GDF Suez’s Belgian Reactors Cleared to Start After Nine Months

May 17 (Bloomberg) -- GDF Suez SA can start generating from its Doel-3 and Tihange-2 nuclear power reactors in Belgium after they were halted for about nine months on safety concerns.

The Agence Federale de Controle Nucleaire, the country’s nuclear regulator, gave permission for the units to start production, Director-General Jan Bens said today in Brussels. It will take two to three weeks to load the fuel rods back into the reactors and get them back to full capacity, Geetha Keyaert, a spokesman for GDF Suez’s Electrabel unit, said by telephone.

The two units, which represent 12 percent of Belgium’s production capacity, were ordered to remain shut by the AFCN in August and September after ultrasound tests indicated cracks on the reactor vessels. GDF Suez lost 50 million euros ($64 million) a month in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization while the plants were halted, the company said.

“Restarting these reactors will make Belgium less reliant on imports this winter,” Martin Brough an analyst at Deutsche Bank AG said by phone from London. “I don’t expect it to have much impact on prices.”

GDF Suez said April 9 that the 1,006-megawatt Doel-3 and 1,008-megawatt Tihange-2 were estimated to start on June 1, according to the company’s transparency website.

The utility, Europe’s biggest by market value, said on April 23 that first-quarter profit fell following the shutdown of the plants and a decline in electricity demand. The company’s shares rose as much as 2.4 percent to 16.76 euros today.

Delayed Start

The AFCN delayed a decision on starting the plants in January, saying it needed more data and to run extra tests. The vessels were built by Rotterdamsche Droogdok Maatschappij NV of the Netherlands. The cracks formed during construction, Willy De Roovere, the former director of AFCN, said in August. Doel-3 was commissioned in 1982 and Tihange-2 in 1983, according to Electrabel’s website.

The tests show that the flaws “have no significant impact” and haven’t changed in size since last year, AFCN said today.

Belgian power for delivery in the three months through December lost 1.9 percent to 48.05 euros a megawatt-hour, the lowest since February 7, according to broker data compiled by Bloomberg.

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