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Top EU court rules Belgium broke EU law over nuclear plant extension

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The European Union’s top court ruled on Monday that Belgium infringed EU law by failing to carry out environmental assessments before prolonging the life of two nuclear power plants.

The court said that the plants do not necessarily have to be shut down.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled the plants could stay open provisionally, where there is a genuine and serious threat of an interruption to electricity supply.

The ruling concerns two Belgian nuclear power plants, Doel 1 and 2.

Belgium decided in 2003 to wind down all electricity production from nuclear energy, but made an exception in 2015, to allow the operation of those two until 2025.

Environmental groups objected on the grounds that the decision was taken without undertaking assessments required under EU law.

The Belgian Constitutional Court then referred the case to the Luxembourg court.

In November, an advocate general to the ECJ agreed that environmental impact assessments should have been carried out, but argued that there were other variables that could justify a decision to keep the nuclear plants up and running.

The Luxembourg judges upheld this view on Monday and found that the necessary assessments could still be carried out to regularise the project.

More than half of Belgium’s electricity is generated by nuclear power.

Four reactors are situated in Doel by the northern port city of Antwerp. A second, three-reactor plant is located in the east at Tihange, near the German border.

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