Doel Nuclear Power Station

Coordinates: 51°19′29″N 04°15′31″E / 51.32472°N 4.25861°E / 51.32472; 4.25861
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Doel Nuclear Power Station
Closest unit is Doel 4, furthest unit Doel 1
Doel nuclear power station, viewed from the north
Official nameKerncentrale Doel (KCD)
LocationDoel, East Flanders
Coordinates51°19′29″N 04°15′31″E / 51.32472°N 4.25861°E / 51.32472; 4.25861
Construction beganJuly 1969 (1969-07) (Doel 1)
Commission date15 February 1975 (1975-02-15) (Doel 1)
Owner(s)Electrabel, EDF Luminus
Nuclear power station
Reactor typePWR
Reactor supplierACECOWEN
Cooling towers2
Cooling sourceScheldt river
Thermal capacity2 × 1312 MWt
1 × 3064 MWt
1 × 3000 MWt
Power generation
Units operational1 x 466 MW (gross)
1 x 466 MW (gross)
1 x 1056 MW (gross)
1 x 1090 MW (gross)
Units cancelled1
Nameplate capacity2,935 MW
Capacity factor91.8% (2021)
Annual net output44.12 (2021)
External links
WebsiteDoel nuclear power plant
CommonsRelated media on Commons

The Doel Nuclear Power Station is one of two nuclear power plants in Belgium. The plant includes four reactors. The site is located on the bank of the Scheldt river, near the village of Doel in the Flemish province of East Flanders, on the outskirts of the city of Antwerp. The station is operated and majority-owned by vertically-integrated French energy corporation Engie SA through its 100%-owned Belgian subsidiary Electrabel. EDF Luminus has a 10.2% stake in the two newest units. The Doel plant employs 963 workers and covers an area of 80 hectares (200 acres). The plant represents about 15% of Belgium's total electricity production capacity[1] and 30% of the total electricity generation.[2] Nuclear energy typically provides half of Belgium's domestically-generated electricity and is the country's lowest-cost source of power.[3]

The station is located in the most densely populated area for any nuclear power station in Europe as of 2011, with 9 million inhabitants within a radius of 75 kilometres (47 mi).[4][5][6]


The powerstation was built by public utility EBES (Sociétés Réunies d'Energie du Bassin de l'Escaut), which in 1990 merged with Intercom and Unerg to become Electrabel. The plant was designed by the Belgian engineering firm Tractebel. Doel 1 and 2 are twin units that entered commercial operation in 1975. Doel 3 entered commercial operation in 1982 and Doel 4 in 1985. Doel 1, 2 and 4 were constructed by the ACECOWEN (ACEC-Cockerill-Westinghouse) consortium. While Doel 3 was constructed by FRAMACEC (Framatome-ACEC-Cockerill).[7]

Earthworks for Doel 5, a 1400 MW reactor also known as N8 (8th nuclear reactor in Belgium), were stopped in 1988. Participation in the French twin plant in Chooz however continued. French industry was compensated for already ordered components.[8]


The plant consists of four second-generation pressurized water reactors with a total net capacity of 2,925 MWe, smaller than Belgium's other nuclear power plant at Tihange.[9] Its four units are rated as follows:[3]

Loops Supplier Thermal
Start of
Doel 1 2 ACECOWEN 1312 MW 466 MW 445 MW 1 July 1969 18 July 1974 28 August 1974 15 February 1975 2025
Doel 2 2 ACECOWEN 1312 MW 466 MW 445 MW 1 September 1971 4 August 1975 21 August 1975 1 December 1975 2025
Doel 3 3 FRAMACEC 3064 MW 1056 MW 1006 MW 1 January 1975 14 June 1982 23 June 1982 1 October 1982 2022
Doel 4 3 ACECOWEN 3000 MW 1090 MW 1039 MW 1 December 1978 31 March 1985 8 April 1985 1 July 1985 2035


The design of the plant is reviewed completely every ten years through a TJH (tienjaarlijkse herziening), a legal obligation imposed by the Belgian state and the operation licence of the plant. The purpose of the review is to update the plant to the most recent international safety standards.[11]

