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Belgium reaches tentative deal with Engie on extending nuclear reactors

The Belgian government has struck an agreement in principle with energy provider Engie to extend the lifespan of two nuclear reactors by 10 years, it said Friday.

The government decided to start discussions with Engie about prolonging the lifespan of Belgium’s two youngest reactors in March, in light of the war in Ukraine and its impact on gas supply in Europe.

The tentative agreement announced Friday establishes the timeline and framework for negotiations, and establishes a new legal entity for the two power plants, with the state and energy provider as equal shareholders.

The two reactors — Doel 4 and Tihange 3 — are expected to shut in 2025 to undergo a technical review. The aim of the negotiations is to discuss how to restart the reactors in November 2026 for 10 years.

Nuclear power last year accounted for just over half of Belgium’s electricity generation, while natural gas accounted for about a quarter. About 2 percent of gas comes from Russia.

As part of a 2020 coalition agreement, the government had agreed to phase out nuclear power by 2025 but the war in Ukraine has prompted the government to change course.

“When we talk about energy, it is clear Friday that we are talking about national security,” Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said during a press conference Friday.

Olivier Desclée, spokesperson for Engie Belgium, confirmed that both parties signed a “non-binding letter of intent.”

“There is still a long way to go,” he said. “This is the beginning of negotiations that aim to reach a binding agreement by the end of the year.”

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