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“Tihange is a big risk”

“Tihange is a big risk”

Demonstration in Maastricht

MAASTRICHT. Maastricht is worried about the antiquated Tihange nuclear power station in Belgium, just 36 kilometres from the Dutch border. Almost 10 thousand people signed the Stop Tihange online petition during the past few weeks. The latter is an initiative by the Limburg section of the GroenLinks political party. They have organised a demonstration, leading from Plein 1992 to the Market square on Saturday, 12 January. Mayor Onno Hoes will also participate.

“In the event of a nuclear disaster in Tihange, a large part of South Limburg would immediately become uninhabitable for a long period of time. Chances of this happening, unfortunately, are far from unimaginable,” says the GroenLinks website. Member of the Provincial Council Gert-Jan Krabbendam calls the power station “a ticking time bomb”. The party wants Tihange to be closed as soon as possible. They also want a sound contingency plan and international nuclear disaster drills.
There are three nuclear reactors in Tihange, the oldest dating back to 1975. Last summer Tihange 2 was shut down for maintenance. Signs of erosion were discovered in the reactor and damage to the concrete mantle resulting from concrete decay. It is currently being investigated whether the reactor can be restarted.
Harry Fekkers, until recently advisor to Maastricht University’s Executive Board, now retired and “extremely interested in nuclear energy”, is “dead” against restarting Tihange. He was one of the speakers at a conference about Tihange in the Limburg provincial government building last year. “It is unnecessarily unsafe, an undesirable technology and waste remains a problem forever.” His alternative is a thorium reactor. Thorium is a metal that is more readily available than uranium, says Fekkers. “With the amount of thorium on our planet we could produce electricity for thousands of years.” Thorium reactors also produce far less nuclear waste and its radioactivity is “only short-lived”. The reactor cannot explode; there is no chance of a meltdown. As far as Fekkers is concerned, Tihange must be converted into a thorium reactor. “The radioactive waste that they already have can be burned in the thorium reactor and is thus rendered nonhazardous.” According to an article in De Volkskrant last Tuesday, it could be another twenty years before thorium-based nuclear energy is commercially viable.
Pim Martens, professor of Global Dynamics and Sustainable Development shares Fekkers' opinion that the old power station forms a great risk. But Martens feels that nuclear energy “is no longer in keeping with the times”. A year ago he signed an open letter to the energy company Delta, owner of the Dutch nuclear power station Borssele (Zeeland). And just like almost seventy other Dutch professors, he opposed the idea of a potential second nuclear power station in Borssele – plans which have in the meantime been put on hold. Martens and his colleagues felt that a new power station was unnecessary (overproduction), unwise (there is little in-house knowledge and expertise about nuclear energy) and not sustainable. “There is still no permanent solution for radioactive nuclear waste, which means we are saddling future generations with this problem for thousands of years.”

The demonstration starts from Plein 1992 on Saturday, 12 January, 14:00hrs

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