The station from the opposite bank of the Scheldt (2013)
Doel Nuclear Power Station from a commercial airliner (2010).
Doel Nuclear Power Station from the south (2012)

Meteorological conditions[edit]

Various weather conditions have been analysed including rain, seiches, tsunamis, floods, earthquakes, wind, tornados, lightning, snow, hail, extreme temperatures, cyclones, sandstorms and waterspouts.[12]


Since the design of Doel 3 and 4 and the first TJH of Doel 1 and 2[12]: 50  the reactors were designed to be subject to earthquakes such as the Richter scale 5.6 Zulzeke-Nukerke quake in 1938. At a distance of 75 km to the epicentre, this is the most significant historical earthquake for Doel. The earthquake resulted in horizontal ground accelerations of up to 0.058 g [12]: 51  and formed the design base for Doel 1 and 2. Doel 3 and 4 were designed for peak ground accelerations of 0.1 g.[12]: 50  After the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster probabilistic safety studies performed by the Royal Observatory of Belgium predicted an earthquake with peak ground acceleration of up to 0.081 g every 10,000 years.[12]: 52  The design was subsequently analysed for earthquakes up to 0.17 g,[12]: 70  which is equivalent to a 1 in 100,000 year earthquake.[12]: 48 


The Doel plant was originally designed for a 10,000 year flood of 9.13 m TAW (Tweede Algemene Waterpassing).[12]: 90  The highest measured level was 8.10 m TAW during the North Sea flood of 1953.[12]: 78  The site was filled to 8.86 m TAW during construction and fitted with a seadyke of 12.08 m TAW. The other dykes around the site have a height of 11 m TAW.[12]: 20  Probabilistic studies performed after Fukushima showed the height of a 10,000 year flood had slightly increased to 9.35 m TAW, 22 cm higher than the studies performed in the 1960s.[12]: 91  The highest possible tsunami is lower than 0.5 m.[12]: 77  During post-Fukushima stress tests a dyke failure with a water level of 10.2 m was simulated. Due to the presence of bulkheads and pedestals in the buildings no safety functions were endangered.[12]: 98–108 

Safety systems[edit]

Besides regular primary level safety systems, in common with most nuclear power plants in the world, Doel has secondary level safety systems that can autonomously keep the power plant safe during large external accidents such as the crash of an aircraft, external explosions or loss of the primary level.[12]: 30 [12]: 14  The primary level systems have a redundancy of three or four times.: 26–29  The secondary level systems are 2x100% or 3x50%.[12]: 30–33  and have their own heatsink separate from the primary heatsink, the Scheldt river. Doel 1 and 2 have aircoolers [12]: 32  while Doel 3 and 4 have three separate artificial cooling ponds.[12]: 33 

Double containment[edit]

Nuclear plants are designed with multiple physical barriers to prevent fission products escaping into the environment. In the case of a pressurized water reactor there are three barriers: the fuel cladding which surround the fuel pallets, the primary circuit which houses the fuel rods and finally the containment building in which the primary circuit is built. In Belgium it was decided to add an extra double containment barrier.[13] The primary containment, a steel sphere in Doel 1 and 2 and a pre-stressed concrete cylinder with steel liner in Doel 3 and 4, is surrounded by a secondary containment made of 1.2 to 1.3 m thick reinforced concrete. The space between both containments is kept at sub-atmospheric pressure and filters are used to filter potential leaks of the primary containment.[12]: 14 

Filtered containment venting system[edit]

In answer to a question of die Grünen in the Bundestag, the German parliament, the German government replied that the Belgian nuclear power plants do not have filtered containment venting systems installed. In German nuclear reactors these were already built in after the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. Other countries followed this example, latest after the Fukushima nuclear disaster. This kind of system allows for the containment pressure to be relieved in the event of a severe accident. The non-condensible gases that cause pressure within containment to rise are released through a stack (or chimney) via a filtration system that removes large quantities of fission products from the effluent.[14][15]

As part of the stress tests following the Fukushima incident, this issue had already been identified to be included in the stress-test action plan (BEST). Construction of containment filter venting systems at Doel 3 and 4 was completed in 2017, with Doel 1 and 2 scheduled to be operational in 2020.[16][17]

Turbo feed pump[edit]

