Nuclear Power in the Netherlands

Updated Monday, 25 March 2024
  • The Netherlands has one nuclear reactor generating a small amount of its electricity.
  • Its first commercial nuclear power reactor began operating in 1973.
  • A previous decision to phase out nuclear power was reversed, and in 2021 the government announced plans to build two new nuclear units. 
  • Its main research reactor produces about half of Europe’s medical radioisotopes.
482 MWe
Reactors Under
0 MWe
56 MWe

Operable nuclear power capacity


Electricity sector

Total generation (in 2022): 122 TWh

Generation mix: natural gas 47.8 TWh (39%); wind 21.6 TWh (18%); coal 17.4 TWh (14%); solar 16.8 TWh (14%); biofuels & waste 11.6 TWh (10%); nuclear 4.2 TWh (3%); oil 1.5 TWh (1%).

Import/export balance: 4.3 TWh net export (18.5 TWh imports; 22.8 TWh exports)

Total consumption: 104 TWh

Per capita consumption: c. 5900 kWh

Source: International Energy Agency and The World Bank. Data for year 2022.

At the end of 2020 the country had 30.1 GWe total generating capacity, mostly fossil fuel.

Nuclear power industry

Reactors operating in the Netherlands


Nuclear Power Plant in the Netherlands Map

Nuclear power has a small role in the Dutch electricity supply, with the Borssele reactor providing about 3% of total generation.

In May 2018 the government announced a draft law for phasing out coal-fired generation. Two of five plants are to close before 2025 and the other three before 2030. Following an October 2018 court ruling* requiring the government to immediately take more effective action on climate change, the government announced that Vattenfall's 650 MWe Hemweg 8 coal-fired plant should stop using coal as a fuel by the end of 2019. Vattenfall took the decision to close the plant in December 2019. About 1.9 GWe of the 3.31 GWe of coal-fired capacity in 2020 will be converted to use biomass by 2030.

* At the end of 2013 the Urgenda Foundation commenced legal proceedings against the Dutch government for its alleged failure to take sufficient action to prevent dangerous climate change. In June 2015, the District Court of The Hague ruled that the government must cut its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25% by the end of 2020 (compared to 1990 levels). The case was appealed by the government and upheld by the Court of Appeal in October 2018. The government filed an appeal to the Supreme Court in January 2019. In December 2019 the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Urgenda. 2020 emissions were 8% lower than 2019 largely due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and were 24.5% lower than in 1990, falling short of the Urgenda target.

Nuclear industry development

In the 1930s, researchers at the Delft University of Technology became interested in the potential of nuclear energy, and stockpiled natural uranium which was later kept hidden from occupying forces. In the early 1950s this uranium was a basis for collaboration with Norway's Institute for Energy Technology in the Halden heavy-water research reactor at Kjeller.

In 1955 construction began on the Netherlands' own research reactor, the High Flux Reactor (HFR) at Petten. HFR was intended to help the country gain knowledge of nuclear technology and operations through materials research.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs had a strategy to develop a national industry capable of designing, manufacturing and exporting nuclear power technology. The ultimate aim was that nuclear power would be introduced from about 1962 to gradually replace much fossil fuel electricity generation.

In May 1965, construction started on the first nuclear power reactor in the Netherlands, a 55 MWe natural circulation boiling water reactor at Dodewaard.

The plant, intended as a test-bed for the national nuclear power industry, was connected to the grid in October 1968. It was operated by Joint Nuclear Power Plant Netherlands Ltd (GKN) until 1997, when it was shut-down for economic reasons.

The next nuclear power project was a commercial 452 MWe pressurized water reactor at Borssele, in the south west of the country. Construction started in July 1969 and the plant was connected to the grid in July 1973.

It was designed and built by Germany's Kraftwerk Union (Siemens). It is operated by Electricity Generating Company for the Southern Netherlands (EPZ) and was owned by Essent and Delta Energie (50% each). In 2006, following an extension of its operating lifetime to 2033, a turbine upgrade boosted its capacity from 452 to 482 MWe.

