Transboundary Environmental Public Consultation - Decision on the extension of the operational life of the Doel 1 & 2 Nuclear Power Plants, located near the Port of Antwerp, Belgium
Each planning authority in Ireland has recently received a copy of correspondence from the Belgian Ministry of Energy, Environment and Sustainable Development to the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage (DHLGH) relating to a proposed 10 year extension to the operational life of the Doel 1 & 2 nuclear power plants, located near the Port of Antwerp in Belgium.
Under the terms of the 1991 United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context (the Espoo Convention), and Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (the Aarhus Convention), Member States are required to engage in transboundary public consultation in respect of projects likely to have significant effects on the environment of neighbouring States as part of the environmental impact assessment of a proposed development. For this purpose, the Member State in whose territory the project is intended to be carried out is required to send to the affected State, no later than when informing its own public, a description of the project and any relevant information on its possible transboundary impact.
The Doel nuclear power plants are located near the Port of Antwerp in Belgium and are owned and operated by ENGIE Electrabel. Units 1 & 2 at Doel began operation in 1975. Belgium adopted a policy aimed at phasing out the use of nuclear energy for electricity generation and in this regard, a law passed in 2003 that stipulated that nuclear power plants would be deactivated 40 years after their industrial commissioning.
This meant that Doel 1 & 2 were scheduled to cease operations in 2015. However, the 2003 law provided for a decree to issue to allow NPPs to remain operational in the event of a threat to security of electricity supply. In 2015, a Federal law passed extending the life time operation of the Doel 1 & 2 NPPs by 10 years, requiring deactivation in 2025.
An environmental Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) challenged the 2015 law that granted an extension to the operational life of the Doel 1 & 2 NPPs in the Constitutional Courts of Belgium. The Constitutional Court in turn, referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) for a preliminary ruling (Case C-411/17). In summary, the outcome of that case, is that the decision to extend the life time operation of the NPPs constitutes a ‘project’ within the meaning of the EIA Directive, therefore an environmental impact assessment is required along with the associated transboundary consultations.
For practical reasons, Belgian authorities decided to prepare two separate Environmental Impact Reports (EIRs), but have advised that they will need to be evaluated in conjunction. One EIR relates solely to the decision to extend the operational life of Doel 1 & 2. The second EIR concerns the nuclear safety-related improvement works that includes the construction of three new buildings on the site:
- two buildings for hosting the Containment Filtered Venting System of the nuclear plant
- one building housing the new fire extinguisher pump station
All details in relation to this application are available at:-