The Doel Nuclear Power Station has 4 reactors and is one of the two nuclear power plants in Belgium. The plant is located on the bank of the Scheldt, near the village of Doel in the Flemish province of East Flanders, very near the Dutch border. The Belgian energy corporation Electrabel is the plant's largest shareholder. Doel 1 and 2 came online in 1975, while Doel 3 and 4 came online in 1982 and 1985, respectively.
Doel 1 and 2 had a license to operate for 40 years, but in 2015 their retirement was postponed for 10 years. This decision re-heated a long existing conflict around the nuclear power plant. Calls to retire the whole nuclear power plant grew from both civil society, from mayors in neighbouring countries and even from the chairman of the European Parliament. Issues for concern include: · The station is located in the most densely populated area of all nuclear power stations in Europe, with 9 million inhabitants within a radius of 75 kilometres. Some 1.5 Million live within just 30 kilometers from the plant.
· Belgian nuclear power plants do not have filtered containment venting systems installed. German nuclear reactors have them since the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl in 1986, other countries followed after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
· In June 2012, ultrasonic inspection revealed that there were 13047 cracks in the reactor vessel's steel rings. At the end of March 2014, test results revealed they were bigger than anticipated, leading to a shut-down of Doel 3. The material scientists who studied the case said that these cracks may be due to normal reactor operations, thus putting into question the safety of all nuclear power plants on earth.
· In August 2014 a major incident happened with a turbine in the non-nuclear part of the plant. Authorities and the plant operator suspect that this was an act of deliberate sabotage. The unit was eventually back on the grid at 19 December 2014.
· A transformer feeding the non-operating Reactor 1 exploded October 31, 2015 causing a small fire · In December 2015, police found a camera set up outside the house of a nuclear researcher. Seven people had their access to the Doel facility revoked after the 2016 Brussels police raids in March 2016.
Actions against keeping the nuclear power station in Doel open come from many different sources and take many different forms. Some activists make a point by finding ways to get close to the reactor by breaching the security system. Others like Greenpeace have put up a tent in a huge pole standing in the middle of the Schelde, which transports electricity from Doel to the net. Still others have marched from Antwerp city to Doel and from Doel to Brussels in a 3 day long march. Greenpeace has also taken the government to court for its decision to prolong the life of Belgium’s nuclear power plants by 10 years. Politicians from neighbouring countries have written letters to Belgium’s nuclear safety agency.