Price from one billion euros and still lasts 19 years: this is how the decommissioning of the Doel 3 nuclear reactor works

The Doel 3 nuclear reactor will produce electricity for the last time on Friday evening, after a forty-year career. Then begins a years-long process of shutdown and dismantling. Price: about one billion euros.

The nuclear reactor in the polder village of Doel on the banks of the Schelde was put into operation in 1982. Today / Friday it is definitely out for the 1,006 megawatt power plant. This makes Doel 3 the first nuclear power plant in our country to be withdrawn as part of the nuclear phase-out.

During those forty years, the plant was unexpectedly closed for three years. In 2012, cracks were discovered in the steel walls of the reactor vessels of Doel 3 and Tihange 2. This has earned both plants the nickname “crack plants”. In reality, these are hydrogen flakes in steel. Doel 3 was not allowed to restart until 2015, after extensive research and the green light from the nuclear supervisory body FANC.

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Another 19 years of work

Around 9 pm the reactor will be disconnected from the electricity grid for eternity. This does not mean that the offices and workshops will be abandoned. “We have been running the plant for forty years, but in reality we are only two thirds of that distance. There is still work to be done in Doel 3 for 17-19 years, “says Peter Moens, director of the Doel nuclear power plant.

A few days after the reactor is shut down, all cables are disconnected from the reactor, the reactor lid bolts are unscrewed and the reactor is opened. This initiates the cessation phase, which lasts for five years. The 157 fuel elements – the fuel – are taken from the reactor and placed in cooling docks, where they must cool under water for 3-5 years. The nuclear fuel is then sent in special containers, which are stored at the Doel site pending final underground storage. The plant will also be disinfected for all radioactive particles during the first few years. This is done by chemical washing of the tubes.

Only after five years will the final dismantling of the reactor and the reclamation of the rest of the buildings begin. This involves cutting, among other things, the internal parts of the reactor. A process that will easily take another 10-12 years, followed by the conventional demolition of the rest of the buildings.

1 billion euros

The demolition and dismantling of Doel 3 has a price of about one billion euros, resulting from the nuclear provisions prepared by the operator Engie Electrabel. A total of € 6.3 billion is expected for the decommissioning of all seven Doel and Tihange reactors.

After the complete decommissioning of all reactors in Doel, there will ultimately be only a depot, where nuclear fuel will be stored pending final underground storage. Engie Electrabel assumes these buildings will remain there for another eighty years, or up to 2,100.

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