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Nuclear Shut-down To Go On Hold?

  • May 29th, 2007
  • Posted by 7thmin

power-station-belgium-larger.jpgThe planned shut-down of the seven nuclear power plants in Belgium by 2015 could founder after elections scheduled for 10 June.

Parties on both sides have begun backing away from the 2015 commitment; a sign of Europe’s problem with the agreed, European Union target of reducing carbon-based pollution by 20%, by 2020.

Economic, industrial scale alternatives to both nuclear fuels and coal-fired stations will prove difficult and expensive to develop; progress towards the nuclear shut-down has been slow.

In Belgium the anti-nuclear stand replicates the still-current undertaking by Germany to dismantle its nuclear system – a legacy of the country’s former “Red-Green” (Socialist Party / Greens) coalition government.

Belgium’s present government coalition headed by liberals and socialists, also includes the Green party, and is pledged to the early replacement of nuclear power by other sources of energy.

However in recent opinion polling the mainstay of that coalition, the centre-right liberal party in Flanders (VLD) has been losing ground, its backing this month down 8.6% to 17.3%.

The Socialist Party, dominant in the French-speaking half of Belgium, Wallonie, has been working hard to retain its support against the impact of municipal corruption scandals involving its members in the region.

That might translate into loss of government, and the opposition Christian Democrats have begun equivocating on the nuclear issue.

A position statement from the Christian Democrat party says it would make sense to keep the plants in service while they remained safe, and while the search went on to develop sustainable alternatives.

“In the long run we want to replace nuclear power with other sources of energy,” it says.

It also says the country has to avoid being too dependent on outside suppliers; a constant worry in Europe where the main source of imports, Russia, has been showing its readiness to bargain hard over secure supplies.

For its part the liberal party, VLD, has said it would be against the country closing off its options; it wants the availability and quality of alternative sources to be tested scientifically; and in the meantime considers work should continue towards designing and building a fourth generation of nuclear power installations.

The present plants are generally set up to run until 2025 or perhaps later.

The government parties are vulnerable on other issues, especially a perceived failure of the liberals to cut taxes as promised, and continuing anxiety over immigration.

Centre and right wing parties have been supporting stricter laws over citizenship rights in Belgium, where the migrant population makes up one of the largest percentages in Europe.

The Socialist Party says present laws are already tight and have been enforced more strictly in recently times.

Belgium’s seven nuclear plants provide 55% of the country’s electricity; the other OECD countries in Europe are operating 151 plants providing 28.4% of electiricity needs overall.

Reference:

NEA/ AEN (Nuclear Energy Agency; http://www.nea.fr/html/general/profiles/belgium.html (28.5.07)

Flanders News; http://www.flandersnews.be (28.5.07)

Picture: Nuclear plant in Belgium; Google, indymedia.org.uk

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