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Nuclear power station in Tihange, Belgium


The Tihange Nuclear Power Station has 3 reactors and is one of two nuclear power plants in Belgium. The plant is located on the bank of the Meuse River, only 3km from the city centre of Huy in the Walloon province of Liège, which has borders with The Netherlands, Germany and Luxemburg. The Belgian energy corporation ENGIE Electrabel is the plant's largest shareholder. Tihange 1 (962MW) came online in 1975, Tihange 2 (1008 MW) in 1983 and Tihange 3 (1015 MW) in 1985.   The units were designed for an operational lifetime of 30 years. In 2003, a Belgian law concerning the closure of the Belgian nuclear reactors permitted an operational lifetime of 40 years for the three reactors in Tihange. On July 4, 2012, however, the Belgian government decided that Tihange 1 could operate 50 years.

In the run-up to this decision, starting in 2011, 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. Especially the municipality of Aachen, which lies in Germany but is only 60km away from Tihange, has become vocal. 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.

INES2 incidents occurred in 2002 and 2005. Several incident on lower INES levels occurred since 2002. In September 2012, it became known that the Tihange 2 reactor shows signs of erosion weakening of the outer reinforced concrete mantle up to a depth of 0.3 m. In February 2015 it came out that there are thousands of cracks well up to 6 cm. Reactor 2 is in and out of operation ever since.

On 7 September 2016, the older Tihange 1 was also shut down, because one building of the plant had been damaged during construction. On 12 December 2016 Engie Electrabel announced that Tihange-1 could not be restarted before 15 February 2017. In August 2015, 4 people of the staff of Tihange were suspended for some time. In six weeks time, there had been 10 incidents on the Tihange powerplant. More incidents followed in 2016 and the Belgian nuclear safety authorities raised serieus questions about the safety culture.

Actions against keeping the nuclear power station in Tihange open come from many different sources and have taken many different forms. In the first week of December 2016 the Dutch minister Melanie Schultz of Infrastructure and Environment requested the Belgian Cabinet to consider a temporary shut down of all Belgian nuclear power stations. This was done after a Belgian study suggested a large risk of a meltdown in the event of a fire at the Tihange Nuclear Power station.

Greenpeace has 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 Tihange, Belgium
State or province:Liège
Location of conflict:Huy
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Nuclear
Specific commodities:Uranium

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Laws were passed in Belgium in 2003 (with Olivier Deleuze as Secretary of Energy) to ensure that no additional nuclear plants would be built in Belgium, and to limit the lifespans of the existing plants to 40 years. As so many other nuclear power stations of their generation in other countries, the reactors at Tihange near Huy are old and dangerous. They are owned by ENGIE Electrabel, that itself belongs to a French company. Court cases are pending, including some from neighbouring countries and the city of Aachen. Several reactors have had to be stopped for some time due to various incidents but in at least one case also because of structural degradation: thousands of fissures in the steel around the reactor. However, ENGIE Electrabel finds the old reactors profitable and makes small investments to prolong their lives up to 50 and later maybe up to 60 years. There are growing complaints in Belgium (a small, densely populated country) and also in The Netherlands and Germany - from high profile politicians such as the interior minister of The Netherlands and the president of the European Parliament.

Electricity generated, capacity:

Tihange 1: 962 MWe (1975)

Tihange 2: 1008 MWe (1983)

Tihange 3: 1015 MWe (1985)

TOTAL: 2,985 MW

Average generation 23,000 GWh

Project area:75
Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:6 million
Start of the conflict:01/01/1975
Company names or state enterprises:ENGIE - Electrabel from Belgium
Relevant government actors:Federal Agency for Nuclear Control
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Ecolo

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
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches


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: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
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

EUI 10 October 2016. Belgium is scheduled to completely phase out the use of nuclear reactors by 2025, with the first of its seven reactors slated to go offline in 2022.

La Libre Belgique. Sûreté nucléaire : Deux lettres accablantes et alarmantes destinées à Electrabel. LAURENT LAMBRECHT. 19 novembre 2016.

Centrales nucléaires: Ecolo lance la campagne "Fermons Tihange 2"

How the city of Aachen is suing to have Tihange stopped

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

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

20 March 2016. Shut old nuclear reactors, says unprecedented alliance of EU cities.

Campagne from German Greens to close down Tihange, [email protected]

Nucléaire civil : les centrales Belges inquiètent l'Europe

This is the website of the international initiative against the nuclear power plant Tihange in Belgium. Here you can find information on Tihange and about actions by the initiative.

Meta information

Contributor:Nick Meynen, European Environmental Bureau, [email protected]
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:2511