Can a nuclear power plant be indefinitely operated?

In order that a nuclear power plant can continue to be operated, it should be safe, economically viable and politically accepted.

The authorizations for the Belgian nuclear power plants require that, apart from the permanent inspections, a safety review of the installation is performed every 10 years. This review has three objectives:

• to demonstrate that the plant has remained as safe as at its conception 

• to analyse the exact situation of the plant, taking into account its ageing and wearing, and to evaluate each factor that could affect the safe operation of the plant during the next 10 years

• to justify the current safety level of the plant, in comparison with the prevailing rules and practices, especially on the international level, and to propose modifications. 

The whole review should therefore determine any corrective actions, in order to be able to state that the operation of the nuclear power plant is acceptable for the next 10 years.

In this way, it is possible to evaluate every tenth year if a plant is still suitable for operation. The closedown only depends on the decision of the licensee not to carry out the investments required by the safety review for bringing the plant back to the necessary level for safe operation.

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