Doel (Belgium)

Map of Doel

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The Doel site is situated at the river Scheldt some 15 km from Antwerp. It includes the following installations:

the twin nuclear generating units Doel 1 and 2;
the nuclear generating unit Doel 3;
the nuclear generating unit Doel 4;
the radioactive effluent and waste treatment installations;
the interim storage for spent fuel;
the storage building for the (replaced) steam generators;
the training center, located near the Doel site.

After Belgian spent fuel was no longer allowed to be reprocessed bigger storage capacity became necessary, especially considering the lack of extra storage capacity in the spent fuel pools of the Doel units. The first spent fuel from Doel 3 arrived at the intermediate storage in November 1995.

Facilities in Doel

plantreactor typconstruction startoperation startshut down
Doel spent fuel storagestorage

"The Belgian nuclear safety authority yesterday announced that it is postponing a decision on the restart of two reactors (Doel 3 and Tihange 2) that were shut down over the summer due to the discovery of fissures in their cores. The authority has asked for more information before any decision to reopen the damaged reactors can be taken. Last week, a study commissioned by the Greens/EFA group (1) underlined some of the outstanding safety issues (notably steel deficiencies) that have not been addressed with the two reactors, with Greens/EFA co-president Rebecca Harms calling on the Belgian authorities to address these issues before approving any restart."

(source: Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament, email)

Anomalies found in Doel-3

"BRUSSELS—Belgium has halted one of its seven nuclear reactors on suspicion that one of its components might be cracked, the country's atomic power regulator said Wednesday.

"We have found anomalies," said Karina De Beule, spokesman for the ACFN, the federal agency for nuclear control. The agency is "evaluating these anomalies, if they can cause cracks," Ms. De Beule said, adding that the 1,006-megawatt Doel 3 reactor will remain shut at least until the end of August.

The incident—at the moment classified level 1 in a scale where Chernobyl-style explosions are level 7—risks triggering renewed controversy about the use of nuclear energy in Europe, where authorities are seeking to ensure safe operations at ageing reactors, while at the same guaranteeing a reliable electricity supply. Last year's nuclear scare in Japan has heightened public concerns about the dangers of using nuclear power, prompting several European nations to reconsider their energy provisions. Germany has said it will shut all its nuclear plants by 2022, and Belgium decided recently to stand by plans to exit nuclear energy by 2025.

Ms. De Beule said that several scenarios are possible, between two extremes: The anomalies might end up being nothing important, or more thorough analysis might find out that they threaten the integrity of the reactor.

The news comes as the European Union's executive body is working on a final report about the safety of Europe's nuclear plants. The Fukushima accident in Japan had such an effect on European public opinion that the EU decided to carry out safety checks, called stress tests, on all of its plants, and the results are due to be released by the end of the year." (source:

Problems due to ageing of reactor vessels: Cracks possible

"Belgium, like Germany and Switzerland, has decided to shut down its nuclear power program by 2025 in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster in 2011.

But the wear and tear on one of its reactor vessel is an alarming sign for at least three other European countries and possibly more worldwide, all of which purchased vessels from the same now-bankrupt Dutch manufacturer.

Nils Bøhmer, Bellona’s general director and nuclear physicist said that similar problem will begin to appear worldwide due to ageing nuclear reactors, whose average lifespan is about 30 years.

The wear and tear observed in Beligium, said Bøhmer, “is something that comes of neutron radiation from power generation” within the reactor core that is housed by the vessel.

“This will, as reactors get older, cause cracks,” in reactor vessels said Bøhmer.

The 1,006 MW Doel No 3 reactor, operated by GDF Suez unit Electrabel, is scheduled to close in 10 years according to the nuclear exit plan the Belgian government adopted in July. A pressurized water reactor, it went into service in 1982

The suspected fractures at the reactor, 25 kilometers north of Antwerp near the Dutch border, which provides a sixth of Belgium’s nuclear-generated power, do not pose any health and safety threat, said AFCN, the country’s nuclear watchdog.

