These days, things nuclear look almost serene compared to the (soap) scums in the political world (here and here in Japan, here and here and here in the US, for some examples).
But that's probably because political scums are used to mask problems that cannot be fixed.
Belgium, having to rely on nuclear power for more than 50% of electricity, has declared two reactors safe to operate whose Reactor Pressure Vessels were found with thousands of small cracks in August 2012 (see my post for one of them).
Why? Because there is no way to fix the cracks now (besides, the company that made the vessels went out of business), and Belgium needs electricity.
From Reuters (5/17/2013):
UPDATE 1-Belgian regulator clears GDF to restart nuclear reactors
* A third of Belgium's nuclear capacity closed since last yr
* Reactors should restart in 2-3 weeks (Recasts with regulator confirmation)
By Philip Blenkinsop
BRUSSELS, May 17 (Reuters) - Belgium's nuclear safety regulator has given approval for GDF Suez to restart two nuclear reactors closed last year over safety concerns, it said in a report on Friday.
"The Federal Agency for Nuclear Control considers that the Doel 3 and Tihange 2 reactor units can be restarted safely," the report said.
It added that all of the safety concerns had been resolved satisfactorily.
Belgium halted the 1,006-megawatt (MW) Doel 3 reactor in August last year after indications of cracks were discovered on the core tank during ultrasound checks.
A month later, it found similar flaws on the 1,008-MW Tihange 2 after it tested the tank during a routine stoppage, leaving Belgium without a third of its nuclear power generation capacity.
It will take two to three weeks to restart the reactors, a spokeswoman for GDF Suez's Belgian division Electrabel said following the decision.
According to Asahi Shinbun who reported the news in Japan, Doel 3 reactor has over 8,000 small cracks, and Tihange 2 has over 2,000. They conducted the tolerance test to ensure safety, according to Asahi.
Greenpeace is vowed to sue the Belgium government, according to Euronews (5/17/2013):
Greenpeace are threatening to sue the Belgian government. The leading environmental activist network is threatening legal action after Belgium’s nuclear safety regulator gave the green light to GDF Suez to go ahead and restart two nuclear reactors.
However, during a news conference, the Belgian Interior Minister, Joelle Milquet claimed that the government does not have the power to block the move.
“The independent regulator provides technical advice to an operator on the restarting of its operations. We do not have the ability to interfere in the decision, because it is an independent operator,” he said.
Last year two nuclear reactors were closed after safety concerns were flagged up in their their tanks, during an ultrasound check.
Greenpeace says it is the government’s responsibility to guarantee the safety of the Belgian people.
“We will summon the government for the lack of decent emergency plan and at the same time they increase the risks of a nuclear accident,” says Greenpeace Belgium energy campaigner Eloi Glorieux.
So while a legal battle may be brewing reactors, Doel 3 and Tihange 2 could be back up and running within 3 weeks, now that Belgium’s nuclear watchdog claims all issues have been resolved.
What does the minister mean, the government does not have the power to block the move? Ensuring the safety of things like nuclear reactors is one of the few remaining good things that a government should do.
In contrast, Switzerland's Mühleberg Nuclear Power Plant has a huge crack in the core shroud inside the Reactor Pressure Vessel, and the license to operate is set to be withdrawn by the court order in June this year.