The European Commission (EC) has confirmed that the Belgium government’s support to long-term operation of three nuclear power reactors is in line with EU state aid rules.

In 2014 and 2015, the government signed two agreements with Engie Electrabel and EDF to extend the operational life of the unit 1 and 2 at 2,919MW Doel nuclear power plant and unit 1 at 3,008MW Tihange power plant.

As part of agreements, the companies agreed to invest around €1.3bn in exchange for approval to operate the power plants for another 10 years.

Additionally, financial compensation will be provided by Belgium for the two firms if the government decides to close the reactors before the end of the ten-year period, modifies the level of nuclear tax or changes other economic parameters of the agreements.

Belgian authorities said the guarantees would help secure the investment of the companies.

The EC said in a statement: “The Commission concluded that Belgium has demonstrated that the measures avoid undue distortions of the Belgian energy market.

“There will be an obligation on Engie Electrabel, i.e. the major player on Belgian electricity markets, to sell on regulated electricity markets each year a volume equivalent to ENGIE Electrabel’s share of the annual production of Tihange 1, Doel 1 and Doel 2.”

Following assessment, the commission found that the investment guarantees would provide an economic advantage to Engie-Electrabel and EDF.

The state aid will also ensure liquidity on Belgian electricity markets while helping in increasing competition between electricity suppliers, the commission noted.

Image: The Doel nuclear power station in Belgium. Photo: courtesy of Alexandre Jacquemin/Wikipedia.