Breaking: Belgian nuclear power plants evacuated following airport and train station terrorist attacks

From ENE News
March 22, 2016
BREAKING: Belgian nuclear power plants evacuated” after terror attacks — Multiple reactor sites cleared “amid heightened fears of another attack” — Military and armed police on scene — Capitol on lockdown after dozens killed — “Dismembered bodies everywhere… It’s like the apocalypse” (VIDEO)

Xinhua, Mar 22, 2016 (emphasis added): Urgent: Nuclear power plant in southeast Belgium evacuated — Employees of the Tihange nuclear power plant [have] been evacuated, according to reports from Flemish media outlet VTM. The causes for the evacuation were not immediately made known. The threat level in Belgium has been raised to the highest level 4 from the previous level 3 following explosions at Brussels airport and on a city subway train…

Reuters, Mar 22, 2016: Belgium’s Tihange nuclear power plant evacuated-VTM — Belgium’s Tihange nuclear power plant has been evacuated, public broadcaster VTM said without giving further details. Tihange could not immediately be reached for comment. “The police have evacuated the Tihange nuclear station,” VTM said, citing police sources.

Reuters, Mar 22, 2016: Belgian nuclear plants Doel and Tihange partly evacuated — Staff not essential for the running of nuclear plants in Doel and Tihange in Belgium have been evacuated… the evacuation was part of a set of safety measures related to the high security alert in the country… Belgian broadcaster VTM said earlier Tihange had been evacuated following the attacks.

The Mirror, Mar 22, 2016: Brussels attacks: Tihange nuclear power plant evacuated after dozens killed in terror attack… A major nuclear power plant in Belgium has been partially evacuated following this morning’s terror attacks. Workers at the Tihange nuclear power plant are now leaving the building… Two explosive devices ripped through Brussels airport in the departure hall, then a third blast hit a metro station in the city centre… officials have declared the Belgium capital city is on “lockdown”. One witness described seeing ‘dismembered bodies everywhere’ after the ceiling collapsed in the airport building… Samir Derrouich said: “The two explosions were almost simultaneous. They were both at check in desk. One was close to the Starbucks. It was awful. There was just blood. It was like the apocalypse.”

The Express, Mar 22, 2016: BREAKING: Belgian nuclear power plants evacuated after Brussels terror attack; TWO nuclear power plants in Belgium have been evacuatedThe Tihange power plant… and the Doel power plant in Antwerp have been cleared amid heightened fears of another attack. Security has been stepped up at both Doel, which houses four reactors, and Tihange, which houses three. Armed police and the Belgian military have been on site since the weekend… Energy company Engie said all non-essential staff had been evacuated at the request of Belgian authoritiesBelgian authorities are braced for a follow-up attack… French Prime Minister Manuel Valls declared Europe was “at war”…

Politco, Mar 22, 2016: Energy utility Electrabel has stepped up security at Belgium’s two nuclear power plants, following the attacks in Brussels Tuesday. The two plants — Doel, made up of four reactors, and Tihange, with three — have been closed, with “systematic control” of all vehicles coming and going, Anne-Sophie Hugé, a company spokeswoman told POLITICO…

BNO, Mar 22, 2016: [A]uthorities have confirmed at least 34 dead and 187 injured… Belgium has been put on its highest terror alert level… Brussels has been brought to a virtual standstill… Tihange nuclear power plant in Huy in the Belgian province of Liege has been evacuated, according to local police, but there is no word on the cause. Nuclear watchdog FANC says nuclear power plants are operating at minimum capacity until further notice.

Zee Media (India), Mar 22, 2016: Belgium’s Tihange nuclear plant evacuated, reports Belgian media… A pro-Islamic State group Twitter handle… threatened more attacks: “Expect more bombs, more death! in future also.” Pro-Islamic State group praises Brussels bombings, warns of more attacks… Belgian authorities urge media blackout on ‘ongoing investigations’ after attacks…

Watch video of the attacks here

http://enenews.com/breaking-belgian-nuclear-power-plants-evacuated-after-terror-attacks-multiple-reactor-sites-cleared-amid-heightened-fears-another-attack-military-armed-police-scene-capital-city-lockdown-afte

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Belgian nuclear reactors riddled with 16,000 unexplained cracks

From the Ecologist
by Oliver Tickell
18th February 2015

The discovery of over 16,000 cracks in two Belgian reactor vessels may have global implications for nuclear safety, says the country’s nuclear safety chief. He and independent experts are calling for the immediate checks of nuclear reactor vessels worldwide.

The safety of every nuclear reactor on the planet could be significantly compromised … What we are seeing in Belgium is potentially devastating for nuclear reactors globally due to the increased risk of a catastrophic failure.

Thousands of cracks have been found in the steel reactor pressure vessels in nuclear reactors Doel 3 and Tihange 2 in Belgium – vessels contain highly radioactive nuclear fuel cores.

The failure of these components can cause catastrophic nuclear accidents with massive release of radiation.

The pervasive – and entirely unexpected – cracking could be related to corrosion from normal operation, according to leading material scientists Professor Walter Bogaerts and Professor Digby MacDonald.

Speaking on Belgian TV, Professor MacDonald said:

“The consequences could be very severe … like fracturing the pressure vessel, loss of coolant accident. This would be a leak before break scenario, in which case before a fracture of a pipe occurred … you would see a jet of steam coming out through the insulation.

