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Belgian Energy Transition

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Belgium has set a clear target: climate neutrality by 2050. As the European continent is facing a war and the effects of climate change are becoming more apparent year over year, Belgium has decided to accelerate its energy independence, especially when it comes to fossil fuels.  Unlocking offshore energy in the North Seas, making Belgium ready for green hydrogen and taking control over its short term energy needs through the prolongation of two nuclear power plants for at least another ten years.

Boost our independence

Belgium opened its first commercial reactor in October 1975. Since then, nuclear power has always been part of the Belgian electricity mix, playing a central role both in guaranteeing electricity supply, 7 days a week and 24 hours a day, and in ensuring competitive electricity prices and local employment. Currently, the Belgian energy mix consist for almost 50% of nuclear energy.

As a direct consequence of the Russian war in Ukraine, Belgium has decided in 2022 to accelerate its energy independence and take control over its short term energy needs through the prolongation of the Doel 4 and Tihange 3 nuclear power plants for at least another ten years. This extension involves the creation of a new company in which the Belgian State will be a 50% shareholder alongside Engie. This will secure the capacity of 2GW of electricity per year between 2025 and 2035.

Accelerate the transition & secure our industry

Investments in nuclear energy are not only beneficial to our country, but also prepare us to better  address future challenges and accelerate the transition to climate neutrality by 2050. Producing carbon free, constant, reliant and affordable energy is a priority if we want to maintain a high value-added industry in Europe. This is why Belgium sees itself today as a leader in nuclear innovation and waste management. This strategy is based on a solid track record and many past and recent strengths.

In order to support its nuclear developments, Belgium has established and continues its investments in research institutions and universities, focused on nuclear science and engineering.  

One such example is the Belgian company, Tractebel, boasting over 60 years of invaluable experience in the nuclear sector, delivering cutting-edge solutions to clients worldwide and operating in 21 countries, including China, the United Kingdom, South Africa, and the United States.

A rich ecosystem

The Belgian Nuclear Research Centre (SCK CEN) plays also a crucial role in advancing nuclear technology and safety through its research activities. Over the years, the institution has established itself as one the leading research institutions with top-notch expertise in safety of nuclear installations, waste-management and ionising radiation protection. Moreover, the research centre is working on the construction of a multi-purpose research plant, MYRRHA, including the world’s first large scale accelerator driven system (ADS).

The European Commission’s Joint Research Center (JRC), with headquarters located in Belgium as well as one of its five research centres in Geel, has been a hub for multidisciplinary expertise, including nuclear safety and security. Its mission is to promote standardization and harmonization across the European Union, fostering innovation, and safeguarding the interests of consumers and citizens.

Belgium intends to take advantage of all this nuclear expertise by furthering research into a new generation of small modular reactors (SMRs) which offer considerable advantages: they are deemed to be safer, smaller and modular. A budget of EUR 100 million has been made available to SCK CEN to continue research in this area.

The signature in November 2023 by SCK CEN of a memorandum of understanding with its Italian (Enea) and Romanian (Raten) counterparts - as well as industry powerhouses Ansaldo Nucleare and Westinghouse – is the first concrete deliverable of this new strategy. The goal of the five partners is to pool their expertise with the objective of jointly deploying a first commercial SMR project.

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Green energy for all

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This safety net of nuclear energy and this desire to innovate with the atom complements an offensive energy strategy. Belgium will unlock offshore wind energy in the North Seas, as was solidified in the Ostend Declaration signed at the Second North Sea Summit in April 2023.

Belgium is a pioneer in offshore wind energy and in recent years, our country has become the second country in the world in terms of offshore capacity per capita, behind Denmark but ahead of the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Germany. Belgian wind farms in the North Sea currently produce 2.26 GW of offshore energy and the goal is to raise that to 8 GW by 2040.

Thanks to the contribution from the European recovery plan, Belgium can also boast a world first: by 2026, it will have built the very first energy island in the North Sea connecting its own wind farms and interconnections before sending power to the mainland. Our central position in western Europe, makes us an excellent innovation centre for the ensuing green hydrogen revolution. Belgium has one of the first – and most advanced – legal frameworks already in place to unlock green hydrogen’s potential to decarbonize our heavy industries. 

© FOD Kanselarij van de Eerste Minister

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