Every reactor has at least one steam driven feedwater pump which can supply the steam generators with water to cool down the reactor. These turbine driven pumps can cool down the plant even when no electrical power is available to power the motor driven feedwater pumps during a station blackout like the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.[12]: 147  In a boiling water reactor, like those in Fukushima, the heat removal capacity of the pumps is limited as the steam that drives the turbines is radioactive and thus has to be stored.[18] This is not the case with a PWR due to the use of steam generators. Steam can simply be removed via a chimney. Water supplies on site are sufficient to keep the plant safe for dozens of days.[12]: 147 

Cooling towers[edit]

While Unit 1 and 2 have no cooling tower, Unit 3 has a 169.48 metres tall and Unit 4 has a 172.61 metres tall cooling tower. Latter is the tallest cooling tower in Belgium.

Nuclear waste[edit]

Light and intermediate level waste, which represents 99% of the volume of waste,[19] is treated on site in the WAB (Water and Waste Treatment Building).[20] Category A waste with half lives of less than 30 years is transported to Belgoprocess in Dessel for surface disposal.[21]

High level waste was originally recycled to MOX fuel, and re-used in the Doel 3 reactor. In 1993, the Belgian federal government placed a moratorium on the reprocessing activities in order to research other options.[22] Pending further decisions regarding the moratorium, spent fuel was stored on site in dry cask storage. Final disposal of the waste is being researched at the HADES underground laboratory 225m deep in the Boom Clay.[23] Nuclear transmutation of the waste is also being researched with the MYRRHA project.

In October 2013, NIRAS suspended Electrabel's licence to treat two types of waste, concentrate and resins, after foam was discovered on previously treated waste due to an alkali–silica reaction. Electrabel has started a licensing procedure to use the process used in Tihange to process future waste. This process can take up to two years and in the meantime the waste in question is stored on site.[24]


2011 Doel 4 INES-2 incident[edit]

There has been one INES-2 incident on the International Nuclear Event Scale. After the replacement of an auxiliary feedwater turbopump, during the 2009-outage, one of the three feedwater pumps of the first level was adjusted to a lower level of rotational speed, delivering insufficient flow rates during certain circumstances.[25][26] The two other first level feedwater pumps and three second level feedwater pumps were still available. The incident was rated 2 on the scale rather than 1 because the "Federal Agency for Nuclear Control felt that Electrabel waited a little too long to report the incident".[27]

2012 Doel 3 pressure vessel cracks[edit]

In June 2012 Doel 3 was shut down for its third scheduled 10-year in-service inspection. Ultrasound inspections revealed a number of cracks in the lowest forged ring of the reactor pressure vessel. The cracks were determined to be an original manufacturing defect, not related to tension, and theoretically of no risk.[28][29][30][31]

The reactor remained offline for further inspections and assessment for a year. Eventually the nuclear regulator judged short-term safety concerns initially raised had been solved in a satisfactory manner and that the reactor could operate safely, and it was restarted in June 2013.[32][33]

2014 Doel 4 turbine incident[edit]

In August 2014, there was a major incident in the non-nuclear part of the plant. The main turbine overheated while operating without oil. A valve had been deliberately opened, which rapidly evacuated 65,000 litres of oil to an underground storage tank. The procedure was normally used in case of fire. The valve was normally secured by a padlock.[34] Authorities and the plant operator suspected an act of deliberate sabotage. The unit was eventually back on grid by 19 December 2014. Combined with the outage of Doel 3 and Tihange 2, blackouts were not ruled out for the winter period of 2014–2015.[35]

In December 2016, Electrabel requested that the justice department in Brussels prolong the search for the perpetrator of the turbine sabotage. Repairs cost more than 100 million euros.[36]



The power plant has two electrical substations. Two transmission lines run to Zandvliet and Kallo from the 150 kV station. The 380 kV station has three lines to Avelgem, Mercator in Kruibeke and Zandvliet. Elia is the transmission system operator.[37]

The line to Zandvliet crosses the Scheldt River using one of the highest transmission towers in Europe. The tower is 170 metres (560 ft) high and built on a caisson in the middle of the river. The line is part of the interconnection between the Dutch and Belgian grids.