“My advice is that all reactor operators, under the guidance of the regulatory commissions should be required to do an ultrasonic survey of the pressure vessels. All of them.”

Professor Bogaerts added:

“If I had to estimate, I would really be surprised if it … had occurred nowhere else … I am afraid that the corrosion aspects have been underestimated.”

Jan Bens, Director-General of the Belgian nuclear regulator the Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (FANC),  has said that this could be a problem for the entire nuclear industry globally – and that the solution is to begin the careful inspection of 430 nuclear power plants worldwide.

An unexplained embrittlement

The problem was discovered in the summer of 2012. Both the Doel 3 and Tihange 2 reactors have been shut down since March 24th, 2014 after additional tests revealed an unexplained advanced embrittlement of the steel of the test sample.

At the time the reactors’ operator, Electrabel, dismissed the cracks as being the result of manufacturing problems during construction in the late 1970’s in the Netherlands – but provided no supporting evidence.

FANC also stated that the most likely cause was manufacturing – but added that it could be due to other causes. Following the further tests FANC has now issued a statement confirming that the additional 2014 tests revealed 13,047 cracks in Doel 3 and 3,149 in Tihange 2.

“In carrying out tests related to theme 2 during the spring of 2014, a fracture toughness test revealed unexpected results, which suggested that the mechanical properties of the material were more strongly influenced by radiation than experts had expected. As a precaution both reactors were immediately shut down again.”

As nuclear reactors age, radiation causes pressure vessel damage, or embrittlement, of the steel mostly as a result of the constant irradiation by neutrons which gradually destroys the metal atom by atom – inducing radioactivity and transmutation into other elements.

Another problem is that hydrogen from cooling water can migrate into reactor vessel cracks. “The phenomenon is like a road in winter where water trickles into tiny cracks, freezes, and expands, breaking up the road”, says Greenpeace Belgium energy campaigner Eloi Glorieux.

“It appears that hydrogen from the water within the vessel that cools the reactor core is getting inside the steel, reacting, and destroying the pressure vessel from within.”

He adds that the findings mean that “the safety of every nuclear reactor on the planet could be significantly compromised … What we are seeing in Belgium is potentially devastating for nuclear reactors globally due to the increased risk of a catastrophic failure.”

Immediate action needed to prevent another catastrophe

On February 15th the nuclear reactor operator, Electrabel (GDF / Suez parent company) announced that it would be prepared to “sacrifice” one of its reactors to conduct further destructive tests of the reactor pressure vessel in order to study this poorly understood and extremely concerning damage phenomenon.

Electrabel’s findings will be submitted to FANC which will organize a new meeting of the international panel of experts to obtain their advice on the results of the new material tests and on the new data.

According to Electrabel, the findings constitute a “Level 1 occurrence on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES)” but the company emphasises that the event “has no impact whatsoever on the wellbeing or health of the employees, the local residents, or the surrounding area.”

But Glorieux dismisses such complacency:

“As we approach the fourth anniversary of the Fukushima-daiichi nuclear disaster, evidence has emerged that demands immediate action to prevent another catastrophe. Thousands of previously unknown cracks in critical components of two reactors point to a potentially endemic and significant safety problem for reactors globally.

“Nuclear regulators worldwide must require reactor inspections as soon as possible, and no later than the next scheduled maintenance shutdown. If damage is discovered, the reactors must remain shut down until and unless safety and pressure vessel integrity can be guaranteed. Anything less would be insane given the risk of a severe nuclear accident”

There are 435 commercial nuclear reactors worldwide, with an average age of 28.5 years in mid 2014. Of these, 170 reactors (44 percent of the total) have been operating for 30 years or more and 39 reactors have operated for over 40 years. As of 2015, Doel 3 has been operating for 33 years; Tihange 2 for 32 years.

Oliver Tickell edits The Ecologist.

http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_round_up/2758982/belgian_nuclear_reactors_riddled_wi%20th_16000_unexplained_cracks.html

German region protests, fears Fukushima-style disaster after Belgium restarts aging reactor

From Japan Times

December 16, 2015

Belgian power utility Electrabel restarted an aging nuclear reactor Tuesday after a near two-year shutdown, angering neighboring Germany, which fears the danger of a Fukushima-style meltdown.

Electrabel said it put the Tihange 2 reactor back on line “in complete safety,” despite opposition from officials in adjacent North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state.

Belgium has been hit by a series of nuclear mishaps in recent years, with three of the country’s seven reactors at one point closed, due in two of the cases to the discovery of micro-cracks in the reactor casings.

The Belgian nuclear authority gave the greenlight to relaunch Tihange 2, as well as another reactor near Antwerp, in November, giving Electrabel permission to operate the plant until its legislated final closure date in 2023.

Garrelt Duin, North Rhine-Westphalia’s economy minister, had warned strongly against the relaunch of Tihange, calling it outright “irresponsible.

Four of Germany’s 10 biggest cities — Cologne, Düsseldorf, Dortmund and Essen—- are located within the state.

The city of Aachen, only 60 km (40 miles) from Tihange, said it had explored legal options to stop the reopening but without success.

Germany, unlike Belgium and France, decided to phase out what was a substantial nuclear energy program after the 2011 disaster in Fukushima.

At the time, Belgium also committed to a withdrawal from nuclear power but has since scaled back its ambitions due to a lack of reliable alternatives.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/12/16/world/german-region-protests-fears-fukushima-style-disaster-belgium-restarts-aging-reactor/

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