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atw 2018-03v6

The International Expert

The International Expert Conference on Nuclear Technology Who you will meet Exhibitors, Sponsors and Media Partners 3 Silver Sponsor 3 Media Partners 3 Czech Pavilion 3 United Kingdom Pavilion More Organizations tba. Outstanding Know-How & Sustainable Innovations Enhanced Safety & Operation Excellence Decommissioning Experience & Waste Management Solutions Don’t miss this key event of the global nuclear energy community. 29 – 30 May 2018 Estrel Convention Center Berlin Germany www.nucleartech-meeting.com

atw Vol. 63 (2018) | Issue 3 ı March Twilight of the Experts Dear reader, With the political phase-out from the peaceful use of nuclear energy in Germany in 2011, a few weeks after the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami in Japan and the resulting accidents at the Fukushima nuclear power plants, the country not only loses a reliable, domestic, environmentally friendly and inexpensive energy source, it also leaves a gap for those whose main objective is the fundamental rejection of nuclear energy. Although the German anti-nuclear scene is keeping itself afloat with constant demands for an even earlier complete phase-out before 2022, the recurrence of such demands like a prayer wheel does not seem to be very satisfying, also thanks to the unspectacular and accident-free operation of the German nuclear power plants. Creativity is called for here when there are – geographically speaking – such obvious new thematic objects. After all, the German phase-out of nuclear power with its coupled “energy turnaround” should also become another export hit for German policymakers; whatever other successful concepts from Germany may have asserted themselves on the world political stage. Clearly, then, targeted actionism against nuclear power plants close to the border is an obvious course of action. Europe continues to be the world's leading region with 182 nuclear power plants and 26 % of Europe's electricity comes from nuclear energy. As a result, the neighbouring countries of Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic and, as a newcomer, Poland can be brought into the spotlight. Belgium's seven nuclear power plants at the Doel and Tihange sites, among others, are continually being taken up with striking consistency and selective targeted actions. The plants supply about 50 % of the country's own electricity supply, experience with the operation of nuclear power plants has existed since 1962 and the operational lifetime of the plants has been extended several times. Belgian realism and pragmatism are also evident here: individual governments have repeatedly considered the early shut-down of nuclear power plants, but also under the premiss that the security of electricity supply is not compromised. Exit: None! First of all, the nuclear power plant units Tihange-2 and Doel-3 were made subject around Christmas 2015: Realted with new findings on the material of the two reactor pressure vessels and production-related inconsistencies, catchy keywords were generated: The terms “clapped-out” reactor pressure vessels and “crumbling reactors”, introduced by relevant anti atomic protagonists, made the round. Nonetheless, the expertise and the very open communication on the subject by the Belgian supervisory authority Federaal Agentschap voor Nucleaire Controle (FANC) were lost in most of the media. Hydrogen flakes, brittle fracture characteristics and preheated emergency cooling water are simply not attractive topics. Nevertheless, comprehensive factual information is also available in Germany, for example on the websites of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Construction and Nuclear Safety (BMUB). As a next coup against Tihange, the German antinuclear scene then landed the extensive distribution of iodine tablets in the Aachen area as a “precautionary measure” against the imminent nuclear “Super-GAU” from Belgium in order to promote nuclear anxiety culture. The action was successful if fears were to be stirred up. In more than 50 years of nuclear energy use in Germany, such an action had been judged to make little sense in expert circles, also with consideration of the risks of uncontrolled self-medication with iodine. At the beginning of February 2018 a letter from the FANC was opportune. The letter was passed to “investigative” press and showed that there had recently been an accumulation of “precursor” events in the Tihange-1 nuclear power plant block. The “investigative” press quickly published the headline “Tihange-1 more dangerous than previously known”. Without going into the safety-related details of “precursor events”, the BMUB is quoted here:“... The current reporting gives the impression that, based on the number of so-called precursor events, it is possible to draw conclusions about the safety of a plant. But this is not the case. Rather, they are probabilistically calculated events that help to take a closer look at a particular scenario. These very complex precursor calculations are an element of a comprehensive security architecture. Probability calculations can help to further optimize a learning safety system of this or other facilities...” (translation, original text only available in German language). Further discomfort among the population will nevertheless remain; goal achieved. However, there are two other aspects to consider related with the reporting, which already leave a very negative connotation. On the one hand, the driving journalists like to call themselves “investigative” and “experts”. The outlined reports show that the term “investigative” has little impact, for example, the same anti-nuclear protagonists are constantly being presented and the opposite is more likely to be measured. If the “investigative” journalist were to act as an expert on his own behalf, a mystery of the Middle Ages would finally be solved: squaring the circle. Another negative connotation remains when “experts” appear in coverage who offer their services elsewhere on the subject... Nuclear energy continues to be used and operated safely in Belgium. If you want to get your own impression of the situation, you can access the web today and access a wide range of sources; from the EU stress tests according to Fukushima, through the documents on the nuclear safety conferences of the International Atomic Energy Agency to the supervisory authorities and technical expert organisations. If you are looking for more cabaret, please refer to Twitter and the 280-character opinions there (e.g. # tihange), which also complete the picture of atomic expertise shown here. Christopher Weßelmann – Editor in Chief – 139 EDITORIAL Editorial Twilight of the Experts