Cooling towers[edit]

With a height of 169 metres(554 feet),[38] the two cooling towers are the most visible structures in the Port of Antwerp. Due to their proximity to the Dutch-Belgian border, the towers and the accompanying wet steam can be seen over large areas of the Dutch provinces of Zeeland and western North Brabant. Since the spring of 1996, one of the cooling towers has hosted a nest of peregrine falcons.[39]


On 15 March 2016, the federal government of Belgium decided 140 soldiers would guard the nuclear sites and that Electrabel should cover the costs.[40] In late 2015 it had already been decided that a specially trained department of the federal police would guard the nuclear sites.[41] After the 2016 Brussels bombings, on 22 March the nuclear powerplants of Doel and Tihange were preventively evacuated, the standard procedure when the threat level in Belgium reaches Level 4. The powerplants continued running with minimal staff.[42]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Doel nuclear power plant". Engie Electrabel. Archived from the original on 10 June 2017. Retrieved 26 May 2017.
  2. ^ "CREG Nota" (PDF). CREG. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2 March 2017. Retrieved 20 August 2017.
  3. ^ a b "Nuclear Power in Belgium". London: World Nuclear Association. February 2017. Archived from the original on 3 April 2017. Retrieved 17 April 2017.
  4. ^ Chrisafis, Angelique (25 March 2016). "Belgium steps up security at nuclear sites in wake of attacks". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 17 April 2017. Retrieved 17 April 2017.
  5. ^ Kerncentrale Doel in dichtstbevolkte gebied,
  6. ^ Butler, Declan (21 April 2011). "Reactors, residents and risk". Nature. 472 (7344): 400–401. doi:10.1038/472400a. ISSN 0028-0836. PMID 21525903. S2CID 4371109.
  7. ^ "Nuclear Power Reactors in the World" (PDF). IAEA. 2007. Archived (PDF) from the original on 18 May 2012. Retrieved 9 December 2012.
  8. ^ Laes, Erik; Chayapathi, Lakshmi; Meskens, Gaston (2004). "Kernenergie en Maatschappelijk Debat" (PDF) (in Flemish). Brussels: viWTA. p. 96. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2 March 2017. Retrieved 7 April 2019.
  9. ^ a b "Planned and unplanned outages affecting generation units". Elia. Archived from the original on 7 April 2019. Retrieved 7 April 2019.
  10. ^ Cortvriendt, Chantal (3 October 2016). "Description of the Financing Arrangement for Nuclear Power Plant Decommissioning in Belgium" (PDF). FOD Economie, KMO, Middenstand en Energie. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2 March 2017. Retrieved 7 April 2019.
  11. ^ FANC (22 March 2016). "TJH". FANC. Archived from the original on 2 March 2017. Retrieved 22 February 2017.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u "Kerncentrale Doel rapport weerstandstesten. Bijkomende veiligheidsherziening van de installaties" (PDF). FANC (in Flemish). Brussels: Electrabel. 31 October 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 October 2014. Retrieved 19 April 2018.
  13. ^ "Nucleaire veiligheid in de Belgische kerncentrales van Doel en Tihange : van de dagelijkse uitbating tot en met de tienjaarlijkse herzieningen". FANC (in Dutch). Brussels: Federaal Agentschap voor Nucleaire Controle. 18 January 2010. Archived from the original on 25 January 2010. Retrieved 19 April 2018.
  14. ^ Pennings, Mathijs (11 March 2016). "'Kernreactor Doel mist belangrijk onderdeel dat radioactieve straling filtert'". Omroep Brabant (in Dutch). Archived from the original on 8 April 2019. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  15. ^ "Duitsland zegt dat Belgische kernreactoren filters missen". (in Dutch). Sanoma Media Netherlands Group. Algemeen Nederlands Persbureau. 11 March 2016. Archived from the original on 8 April 2019. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  16. ^ Seventh Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Convention on Nuclear Safety (FANC) Archived 14 April 2017 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ Sombré, Lionel; Claes, Jurgen; Hermans, Audrey (January 2020). "PARCOM Recommendation 91/4 on Radioactive Discharges - Seventh Belgian Implementation Report". London: OSPAR Commission. p. 31. Retrieved 22 November 2021.
