Belgium has been left without half of its nuclear capacity, as GDF Suez subsidiary Electrabel confirmed that its Doel 4 nuclear reactor has been shut down due to sabotage.
Reuters reports that a GDF Suez (Euronext: GSZ) spokesman confirmed Belgian press reports about suspicion of sabotage. "There was an intentional manipulation," he said, adding that somebody had tampered with the system used for emptying oil from the Alstom-made turbine at the nuclear power plant.
He said no outsiders had penetrated into the plant but declined to say whether an employee could have purposely caused the leak, as has been reported in some Belgian media. He said Electrabel had filed a complaint and that the Belgian police had started an investigation.
Repairs being carried out on the major damage inflicted on a steam turbine, which caused an oil leak at the site, means it most likely won’t be reactivated until the end of the year, a situation that could lead to Electrabel losing 40 million euros a month on net recurring income.
The firm say the main damage is to the turbine’s high pressure section.
The closure of Doel 4 takes place after two other reactors – Doel 3 and Tihange 2 – were forced offline because of fractures in steel casings housing their respective reactors. The closure of all three takes 3 GW off the Belgian grid, more than half its total nuclear capacity.
The implications of all that is that the Belgian government may have to consider boosting its interconnection capacity with neighbouring countries over the winter in order to prevent a potential blackout.
The problems found at Doel 3 have dogged the company in recent years.
The Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (FANC) told Power Engineering International that Doel 3 is in the process of being assessed, particularly with regard to the vessel structure housing the reactor. The results will be of interest to other nuclear managements whose plants were developed by the same construction outfit.
FANC spokesperson Sebastien Berger told PEi, "Electrabel is still carrying out the test program at the Belgian Nuclear Research Center (SCK•CEN) in Mol. This program of mechanical tests and metallurgical assessments will run until autumn. At the end of the program, a justification file should be submitted to the FANC which will decide on the restart of both reactors."
"About the possible implication for other reactors around Europe, the FANC regularly takes contact with its counterparts to inform them about the situation in Belgium. It’s up to them to communicate on their own situation and the tests they are carrying out," he added.