Between Engie and the Belgian government, the negotiations drag on. The challenge: the extension, for ten years, of the lifespan of two nuclear reactors. The government, under the aegis of Prime Minister Alexander De Croo (Open VLD, Flemish liberal), had undertaken to finalize the discussions before December 31, 2022. The two parties, whose showdown is intense, did not not been able to keep this commitment and agreed to continue the negotiations, this time without mentioning a cut-off date.
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If it is so difficult to reach an agreement, it is because “the actors present did not really want to go there, analyzes Thomas Pardoen, professor at the polytechnic school of the Catholic University of Louvain- the new one. On the one hand, Engie’s strategy was to get out of nuclear power. On the other, the Minister of Energy, Tinne Van der Straeten, a Flemish ecologist, must defend a solution that she could not imagine a few months ago”.
When it took office in 2020, the ruling coalition, made up of socialists, ecologists, Flemish and French-speaking liberals as well as Flemish Christian Democrats, pledged to put an end to the atom, in accordance with the law of 2003 on the exit from nuclear power, one of the totems of environmentalists, and to carry out a controversial replacement of part of the production capacities by gas-fired power stations, of which we now know that Engie will be one of the operators . This government agreement, however, left a door ajar for the extension of two nuclear reactors, “in the event of an unexpected problem of security of supply”. This sentence, the French-speaking liberals (MR, Reform Movement), fervent defenders of the atom, have long clung to it, even if it means shaking the majority to which they belong.
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The war in Ukraine and the increase in electricity prices have completely reshuffled the cards. The executive finally decided, on March 18, 2022, to extend two reactors, those of Doel 4 and Tihange 3, to 2 gigawatts of capacity. “The government has decided to redefine energy policy very quickly following the war in Ukraine”, declared Tinne Van der Straeten, before the House of Representatives on August 30, 2022. Between the end of Russian gas imports and the intermittent French nuclear energy, the latest estimates concerning the security of supply show the emergence of unmet needs from the winter of 2025-2026.
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