  18. ^ ANS (1 March 2017). "Stresstest=Fukushima" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 28 June 2017. Retrieved 23 February 2017.
  19. ^ NIRAS. "Soorten afval". NIRAS. Archived from the original on 2 March 2017. Retrieved 23 February 2017.
  20. ^ "Doelbewust 81" (PDF) (in Flemish). Brussels: Electrabel GDF Suez. December 2012. p. 6. Archived (PDF) from the original on 28 May 2018. Retrieved 28 May 2018.
  21. ^ "Het cAt-project". NIRAS (in Flemish). Archived from the original on 28 July 2017. Retrieved 28 May 2018.
  22. ^ FOD Economie. "Moratorium". fgov. Archived from the original on 2 March 2017. Retrieved 23 February 2017.
  23. ^ "HADES underground laboratory". Belgian Nuclear Research Centre. Archived from the original on 14 June 2017. Retrieved 23 February 2017.
  24. ^ Engie Electrabel (1 March 2017). "Doelbewust" (PDF). Electrabel. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2 March 2017. Retrieved 25 February 2017.
  25. ^ Afwijking op Doel 4 Archived 26 April 2017 at the Wayback Machine, Engie, 18 maart 2011, geraadpleegd 19 April 2017
  26. ^ "Inadequate setting of the auxiliary feedwater turbopump". 18 March 2011. Archived from the original on 7 August 2011. Retrieved 13 June 2020.
  27. ^ Nieuw incident in Kerncentrale Doel Archived 6 December 2012 at the Wayback Machine, Het Nieuwsblad, 31 maart 2011, geraadpleegd 3 juni 2011
  28. ^ "Doel-3 in Belgium reports possible pressure vessel flaw". Nuclear Newswire. La Grange Park, Illinois: American Nuclear Society. 16 August 2012. Retrieved 22 November 2021.
  29. ^ Doel 3 investigates potential cracks, Nuclear Engineering International
  30. ^ Incident at Doel nuclear power station Archived 24 August 2012 at the Wayback Machine, Belgian Federal Agency for Nuclear Control
  31. ^ Doel 3: Safety Authorities Meet in Brussels Archived 24 August 2012 at the Wayback Machine, Belgian Federal Agency for Nuclear Control
  32. ^ "Experts okay restart of worrisome Belgian nuclear plants". Douglas, Isle of Man: Science X. 6 January 2013. Retrieved 22 November 2021.
  33. ^ Dombret, Philippe; Bogaert, Anne-Sophie; Somville, Frédéric (2016). "A review of inspections conducted on Belgian reactor pressure vessels affected by hydrogen flaking" (PDF). p. 709. Retrieved 22 November 2021.
  34. ^ "Doel 4 ligt mogelijk tot einde van het jaar uit" (in Flemish). vrtnieuws. 12 August 2014. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
  35. ^ De Clercq, Geert (14 August 2014). "Belgian Doel 4 nuclear reactor closed till year-end". Reuters. Archived from the original on 19 August 2014. Retrieved 15 August 2014.
  36. ^ "Engie Electrabel vraagt bijkomend onderzoek naar de sabotage van Doel 4". Gazet van Antwerpen (in Flemish). Antwerp, Belgium. 24 December 2016. Archived from the original on 28 July 2017. Retrieved 17 April 2017.
  37. ^ "Belgian TSO Elia upgrades Zandvliet-Doel line under Brabo Project". Global Transmission Report. New Delhi. 7 November 2016. Retrieved 22 November 2021.
  38. ^
  39. ^ "Electrical falcons". Brussels: Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences. 18 May 2016. Archived from the original on 17 April 2017. Retrieved 17 April 2017.
  40. ^ De Redactie (4 March 2016). "Militairen zullen ook". De Redactie. Archived from the original on 2 March 2017. Retrieved 25 February 2017.
  41. ^ "Beveiliging kerncentrales". FANC. 4 August 2016. Archived from the original on 2 March 2017. Retrieved 25 February 2017.
  42. ^ Engie Electrabel (22 March 2016). "Verhoogde waakzaamheid". Electrabel. Archived from the original on 2 March 2017. Retrieved 25 February 2017.

External links[edit]