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Nuclear News - Nuclear Monitor #844 - 25 May 2017

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Close Tihange – 60,000 people to take to the streets

On June 25, around 60,000 people from Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium will literally join hands when they form a human chain of 90 km from the German city of Aachen, via Dutch Maastricht to Belgium Liege and Tihange. It has been decades since the Belgian antinuclear movement has called for such a big action.

The three old nuclear power reactors in Tihange are much debated, not only in Belgium itself but – even more – in neighboring Germany. The reactors are located about 60 km from the border of both Germany and the Netherlands. All three reactors have been plagued in the past years with incidents, accidents and unsolved problems.

On 18 November 2016, the Belgian newspaper La Libre reported that the CEO of the Belgian nuclear regulator FANC, Jan Bens, expressed his anger to the owner of the nuclear power stations, Electrabel. In two letters to the government and Electrabel itself, he says "Electrabel didn't show any initiative in order to improve the level of safety." Bens described in the published letters an "alarming probability of a nuclear meltdown", especially in Tihange-2. He warned of the possibility of a new disaster "as in Fukushima and Tsjernobyl".

In the pressure vessels of not only Tihange-2 but also Doel-3 (in the west of Belgium), thousands of cracks have been discovered. During ultrasonic testings in 2012/13, approximately 13,000 cracks were found, a few millimeters long at first. By now, some are documented with a length up to 17.2 centimeters. The decision of the Belgian government to postpone closure of the reactors has been widely criticized all over Europe, and the federal governments of Germany and Luxembourg have officially called on the Belgian government to permanently close the reactors.

After a year of intense lobbying work by WISE and other Dutch NGOs, the national parliament of the Netherlands on May 25 passed (with the smallest possible majority, 76 to 74) a resolution which calls on the Dutch government to join forces with Germany and Luxembourg in calling on Belgium to permanently close the reactors.

In the meantime, mobilization for the human chain on June 25 intensifies. Numerous local governments in the southern part of the Netherlands (Limburg) support the action and are encouraging their citizens to join. One of the biggest pop festivals of the Netherlands (Pinkpop, in early June) supports the action and will call all their visitors to join the human chain. Local groups are popping up and are organising buses. Well-known artists, politicians and scientists are saying that they will join.

The action is organised by groups in the Netherlands (WISE), Germany (Aktionsbündnis gegen Atomenergie Aachen) and Belgium (11Maar Beweging and Fin du Nucleaire) and is widely supported by dozens of other national and local NGOs. Join us if you can!

More information:

‒ Peer de Rijk ‒ WISE Director

Switzerland: referendum supports nuclear power phase-out

Voters in Switzerland supported a May 21 referendum on a package of energy policy measures including a ban on new nuclear power reactors. Thus Switzerland has opted for a "gradual nuclear phase out" in the words of the World Nuclear Association. There are no definitive dates for the closure of the existing five reactors ‒ they can remain in operation as long as the Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate deems them safe ‒ but they will probably all be closed by the late 2020s or early 2030s.

Before the Fukushima disaster, plans were in train to build new reactors to replace Switzerland's aging fleet. However those plans were shelved in the aftermath of Fukushima.

In a November 2016 referendum, Swiss citizens narrowly rejected a Green Party initiative that called for a 45-year limit to be placed on the lifespan of power reactors, which would have resulted in the closure of all plants by 2029.

In the May 21 referendum, 58.2% of Swiss citizens voted in support of the revisions to the Energy Act. Only four of the country's 26 cantons voted 'no'.

In addition to the ban on new power reactors, no "basic changes" to existing nuclear power plants will be permitted. In 2003, Switzerland imposed a moratorium on the export of spent nuclear fuel for reprocessing until 2020 and the Energy Strategy 2050, approved by the May 21 referendum, extends this ban indefinitely.

To support the expansion of renewables, 480 million swiss francs (US$492 million) will be raised annually from electricity consumers to fund investment in wind, solar and hydro power. Power generation from solar, wind, biomass and geothermal sources is to increase at least four-fold by 2035 ‒ from 2,831 gigawatt-hours (GWh) to at least 11,400 GWh by 2035. Hydro currently accounts for 60% of Switzerland's power generation, with nuclear providing 35%.

An additional 450 million francs (US$461m) will also be set aside from an existing tax on fossil fuels to help reduce energy consumption in buildings by 43% by 2035 compared with 2000 levels.

"This is a historic day for the country," Green Party parliamentarian Adele Thorens Goumaz said. "Switzerland will finally enter the 21st century when it comes to energy."





Beznau I

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Beznau II

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1190 MW