What has prompted the municipality of Aachen in West Germany to distribute for free iodine tablets throughout the region? Since September, the authorities of this German city have launched a preventive program, designed for two months, to reduce the side effects “in the event of a serious nuclear accident.”
This step is similar to the decision of the Netherlands, which at the same time started distributing iodine tablets – the main type of body protection, in particular, the thyroid gland when exposed to radiation – to three million citizens.
Two nuclear power plants in Doel and Tihange, located on the territory of Belgium, but situated very close to the borders of neighboring states, made the Germans and the Dutch to worry. These two nuclear power plants built in the 1970s have been causing concerns for quite a while. It is no accident, therefore, that the decision of Aachen and The Hague came a few months after the publication of scientific researches and investigations that cast light on the safety conditions at two Belgian plants.
For more than one year the international scientific community has been asking questions about the causes of cracks in metal walls (the thickness of which are about 20 centimeters) the vessels under the pressure of the third reactor at the nuclear power plant in Doel and the second reactor at the nuclear power plant in Tihange.
Among other things, a study by two professors of the famous University of Leuven René Boonen and Jan Peirs argued that the official explanations provided by the Belgian Federal Agency for the Control of Atomic Energy, justifying the increase in the number of these cracks and their sizes, are unsatisfactory with scientific point of view.
Vessels of reactors have cracked, breaks continue to arise and expand which can cause an atomic catastrophe.
In fact, during the second round of inspections, as many as 13047 cracks were registered at the nuclear power plant in Doel and 3149 in Tihange, which corresponds to a twofold increase in their number in comparison with the figures of two years ago. But that is not all. The largest cracks – which, fortunately, run parallel, but not perpendicular to the walls – were no more than four centimeters in 2014, and now make up as many as nine.
After further study, the Federal Atomic Energy Agency announced on its official website that “there were no shifts” in the situation with hydrogen floccenes.
“Thanks to the intervention of the Belgian branch of Greenpeace, however, the Federal Atomic Energy Agency had to publish a report commissioned by the French agency Areva, according to which, in comparison with 2014, new cracks were recorded, and the rest have increased”, Bogaerts explains.
According to Mr Bogaerts, who in this issue disputes the official version of the Belgian authorities, which have repeatedly claimed that it was about previously existing cracks, but not about identified in previous inspections – such an increase can be explained “only by the growth of cracks during work.” This theory is even more worrisome due to the fact that after each inspection the reactors have always received a work permit.
The thing is about rather a delicate matter, since if all the cracks are connected, there may be a leakage of material inside the reactor, which will lead to the most unimaginable consequences. In particular, it should be said that the Doel NPP is built on the periphery of Antwerp city, that is, a densely populated center numbering hundreds of thousands of inhabitants. In addition, a huge port, one of the largest in Europe, with petrochemical production extends just a few kilometers from the reactors.
This nuclear power plant, according to environmental groups and an increasing number of scientists, represents the most real time-bomb in the heart of Europe. This causes concern for the Dutch and Germans, as well as for an increasing number of Belgians.