The conditions set out in the letter of intent signed by Engie with the Belgian State in order to assess the feasibility and conditions for the extension of the Tihange 3 and Doel 4 nuclear reactors for a period of ten years are “indissociable”. . This was indicated on Friday by the French energy group, which operates the various nuclear power plants in the country, in its press release relating to its financial results. The letter of intent is non-binding, he makes it clear.
On March 18, due to the geopolitical situation in Ukraine and threats to energy supply, the Belgian government announced its desire to extend the operational life of the Doel 4 and Tihange 3 reactors by ten years, until 2035. Discussions were then opened with Engie, which was resistant to such an extension.
On July 21, the energy company, through its subsidiary Electrabel, finally signed a non-binding letter of intent with the Belgian State in order to assess the feasibility and conditions of such an extension. “The objective is to negotiate and conclude a binding agreement by December 31, 2022 that can ensure a balanced distribution of risks and opportunities and offer each party stability and an equitable long-term transaction structure”, details Engie.
Several “indissociable” conditions are included in this letter of intent. Among these, the French group insists first of all on “the extension of the operating period of Doel 4 and Tihange 3 for ten years, taking into account a period of 5 years from the signing of the contract. ‘agreement in principle. The parties will study the conditions allowing a restart of the two units from November 2026. This agreement will also include the economic conditions of the extension”.
The two units would therefore be in operation from 2026 to 2036, whereas previously Engie had made it known on several occasions that the deadline for an extension beyond 2025 had passed in its view and that it therefore did not envisage this option.
A new entity for the two reactors
It is also planned to set up a new entity dedicated to the two units with a 50/50 participation of the Belgian State and Electrabel, recalls the French group. The operator will remain Engie but the State will enter into the capital of this structure and will therefore have its say on strategic issues, the government underlined last week.
Finally, the letter of intent provides for “a cap on future liabilities and costs related to the management of nuclear waste and spent fuel for all reactors in the form of a fixed amount yet to be determined, including a premium covering future uncertainties, and which will be fixed after examination by the competent authorities”, which are the Nuclear Provisions Commission and the National Organization for Radioactive Waste and Fissile Materials (Ondraf).
Who will pay what?
The costs of dismantling nuclear power plants and managing fissile materials and radioactive waste are borne by the operator Engie, the government said last Friday. However, with regard to the waste resulting from the ten-year extension of the two reactors, the cost will be borne by the new structure and therefore, in principle, half by the State. However, the government also insisted on the benefits that the state will derive from the future company and that it can reinvest.
Finally, Engie assures that it “will continue to work constructively with the Belgian State to contribute to the security of supply in Belgium”.
Two reactors extended for 10 more years: “A big loser: the taxpayer”
An agreement with Engie has been reached, Tihange 3 and Doel 4 should be operational for winter 2026-27
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