Belgian parties strike 'deal' for nuclear stipend: reports
Six parties negotiating a budget for Belgium have agreed to pay the country's nuclear sector -- essentially Electrabel -- an annual stipend of 550 million euros, Belgian media reported Monday.
The agreement, cited without source by the RTL news website and Belga news agency, will see the Belgian state -- which wants to phase nuclear out from 2015 -- raise the amount it currently pays the sector in exchange for opening up energy competition and price controls, the reports said.
Incoming prime minister Elio Di Rupo's spokespeople were not available immediately to confirm, and a spokeswoman for fellow Socialist energy minister Paul Magnette said she would make "no comment whatsoever" on the reports, with talks ongoing.
The nuclear question is one in a series being addressed as part of negotiations on a budget for the Belgian state, which have been made more urgent by EU demands for faster consolidation of the country's deficit by a mid-December deadline.
After the six-party agreement to target 2015 for the start of Belgium's nuclear shutdown, operator Electrabel warned at the end of October of high costs, environmental fallout and increased dependency on foreign suppliers.
A precise timetable for shutdown, along with a plan to shift into renewable energy sources, still needs to be worked out, with the government-elect giving itself six months from inauguration day to fine tune how to deliver power to the country's 10 million people.
Electrabel is a subsidiary of French energy giant GDF-Suez that runs six of the Belgian nuclear plants.
Already a net importer of electricity, Belgium's seven reactors provide 55 percent of the country's energy needs.
© 2011 AFP