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.