Spain's nuclear regulator, the Consejo de Seguridad Nuclear (Council for Nuclear Safety, CSN) has approved plans to build a centralised temporary storage facility (Almacén Temporal Centralizado - ATC) for used nuclear fuel at Villar de Cañas in the province of Cuenca.
CSN accepted a report which said the Villar de Cañas site is "justified" and all requirements are adequately covered in accordance with Spain's sixth general radioactive waste plan, approved in 2006.
The report will now be sent to the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism for a final decision on the licensing of the facility. However, CSN has requested further technical studies and reports. Villar de Cañas was chosen from 13 possible locations for the ATC in December 2011.
Antonio Cornadó, president of the Spanish Nuclear Forum (Foro Nuclear) said plans to build the ATC are "an opportunity for the Spanish industry, which has the technological capacity to completely carry out this project".
CSN said adoption of the report will make it possible for Enresa, the company in charge of used fuel and decommissioning, to begin auxiliary works on the site, including construction of access roads, while the licensing process continues.
Temporary used fuel storage pools at Spain's eight nuclear power reactors were more than 75% full at the end of 2014, according to Foro Nuclear. Three storage pools - at Santa Maria de Garoña, Asco-1 and Asco-2 - were more than 90% full. The facility will accept transport casks of used fuel assemblies or vitrified wastes currently stored at the nuclear plants. These will be removed to smaller containers for placement in a dry store cooled by the passive air circulation. The facility will hold around 12,816 cubic metres of waste for 60 years, by which time a repository for permanent disposal should be available. In January, Tecnatom and Gas Natural Fenosa won a €3.1m ($3.6m) contract from Enresa to provide engineering design support for the facility.
In a report on Spain's energy policies, the International Energy Agency (IEA) cited a recent Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) study saying Spain should pursue its current policy on waste management and disposal, continuously monitor the adequacy of the provisions for decommissioning and waste management, and "ensure the timely construction of the centralised temporary storage facility."
IEA also said the Spanish government should provide a long-term policy framework aiming at encouraging market-based investments in nuclear lifetime extensions for commercial nuclear reactors, which is the lowest-cost option for power generation and is economically competitive.
The IEA called on Spain to "develop scenarios" for nuclear generation capacity in the energy mix after 2020, considering the impact of different shares of nuclear energy for meeting carbon emissions targets, on the cost of electricity supply and diversification of the energy mix. The report said nuclear energy produces about 20% of total electricity in Spain, contributes effectively to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, secures energy supply, and plays an important role in the diversification of the energy mix.