In 2009 German utility RWE agreed to buy Essent for €8.35 billion and then announced that it was prepared to build new nuclear capacity in Netherlands. At that time Essent owned half of EPZ. However, due to a statute regarding the plant’s ownership, the Essent takeover excluded the 50% stake in Borssele, so this was placed into a new company – Energy Resources Holding (ERH) – owned by the provincial and municipal authorities comprising Essent's original shareholders. The price paid by RWE dropped by €950 million accordingly. In May 2011 Delta agreed with RWE that it would buy a further 20% of EPZ/Borssele for €137 million, and RWE agreed to pay €609 million for the balance of ERH, giving it 30% ownership of EPZ/Borssele. This was finalized in July 2011.

In August 2022 Amsterdam-based company ULC-Energy signed an agreement designating the Rolls-Royce SMR its preferred technology. 

In December 2022 the government outlined plans to extend the operating lifeime of the single PWR unit at Borssele beyond its 2033 licence expiration. Technical studies are being carried out by the Authority for Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection (Autoriteit Nucleaire Veiligheid en Stralingsbescherming, ANVS)  to determine if the extension is feasible. For the extension to go ahead, the country's Nuclear Energy Act and the existing agreements with the shareholders of the Borssele plant would have to be amended.

Nuclear energy policy

In the early 1960s, large natural gas reserves were discovered in Netherlands. In combination with the public opinion impact of the Chernobyl accident (see information page on Chernobyl Accident), interest in nuclear energy diminished. In 1986, a new build project was shelved by order of the government.

In 1994 the Dutch parliament voted to phase out the Borssele nuclear power plant by 2003. The government however ran into legal difficulties to implement that decision. In 2003, the ruling conservative government coalition moved the closure date back to 2013, and in 2005 the phase-out decision was abandoned.

In June 2006, the Dutch government concluded a contract with the Borssele operators and shareholders. The reactor would be allowed to operate until 2034 on certain conditions: it would be maintained to the highest safety standards, and the stakeholders, Delta and Essent, agreed to invest €250 million towards sustainable energy projects. The government added another €250 million, in the process avoiding the compensation claim they would have faced had they continued towards early shutdown.

In September 2006 the environment minister on behalf of the economics minister submitted to parliament a document entitled, Conditions for New Nuclear Power Plants. An accompanying statement said that the government wanted to move to a sustainable energy supply and that the abandonment of its earlier phase-out policy (deferring Borssele's shutdown to 2033-34) was part of a transition strategy, and nuclear power could reduce carbon emissions. A new nuclear reactor could also be fitted into this transition model.

The document stated that any new reactor must be a Generation III model with levels of safety being equivalent to those of Areva's (now Framatome) EPR, at a coastal site. Before its operation and no later than 2016, the document said, the government must decide on a disposal strategy for existing high-level waste; used fuel should be stored until 2025, when a choice would be made between direct disposal, reprocessing, or partitioning and transmutation; plants should be dismantled promptly after closure, and decommissioning funds clearly earmarked; uranium should be sourced from certified, environmentally responsible mining operations, with in-situ leaching (ISL) preferred due to its low environmental impact.

In March 2008 the main advisory body of the Dutch government on national and international social and economic policy – the Social and Economic Council (SER) – said that the government should consider expanding nuclear energy in two years when it is was due to evaluate its climate policies.

In the official government statement on taking office in October 2010, the incoming prime minister noted that the security of energy supply would remain a policy spearhead, along with efforts to cut carbon dioxide emissions in line with European targets. Hence "the government will be open to issuing permits for new nuclear power plants."

The coalition agreement of the then incoming government said: "Regarding energy supply, the Netherlands must become less reliant on other countries, high prices and polluting fuels. Energy security must be increased and more attention must be paid to the potential profitability of energy. Policy will be guided by the European sustainable energy goals. This entails a 20% reduction in CO2 emissions and 14% sustainable energy by 2020. To reduce CO2 emissions and energy dependence, more nuclear energy is necessary. Licensing applications to build one or more new nuclear power stations that satisfy the requirements will be granted. CO2 can be stored underground subject to strict safety standards and local support, but this question will only arise after a licence has been granted for a new nuclear power station." Also "Sustainable energy production must become competitive as quickly as possible" and subsidies for renewables will be cut back.