Some 9 million people live within a 75 kilometer radius of the plant.

Belgian government nuclear regulator FANC said in a statement that it “will only give a permit for further operation if convincing arguments can be made. The aim is to guarantee safety."

“An investigation of the vessel with the use of a new type of ultrasound equipment was carried out during planned maintenance of the No 3 reactor at the Doel Nuclear Power plant,” read a statement posted in Dutch on FANC’s website earlier this week.

“Although the analysis of the results of the ultrasound monitoring are not yet complete, many indications point to the discovery of cracks,” the statement continues.

The FANC statement went on to read that the Doel No 3 reactor has been stopped and its fuel elements have been removed.

But according to source that spoke with Bellona, GDF Suez unit Eletrabel wants to continue using the reactor after the scheduled maintenance is complete, even with possible cracks in the tanks, which could lead to a very dangerous situation."
(source:, Charles Digges, 10/08-2012)

Inadequate setting of the auxiliary feedwater turbopump

"After the replacement of an auxiliary feedwater turbopump during the 2009-outage, the rotational speed of the pump was adjusted to a lower level because of vibration problems with the pump. The pump was tested and requalified according to the technical specifications but the curve (flow-rate <-> pressure) was not verified – as required by ASME-XI. The actual flow rate delivered in case of specific accidents could no longer match the flow rate postulated in the safety report. Nevertheless, an independent emergency feedwater system could offer additional capacity in such circumstances. This anomaly was discovered on 18 marth 2011 during a test which was suggested by the authorities."



Incident involving a nuclear power plant fuel element

On 5 March 2009 at 10.30 am, during a scheduled visual inspection of fuel elements in the Nuclear Auxiliary Building D12, the grapple of the fuel handling equipment opened while holding a replacement fuel element taken from the storage rack. The reason for this was not known at the time.

The fuel was about two metres away from its stored position in the rack when the grapple opened unexpectedly. The fuel element consequently vertically dropped approximately one metre.

For safety, the building was immediately evacuated. No increase in the level of radiation was detected suggesting that the fuel element had not been damaged. The building evacuation was therefore lifted at 2.15 pm.

Examination of the origin of this incident is still ongoing. The handling of fuel elements has been suspended. The Belgium Nuclear Safety Authority, FANC, have been informed.

This incident has had no impact on the welfare and health of employees, residents or environment or the functioning of the installations
(source: world nuclear news)


On January 9th 2007 an anomaly related to the amount of water contained in the cooling towers of Doel’s power plant was reported. The anomaly, which concerned production units 1 and 2 at the plant, was immediately remedied the regulator said in a statement on its web site. The incident posed no safety threat at the plant, which hosts four pressurized water reactors and is located in northern Belgium.


Unavailabilty of containment cooling fans
16th October 2006

The Doel 1 NPP is equipped with 4 internal cooling fans to provide for cooling capacity inside the reactor containment after a Design Basis Accident. These fans are operating together with the spray system to reduce pressure and temperature inside the reactor containment in case of loss of energy in this building due to the postulated accident.

During the last outage period, the licensee performed additional verifications (as-found tests) of the tightness of the containment cooling fans motors. These motors should be able to operate under severe environmental conditions (high pressure and temperature) and their tightness is required, according to the original qualification tests, to prevent significant introduction of water and/or steam into the motor casing which could cause failure of the motors.

The leak tightness tests showed that all the motors were not in conformity with the test acceptance criteria. The consequence of this non-conformity is that the Licensee cannot demonstrate the availability of these motors under accident conditions. According to the technical specification requirements, all the containment cooling fans have to be operable while the unit is in normal operation.

Due to the observations made on Doel 1, the Licensee decided to stop Doel 2 unit which has the same components (Doel 1&2 are twin units). The leak tests performed on the fan cooling motors on this last gave the same results as for the Doel 1 unit: none tests of the 4 motors were successful.


