ACHILLES HEEL // The industrial and scientific cooperation between thirteen countries at Eurochemic was the first example of a joint European project. But it was precisely this international approach that proved its Achilles heel. Quite soon after the plant had been commissioned, the main partners France and Germany quit the partnership intent on taking industrial reprocessing of nuclear fuel into their own hands. With a maximum capacity of 60 tonnes uranium a year, it was impossible for Eurochemic to compete on an industrial scale with these large national reprocessing projects. In 1975, it was decided for the first time to shut down the plant temporarily. For ten years, the plant faced an uncertain future. All those years, over 190 employees kept maintaining the installations with a view to a possible restart. Obviously, for safety reasons, the plant also had to be kept under permanent surveillance. In late 1978, the Belgian government concluded an agreement in principle about the takeover of the factory with the intention for it to supply domestic needs only. In 1984, the Belgian government transferred Eurochemic to Belgoprocess (which at the time stood for Belgium reprocessing). The aim of Belgoprocess was to meet the obligations of Eurochemic (the reprocessing of irradiated fuel) including the dismantling of the installations after operations had ceased. However, the plant was never restarted because in 1985 it was decided to shut down Eurochemic for good. In this case, the State had committed itself to selling Belgoprocess to the NIRAS. The dream of this unique reprocessing plant to become ‘the heart of the European reprocessing industry’ had ended prematurely.  
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