Study to bring clarity to Belgium on nuclear free future

Melchior Wathelet

Belgium is due to begin phasing out nuclear power within three years, but the country is still grappling with basic questions about its plans, including whether the 2015 deadline has to be adjusted to ensure electricity supplies remain reliable.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Melchior Wathelet, the country's new state secretary for energy, said in an interview that a study currently being prepared, for presentation by July, will assess whether there is "an alternative that would guarantee the security of supply at an acceptable price and respecting the environment."

"I will say that I am getting out of [nuclear] only when I am sure I have an alternative ready," Mr. Wathelet said. Nuclear power accounts for roughly 55% of Belgium's electricity production.

The government has asked roughly 180 investors and power companies for some feedback on their investment plans in Belgium, including what their plans are for the Belgian market, what could encourage their investment, and what challenges and opportunities they are facing, Mr. Wathelet said.

Their answers will feed into the study he is preparing to decide what to do to for 2015, he said, adding that the government has no pre-determined opinion about the energy mix Belgium should have by then.

The study is specifically aimed at getting a decision on the 2015 deadline, when roughly one-third of Belgium's nuclear capacity would be shut. But things seem less clear when looking at 2025, the date by which all reactors would have to be taken offline.

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