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Campaigning group Avaaz have launching an alarming petition, signed by 350,000 people at time of writing:

Belgium: Stop the next Chernobyl

Nuclear experts are scared: Belgium has just restarted two ancient and cracked nuclear power plants that threaten to unleash another Chernobyl disaster right in the heart of Europe!

One of the ageing reactors suffered a fire and explosion weeks ago and Belgium’s own nuclear safety chief called for checks after discovering 16,000 cracks! Neighbouring countries like ours are raising the safety alarm and German Environment Minister, Barbara Hendricks, is ready to take our concerns into a meeting with Belgium on Monday... [and may] ...push Belgium to bring the plants to a halt until a thorough impact assessment is completed.

Leaving aside the alarmist language and comparisons, are these specific factual claims true:

  1. One of the reactors being started has recently "suffered a fire and explosion"
  2. Belgium's nuclear safety chief has called for checks, but the reactor will be started before all the relevant checks are complete
  3. 16,000 cracks (approximately) have been discovered. The way the sentence is written seems to imply that these cracks were linked to the explosion, but this isn't explicit.
  4. Ministers in neighbouring countries are voicing urgent concerns (including specifically German Environment Minister, Barbara Hendricks)
  • 1
    The quote says after discovering 16,000 cracks, but you're asking for an answer to the claim 16,000 cracks (approximately) have been discovered in the reactor that suffered the explosion. The two claims are not identical. – gerrit Jan 29 '16 at 16:59
  • Asking about 4 different claims makes the question very broad; you may be more successful by choosing a single claim. – Oddthinking Jan 29 '16 at 23:19
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According to FANC

In 2014, a further inspection was carried out based on the improved procedure and the modified settings of the machine, resulting in the detection of a greater number of flaw indications than was measured in 2012 and 2013. This means that Electrabel now has to take into account 13 047 flaw indications for Doel 3 and 3149 flaw indications for Tihange 2 in its calculations. These additional flaw indications are similar to those which were previously considered and are located in the same area of the RPV.

The explosion was at Doel 1

The statement in the [original] OP "16,000 cracks (approximately) have been discovered in the reactor that suffered the explosion" is false. The 16,000 cracks were in two reactors. The explosion was at a 3rd reactor, not one of the two with the cracks.

Also, the explosion was in an electrical transformer and the reactor was not operating at the time of the explosion. It is stretching the term "reactor" to say that reactor was the location of explosion.

The concern of Germans is summarized in the article Germans claim Belgian nuclear reactors are "falling to bits"

  • 1
    Note that the OP statement 16,000 cracks (approximately) have been discovered in the reactor that suffered the explosion is not the same as the claim quoted from Avaaz safety chief called for checks after discovering 16,000 cracks. – gerrit Jan 29 '16 at 16:59
  • I've edited the question to reflect what the actual quote says: you may wish to edit your answer accordingly. – EnergyNumbers Jan 29 '16 at 17:44
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    The Avaaz article certainly seemed written as if trying to draw a link between the explosion and the cracks (that's certainly how I read it - same sentence, no comma, no second subject noun), so I think clarifying that they're separate is useful – user568458 Jan 29 '16 at 17:50

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