energy.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sent energy prices soaring, at the same time as Europe seeks ways to break its dependency on Moscow for supplies.

Belgium’s cabinet agreed on Friday to extend the lifespan of two of the country’s seven nuclear reactors, near Antwerp and Liège, by a further ten years until 2035, reversing an earlier commitment to close them by 2025.

“The federal government has decided to take the necessary steps to extend the life of two nuclear reactors by ten years," Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said. "This extension will strengthen our country's independence from fossil fuels in a turbulent geopolitical environment," he added.

The gradual phase-out of nuclear energy has been enshrined in Belgian law since 2003 and was a key factor in the Green Party – which had resisted Friday’s move - agreeing to join a seven-party coalition two years ago, AFP reported.

Luxembourg’s government has sent an “urgent letter” to their Belgian counterparts after the announcement, Energy Minister Claude Turmes said in a tweet on Saturday. “Appalled and stunned by the Belgian government's decision to postpone the nuclear exit again. This decision jeopardises the safety of our fellow Luxembourg citizens,” Turmes said.

Luxembourg and Germany have long called for the closure of the nuclear site at Cattenom in eastern France, just 20km south of Luxembourg City. Turmes and Carole Dieschbourg, the environment minister, wrote a joint letter earlier this year to France's nuclear safety authority expressing concerns about the plant, which has seen several minor incidents over the last decade.

In 2019, Luxembourg’s government said it was opposed to seeing Cattenom’s life cycle extended beyond its expiration date of 2040, during a review by France’s nuclear safety authority.  

Two years ago, Belgium accused its smaller neighbour of causing a "serious diplomatic incident" and launching a "harmful disinformation campaign" after Luxembourg Environment Minister Carole Dieschbourg publicly criticised Brussels' plans to store nuclear waste near the border.

Luxembourg’s government agreed on Friday to ask parliament to approve a payment of between €200 and €400, depending on the composition of the household, to help residents cope with rising energy bills.  

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