Doel restart pushed back by two months

Thursday, August 30, 2012

London, 29 August (Argus) — The restart of the 1,006MW Doel nuclear power unit 3 in Belgium has been pushed back by a further two months, according to French utility GDF Suez, which operates the unit through its Belgian subsidiary Electrabel.

The unit is now forecast to go back on line on 1 December, two months later than the previous forecast.

This is the second delay to the restart of the unit following the discovery of “potential cracks” in the highly pressurised bottom ring of the stainless steel cladding of the reactor vessel. The restart of the unit was pushed back on 14 August until 30 September after Belgian watchdog AFCN announced the discovery of the defects and warned other national watchdogs of the potential nuclear manufacturing fault.

AFCN has stipulated that the unit must remain off line until the defects located on the vessel – which are expected to have been caused during the manufacturing of the unit – have been proven not to compromise the safety of the unit.

The 1,008MW Tihange unit 2 went off line on 17 August to undergo for the first time the same ultrasonic inspections that led to the discovery of the defects on the Doel unit. Results of the inspections of the Tihange 2 unit are expected at the end of September. Tihange 2 is forecast to return to power on 2 October, according to GDF Suez.

But GDF Suez has emphasised the forecast dates for the return of the units to power are provisional and that the return of the units to power is dependent on the results of the inspections currently being undertaken.

Belgian prime minister Elia di Rupo said earlier this week that the government is prepared to manage a shortfall in supply arising from the potential closure of the Doel unit and the Tihange unit by extending the lives of fossil fuel-fired units earmarked for closure, introducing a capacity mechanism to encourage the construction of new gas-fired units and extending the lives of nuclear units.

The unavailability of the two units during September is unlikely to lead to supply issues on the Belgian market, but if both units remain off line into the winter months, this could lead to problems arising from tight supply, grid operator Elia said.

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