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Nuclear power station in Doel, Belgium


The Doel Nuclear Power Station has 4 reactors and is one of the two nuclear power plants in Belgium. The plant is located on the bank of the Scheldt, near the village of Doel in the Flemish province of East Flanders, very near the Dutch border. The Belgian energy corporation Electrabel is the plant's largest shareholder. Doel 1 and 2 came online in 1975, while Doel 3 and 4 came online in 1982 and 1985, respectively.

Doel 1 and 2 had a license to operate for 40 years, but in 2015 their retirement was postponed for 10 years. This decision re-heated a long existing conflict around the nuclear power plant. Calls to retire the whole nuclear power plant grew from both civil society, from mayors in neighbouring countries and even from the chairman of the European Parliament. Issues for concern include: ·         The station is located in the most densely populated area of all nuclear power stations in Europe, with 9 million inhabitants within a radius of 75 kilometres. Some 1.5 Million live within just 30 kilometers from the plant.

·         Belgian nuclear power plants do not have filtered containment venting systems installed. German nuclear reactors have them since the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl in 1986, other countries followed after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

·         In June 2012, ultrasonic inspection revealed that there were 13047 cracks in the reactor vessel's steel rings. At the end of March 2014, test results revealed they were bigger than anticipated, leading to a shut-down of Doel 3. The material scientists who studied the case said that these cracks may be due to normal reactor operations, thus putting into question the safety of all nuclear power plants on earth.

·         In August 2014 a major incident happened with a turbine in the non-nuclear part of the plant. Authorities and the plant operator suspect that this was an act of deliberate sabotage. The unit was eventually back on the grid at 19 December 2014.

·         A transformer feeding the non-operating Reactor 1 exploded October 31, 2015 causing a small fire ·         In December 2015, police found a camera set up outside the house of a nuclear researcher. Seven people had their access to the Doel facility revoked after the 2016 Brussels police raids in March 2016.

Actions against keeping the nuclear power station in Doel open come from many different sources and take many different forms. Some activists make a point by finding ways to get close to the reactor by breaching the security system. Others like Greenpeace have put up a tent in a huge pole standing in the middle of the Schelde, which transports electricity from Doel to the net. Still others have marched from Antwerp city to Doel and from Doel to Brussels in a 3 day long march. Greenpeace has also taken the government to court for its decision to prolong the life of Belgium’s nuclear power plants by 10 years. Politicians from neighbouring countries have written letters to Belgium’s nuclear safety agency.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Nuclear power station in Doel, Belgium
State or province:Vlaanderen / Flanders
Location of conflict:Antwerpen
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Nuclear
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Nuclear power plants
Specific commodities:Uranium

Project Details and Actors

Project details

As so many other nuclear power stations of their generation, the reactors at Doel near Antwerp are old and dangerous. They are owned by Electrabel, that itself belongs to a French company. Doel 1 and 2 are old, and there is opposition against the renewal of the permission to operate. Court cases are pending. Meanwhile, Doel 3 had to be temporarily stopped for some time because of fissures in the reactor, while Doel 4 was stopped temporarily in August 2014 because of an internal sabotage. (Le Monde, 28/1/2016). However, companies find the old reactors profitable, and make small investments to prolong their lives up to 50 ad later maybe up to 60 years. There are complaints in Belgium (a small, densely populated country) and also in The Netherlands and Germany.

Electricity generated, capacity:

Doel 1 : 433 MWe

Doel 2 : 433 MWe

Doel 3 : 1006 MWe

Doel 4 : 1047 MWe

Total capacity 2,919 MW

Average generation 21,670 GWh

Project area:80
Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:7 million
Start of the conflict:01/01/1975
Company names or state enterprises:ENGIE - Electrabel from Belgium
Relevant government actors:Belgian State: Ministry of Energy, Environment and Sustainable Development; Agence fédérale de contrôle nucléaire (AFCN)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:National: Greenpeace Belgium
Regional: Coalition of the 2 federations of environmental NGOs in Flanders and in Wallonia:
Local: Antwerpen leefbaar
A longlist of organisations who are active against nuclear power in Belgium:

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces


Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Fires, Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Other Environmental impacts
Other Environmental impactsRadiation that kills life in a vast circle around the plant is a potential threat
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Accidents
Potential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Occupational disease and accidents, Deaths, Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (undecided)
New legislation
Under negotiation
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Project temporarily suspended
Proposal and development of alternatives:Many different EJOs have put forward various plans for replacing the energy produced by Belgium's nuclear power plants with energy from renewables.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Until December 2016 the reactors remain open although they represent a threat.

Sources & Materials

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Report by environmental NGO federations from Flanders and Wallonia that sums up why nuclear power is a bad idea

Cuves défectueuses des réacteurs nucléaires belges Doel 3 et Tihange 2. Commentaires sur le Rapport Final d’Évaluation de l’AFCN de 2015. Ilse Tweer. Spécialiste en matériaux, Consultante

Janvier 2016. Commandité par Rebecca Harms, Co-présidente du Groupe des Verts/ALE au Parlement européen. Bruxelles.

Belgium's neighbours fret over reboot of ageing nuclear reactors, January 2016

A long list of media articles on the wikipedia page of the power plant

Libération, Pourquoi le parc nucléaire belge provoque-t-il des inquiétudes ? Par Isabelle Hanne — 2 février 2016

Le Quotidien (Luxemburg), Parc nucléaire belge : le Luxembourg n’est pas le seul à s’inquiéter, 14/4/2016

Le Monde, 18 Jan. 2016, Les centrales nucléaires belges inquiètent les Allemands et les Hollandais, Jean-Pierre Stroobants

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

La Libre Belgique. Centrales nucléaires : manifestation à Maastricht contre les centrales "fissurées" de Doel et Tihange, 21 mai 2016

More than 100 articles about nuclear energy in Belgium by Greenpeace Belgium

Meta information

Contributor:Nick Meynen, European Environmental Bureau, [email protected]
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:2498