After two years of negotiation, a wide-ranging Dutch Energy Accord supported by 46 organizations spanning all sections of the economy was concluded in September 2013. It set targets of 14% renewables by 2020, including 6000 MWe of onshore wind, and 100 PJ energy savings by 2020. The Accord was silent on nuclear, but said that CCS was “unavoidable" in moving to a sustainable energy supply.

In December 2021 a new coalition government placed nuclear power at the heart of its climate and energy policy. A document outlining the policy stated: “Nuclear energy can complement solar, wind and geothermal energy in the energy mix and can be used to produce hydrogen." It added: “This government is also taking the necessary steps to build two new nuclear power stations.” Some €500 million in financial support to 2025 towards building new nuclear plants would be provided.

New nuclear capacity

In September 2008 Delta (then 50% owner of EPZ and Borssele) announced that it would build a second unit at Borssele, of 1000-1600 MWe. In June 2009 it embarked upon seeking preliminary approvals for it from the Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment (VROM). Delta proposed to start building in 2013 and have a 1600-2500 MWe plant operational in 2018, using MOX fuel. Delta started environmental assessment procedures, and after talks with potential partners in November 2010 signed an agreement with EdF. The partnership explored incorporation of a joint development company. EdF said it was prepared to invest €2 billion in a minority share of a new plant at Borssele. Following the May 2011 buyout of Energy Resources Holding (ERH), RWE was reported as offering to underwrite 20% of the project. In January 2012 Delta put the project on hold for 2-3 years due to economic uncertainties, and it has not proceeded since.

When German utility RWE agreed to buy Essent for €8.35 billion in 2009 it announced that it was prepared to build new nuclear capacity in Netherlands. Essent's share of EPZ was then placed into a new company – Energy Resources Holding (ERH) – owned by the provincial and municipal authorities comprising Essent's original shareholders. In September 2010 ERH applied to build a new nuclear plant at Borssele, quite separate from the Delta proposal. This was for a plant up to 2500 MWe, using one or two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors, an EPR or a BWR. Construction was envisaged from 2015, for operation in 2019, but this project is not proceeding.

In December 2021, prospects for new power reactors were revived by the new coalition government. Its climate and energy policy stated that the government would take steps to build two new nuclear units (see above).

In December 2022 the government said it sees Borssele as the most suitable location for the construction of two new reactors, although it would not make a final decision on the location of the two new reactors until the end of 2024 at the earliest. Based on preliminary plans, these would be completed around 2035, each with a capacity of 1000-1650 MWe and provide 9-13% of the Netherlands' electricity production.

In April 2023 the Netherlands Energy System 2050 Expert Team concluded that nuclear power would have either no role or a limited role in the nation’s energy future. The team said that large nuclear plants could overwhelm the country’s grid and disagreed with locating new reactors at the Borssele site. The Minister for Climate and Energy Policy said that the experts’ advice would be considered but that “two nuclear power plants should eventually make up about 10 to 13 percent of our electricity mix.”

Later that month, the government released its draft climate funds, which included €320 million for the development of nuclear energy. Of this funding, €10 million would be used over the period 2023-2025 for extending the operation of the Borssele plant, €117 million was allocated for the construction of two new reactors, €65 million would go towards building the country's knowledge infrastructure through investments in nuclear skills and €65 million would be used for the development of SMRs.

Proposed reactors in the Netherlands

Reactors Location Type Gross MWe Start construction
? Borssele?
PWR x 2

Fuel cycle

The Netherlands had historically pursued research into the gas centrifuge method of uranium enrichment. Similar work had been under way in both Germany and the United Kingdom, and in 1970 an agreement (the Almelo Treaty) was signed by the three on collaboration in the endeavour. The result of the agreement was Urenco, a company jointly owned by the three governments.

In 1979 site works on Urenco enrichment plants began at Almelo in the eastern Netherlands, and Capenhurst, UK. The plants began commercial production of enriched uranium in 1981 and 1982 respectively. In 1985 production began at Gronau in western Germany and a Urenco plant based on the same technology began production in New Mexico, USA in 2010.

The production facility for Urenco's centrifuges is located in Almelo in the Netherlands.

