Belgium Reactor: ‘Thousands of Cracks’

Thursday, August 23, 2012 @ 05:08 PM gHale

There could be thousands of cracks in the reactor vessel of the Doel 3 nuclear reactor near Antwerp, on the Dutch border, said Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (FANC) Nuclear Safety Chief, Willy De Roovere.

Belgium’s FANC held an international meeting of nuclear experts Aug. 16.

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The EU had conducted stress tests on all of Europe’s 143 reactors in April last year, following the Fukushima disaster, with the tests meant to assess whether an EU-based nuclear power plant could withstand, for instance, natural disasters such as earthquakes or terrorist attacks.

FANC had stated the facilities were adequate in their report to the EU at the time and have stood over the validity of the tests despite the recent findings.

“Results of the stress tests are still perfectly valid. In any case they had an altogether different purpose,” FANC officials said.

The inspector said the cracks are parallel to the surface of the walls and pose no immediate threat but the large number has left him concerned. Repairs, he said, would be almost impossible, as it is in the reactor vessel where the water of the main primary system flows through the core, where it ends up heated by the nuclear fuel.

Officials found the cracks, which could date back to the reactor’s construction some 40 years ago, using ultra-sound during inspections in June and July.

The reactor poses no threat to the population, workers or the surrounding environment, FANC said. The agency said they found the cracks now because they had never done the ultra-sound inspection before.

Dutch company Droogdok Maatschapij (DRM), which is no longer in business, built the Doel 3 reactor vessel. The company also built another 21 casings for other reactors around the world, one other in Belgium as well as the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the U.S. and Argentina.

Both Belgian plants are now in shutdown mode with the authorities stressing there is no danger to the population, worker or the environment.

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