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Belgian Tihange 1 reactor outage brought forward to ease November crunch

London — Belgian nuclear operator Electrabel has brought forward planned maintenance at its Tihange 1 nuclear reactor with the unit expected to return two weeks earlier than planned on November 17, it said Friday.

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Belgium faces an unprecedented power supply crunch this winter after Electrabel last Friday delayed the return of two other 1 GW reactors at its Tihange site deep into 2019 due to concrete degradation repair work.

The maintenance outage at Tihange 1, which consists of two older 480 MW units, is a planned annual refueling stop.

Tihange 1 is now scheduled to come offline one week earlier than planned on October 13 and is planned to return 12 days earlier on November 17, Electrabel said Friday on its transparency website.

Belgian grid operator Elia warned Thursday that up to 1.7 GW additional reserve capacity would be needed to guarantee security of supply this winter with November, when only one of seven Belgian reactors will be available, flagged as the biggest challenge.

The government also launched a taskforce to deal with the crisis, which it said was worse than the one in 2014 when micro cracks in pressure vessels took two 1 GW reactors offline.

The taskforce, to include nuclear operator Electrabel, grid operator Elia and regulator CREG, is to examine ways to possibly boost nuclear capacity.

Electrabel will also contract 750 MW of additional winter reserve, comprising the 250 MW Vilvoorde gas plant, 100 MW optimization of existing generation, 200 MW of diesel-fired engines and 200 MW of demand response, a spokesperson confirmed Thursday.

--Andreas Franke,

--Edited by Alisdair Bowles,