Used nuclear fuel from Dodewaard was recycled at the UK's Thorp facility at Sellafield, and that from Borssele at France's La Hague. Orano Cycle, operators of La Hague, held a contract to recycle Borssele used fuel until 2015, and 375 tonnes had been reprocessed there to mid-2014. Some recycled uranium has been used in the plant for several years and from 2011 EPZ has approval to use MOX fuel (with 5.4% fissile Pu content) as 40% of the fuel load, and to replace 4.4% enriched fuel with compensated enriched reprocessed uranium (c-ERU) which will be 4.6% enriched to compensate for U-236 content. First MOX use was in 2014, making Netherlands the sixth European country to do so.

Under the provisional Conditions for New Nuclear Power Plants document, used fuel from new plants would be stored until 2025 when a decision would be taken by government to choose between the preferred treatment of partition and transmutation, recycling as carried out today, or direct disposal.

Waste management & decommissioning

In the 1970s the Dutch government adopted a policy of reprocessing used nuclear fuel from both the Borssele and Dodewaard reactors. In 1984 it decided on a policy of long-term (100 years) interim storage of all the country's radioactive waste; and a research strategy for its ultimate disposal.

This led to the establishment of the Central Organization for Radioactive Waste (COVRA), based at Borssele, close to the nuclear power station.

A low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste (LILW) management centre was commissioned at Borssele in 1992 which provides for storage of those materials.

In September 2003, COVRA's HABOG facility – an interim storage for high-level waste (HLW) – was commissioned by Queen Beatrix.*  HABOG has two compartments, one for medium-level waste such as canisters containing fuel element claddings after reprocessing of their uranium contents; and one for the vitrified HLW returned after used fuel reprocessing (fission products and transuranics). It stores all the HLW from Dodewaard fuel reprocessed at Sellafield in UK, and all the waste returned from reprocessing Borssele fuel at La Hague.  A system of natural convection operates in the second compartment to cool the heat-generating HLW.

* Initial plans for HABOG foresaw a conservative white box-like design like almost every other nuclear facility. However, COVRA began to think about including a wall painting inside the facility loading hall. Discussions with local artist William Verstraeten developed along a theme of 'metamorphosis', in line with the decay of radionuclides in the stored waste. Over HABOG's 100-year life, its outside walls, decorated with Einstein's E=mc2 as well as Planck's E=hv will be progressively repainted in a range of colours from bright orange to white, mirroring the slowdown in heat production from the stored waste. In addition, four large prints depicting a local natural scene are placed around the inside of the facility, each one digitally altered. Three are backlit transparencies which 'decay' from full colour to bluish, to purple/reddish. The last picture, colourless and black, is printed on gold leaf. The confident image of HABOG and the theme of gaining value from decay have helped COVRA gain public acceptance.

Government policy is to eventually store HLW underground and to move towards that goal in a way such that each step is reversible. In 2001, the Government-sponsored Committee on Radioactive Waste Disposal (CORA) concluded that geological retrievable disposal is technically feasible in a safe manner, on several sites in the Netherlands.

In 2006, the government proposed to make a decision about the siting for final disposal by 2016, but this did not happen.

COVRA announced plans for the Multifunctional Storage Building (MOG) facility in March 2021, a facility intended to store historical radioactive waste that is currently stored on the site of medical isotope producer NRG in Petten. Future decommissioning waste from nuclear installations in the Netherlands would also be placed in the MOG, providing sufficient storage capacity until 2050. In August 2022 COVRA applied to the ANVS for a permit change under the Nuclear Energy Act to construct the MOG. In June 2023 the ANVS granted the final permit to COVRA for the construction of the facility.

Reactor decommissioning

In 2005 the last fissionable material of the 55 MWe Dodewaard reactor shutdown in 1997 was removed and parts of the plant were demolished. The main part has now been sealed and is being monitored (in safestor) to 2045, after which it will be demolished.

Research and development

Most nuclear research in the Netherlands is carried out by the Nuclear Research and Consultancy Group (NRG), which is the product of a merger of the nuclear departments of the Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN) and KEMA.

Main areas of international cooperation in research are: High-temperature reactor development (with Germany, Japan and South Africa); Actinide transmutation (with European partners); and mixed-oxide fuel development (with Japan).