Two INES level 1 events occurred in 2003 in Doel 1/2. One event concerned the loss of water inventory in the reactor coolant system of Doel 1 during shutdown. The other event concerned the discovery of unavailability of numerous fire-resistant penetrations.


In 2003 the discovery of rags behind the filters of the recirculation sump at Doel-4 has been classified as a level 1 event on the INES scale.


Repairs on the high-pressure turbine at Doel 3 were necessary because the blades were damaged by a loose counterweight from the first rotor wheel.


At Doel 3 in 2002 two events were classified on INES level 1 : the unavailability of the automatic isolation of the steam lines, which protect the unit in case of an external accident and the trip due to overspeed of the auxiliary feedwater turbopump combined with the inadequate maintenance following this incident.


At Doel 4 in 2002 one INES level 1 event took place: A non-authorised opening of an administratively closed valve of the demineralised water system, leading to a slow but uncontrolled dilution in the spent fuel pool


In 2001 two events were classified on INES level 1: At Doel 1 a failure to close of a main feedwater isolation check valve, at Doel 2 an unavailability of the automatic actuation of the auxiliary feedwater system.


At Doel 1/2 in 2000 one INES level 1 event has occurred: a few weeks after the outage, the utility by chance found a manual containment penetration valve on a pressurized air system in the open position. The technical specifications require this valve to be closed during power operation. The closure of this valve is foreseen by the lining up procedures after outage. For some rework after the outage the valve had to be reopened. This was done without any administrative control and it was forgotten to close the valve afterwards.


At Doel 4 in 2000 one INES level 1 event has occurred: during loading of a fuel container with Doel 1/2 spent fuel
in the fuel storage building, the basket containing the container has been spuriously moved along an inclined plane between two successive loading operations. It was found out that the basket displacement occurred during a test of the motor of the inclined plane. If this movement had occurred during a fuel assembly insertion, it would have led to the damage of the fuel assembly and to a release of radioactive products in the building.


At Doel 1 in 1999 one INES level 1 event took place: In the frame of the replacement of a radiation monitoring device (non technical specification related) during the outage of Doel 1, it was required to switch off the electrical power supply of this device. This was performed by switching off the general electrical power supply of the cabinet containing this device, resulting in the unavailability of all devices located in this cabinet, including 2 radiation monitoring devices of the shutdown cooling pumps basement. However, with Doel 2 in normal operation, the radiation monitoring devices are required to be operable.


After commissioning of an extension of the interim storage facility in March 1998, the total capacity now reaches 165 casks. Each cask has a capacity of 20 to 37 fuel assemblies.


The interim spent fuel storage facility was commissioned.


900 SG tubes were plugged during refuelling outage in June-July after circ. cracking was found in the laser weld area of sleeves installed last year. One weld crack was 100% throughwall and 180 degrees in circumference.


Electrabel is planning an interim dry storage vault at Doel, since in 1993 the Belgian Parliament decided that reprocessing would no longer be the reference spent fuel management solution in Belgium. The construction started in May.


Refueling outage had to be extended for sleeving of SG tubes. Restart after 7 month in Oct. 94.
The examinations revealed that circumferrential cracks at the foot of SG had grown much faster than predicted.
"Belgian regulators are allowing PWRs to operate with circumferentially cracked SG tubes, a regulatory approach to circumferential cracking that Japanese, US and other European nuclear regulators reject as too risky" - resumee of a Memo from 1992 to NRC, which was leaked in Jan. 1995 to Union of Concerned Scientists. In Jan. 1995 Belgian regulators told NW that Tihange-3 and Doel-4 are operating with circ. cracks.
In April 1995 a replacement contract for the SG has been awarded to a consortium of Siems, Framatom & the Belgian company Fabricom. Replacement is planned for 1996.


Restart after annual outage was interrupted by 3 scrams betweeen 24. and 29.9.: due to problems with FW system and poor power connections in the control rod guide