Breaking: Nuclear Sabotage in Europe?

Here’s a curious story out of Belgium that is receiving no media attention (outside a few mentions in the specialized press) in the US:

Belgian Doel-4 Nuclear Reactor Closed Till Year-End

PARIS, Aug 14 (Reuters) – Belgian energy company Electrabel said its Doel 4 nuclear reactor would stay offline at least until the end of this year after major damage to its turbine, with the cause confirmed as sabotage. . .

The shutdown of Doel 4′s nearly 1 gigawatt (GW) of electricity generating capacity as well as closures of two other reactors (Doel 3 and Tihange 2) for months because of cracks in steel reactor casings adds up to just over 3 GW of Belgian nuclear capacity that is offline, more than half of the total. . .

Energy experts have raised the spectre of possible blackouts this winter and say Belgium will have to boost interconnection capacity with neighbouring countries to prevent power shortages.

A GDF Suez spokesman confirmed Belgian press reports about suspicion of sabotage.

“There was an intentional manipulation,” he said, adding that somebody had tampered with the system used for emptying oil from the Alstom-made turbine.

He said no outsiders had penetrated into the plant but declined to say whether an employee could have purposely caused the leak, as has been reported in some Belgian media.

He said Electrabel had filed a complaint and that the Belgian police had started an investigation.

According to a separate report in the Belgian press, Belgian anti-terrorism investigators are working on the case.

Meanwhile, a 1-gigawatt power plant is significant for a country of Belgium’s size, and it will be worth seeing whether this leads to increased electricity output from conventional sources in Germany and elsewhere to make up the slack (with the consequent increases in greenhouse gas emissions).  The fact that blackouts are possible as a result of this shows the narrow capacity margins Europe operates under right now.  Coming soon to a state near you?

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