Since it became operational in September 1960, the 45 MW High Flux Reactor (HFR) at Petten has been largely shifted from reactor materials testing to fundamental research and the production of medical radioisotopes. It provides about half of Europe's market for these. It is owned by the European Union's Joint Research Centre and operated by NRG under contract. In 2006, it was converted from highly-enriched uranium fuel to low-enriched (LEU) fuel.  In August 2008 it closed down to resolve a technical problem and restarted in mid-February 2009, but with some chronic problems continuing. HFR's technical lifespan was to end in 2015, but in 2014 the Dutch government offered a loan of up to €82 million to NRG to enable upgrade and a ten-year life extension. The reactor has been used to investigate mixed oxide (INSPYRE project) and uranium oxide (Fuel Creep II project) fuels. Earlier in 2014 qualification irradiation tests of the spherical fuel elements for China’s HTR-PM reactor were undertaken there. In March 2021 it became the first Mo-99 facility in Europe to fully stop using high-enriched uranium (HEU) targets in medical isotope production.

NRG initiated a project to replace HFR with a new high-flux research reactor called PALLAS located in Petten. It will be a pool type reactor with about 55 MWt power, delivering 300 full-power days per year and running on low enriched uranium (<20%). In 2008, three companies bid to supply the reactor: Areva NP (now Framatome), Argentina's INVAP with Spain's Isolux, and KAERI (with Korea Power Engineering and Doosan), but no funds were available then and the bids lapsed in 2010. New bids were then sought. 

In January 2012 the government approved the new PALLAS reactor and the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation said that the government and the province of Noord-Holland would each provide €40 million for the design, procurement and licensing procedure. NRG would progress licensing and call for tenders. In December 2013 the Pallas Reactor Preparation Foundation took over the project from NRG, with €80 million funding for a fresh start on design, procurement and licensing. The foundation is responsible for attracting funding for construction and commissioning.

In April 2017 INVAP submitted a new offer to supply the reactor and early in 2018 a contract to design and construct Pallas was awarded to Ichos, a consortium consisting of Mobilis and Croonwolter&dros, both subsidiaries of TBI Holdings of the Netherlands, and INVAP. The cost is expected to be about €580 million, and after an initial government loan of €80 million the second phase is to be financed by private companies or institutions. It is expected to operate from 2025.

In January 2021 it was announced that NRG and Pallas Reactor Preparation Foundation intended to merge into a single organization. In July 2022, the Pallas foundation applied to the nuclear regulator for a permit to construct and operate the reactor. The Dutch government is yet to make a final decision on constructing the Pallas reactor. In February 2023 a construction licence was granted by the ANVS for the Pallas research reactor, becoming valid on 31 March. A licence for the reactor's cooling water was granted by Rijkswaterstaat. A permit for commissioning is still required, with a period of public participation planned for around 2028. The decision on funding for the overall Pallas programme is expected to be made before the end of 2023.

The 2 MWt HOR pool-type research reactor has operated at the Delft University of Technology for Academic Research since 1963. It was fully converted to LEU in 2005 and is used for isotope production, neutron scattering and activation analysis. In mid-2014 KAERI with Hyundai won a €19 million tender to refurbish and upgrade the reactor to 3 MWt, and build a cold neutron facility. Early in February 2017 the contract was amended to build the non-nuclear cooling building and create the cold neutron source as part of the OYSTER (Optimized Yield – for Science, Technology & Education – of Radiation) project. Installation of the cold neutron source commenced in May 2019.

Regulation, safety & non-proliferation

The 1963 Nuclear Energy Act sets out the basic rules for the use of nuclear materials in the Netherlands. There have been no major changes in this Act since. The Ministry of Economic Affairs is responsible for energy, including nuclear power.

In 2014 ANVS was set up to be an independent administrative authority under the Minister for Infrastructure and the Environment. The IAEA conducted an integrated regulatory review service (IRRS) mission later in the year to review these plans. ANVS achieved full independence in August 2017. A further IRRS mission in November 2018 reported favourably.


The Netherlands ratified the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1975 and the Additional Protocol came into force with the ratification by the European Union via Euratom in April 2004.

Notes & references

General references

IAEA, Country Nuclear Power Profiles
Nuclear Legislation in OECD and NEA Countries, Regulatory and Institutional Framework for Nuclear Activities: Netherlands, OECD Nuclear Energy Agency 2009
Radioactive Waste Management Programmes in NEA Member Countries, OECD Nuclear Energy Agency
Nuclear Engineering International, February 2006