Spain to close its oldest reactor

4 August 2017

Spanish Energy Minister Alvaro Nadal said, 1 August, the government would not renew the licence for the Santa Maria de Garona NPP in northern Spain because there was too much uncertainty surrounding the plant's viability.

Production at the 46-year-old Garona plant, the oldest nuclear plant in Spain, was halted in 2012 when its operator, Nuclenor (a joint venture of Endesa and Iberdrola), objected to a new tax. Although the Nuclear Safety Council (Consejo de Seguridad Nuclear, CSN)  had pronounced it to be suitable for operation until 2019, given certain technical upgrades, Nuclenor’s board recently failed to reach agreement on keeping the plant open. The 446MWe boiling water reactor will now enter the decommissioning phase.

In September 2012, operator Nuclenor missed the deadline to submit an operating licence renewal application for Garoña, and it would have to close when its licence expired on 6 July 2013. However, the reactor was shut down in mid-December 2012 to avoid a full year of retroactive tax charges.

In February 2014, the Spanish nuclear industry succeeded in lobbying for regulatory changes that enabled a reactor closed for non-safety or radiological protection to be granted a new operating licence within a calendar year of closure. Nuclenor then submitted a licence renewal application for Garoña to the Ministry of Energy, Tourism and the Digital Agenda for operation until 2031. After evaluation, in February 2017 CSN conditionally approved the plant’s restart provided that Nuclenor made some post-Fukushima safety upgrades.

However, the government decided not to support the renewal of Garoña's operating licence after taking into account 17 opinions submitted by institutions, associations and companies involved in the process, as well as the government's energy and climate plans. Nadal said the Energy Ministry would issue a decommissioning permit followed by a decommissioning declaration.

Nuclenor will be required to carry out a series of tasks during a "pre-dismantling period", including the transfer of spent nuclear fuel from the pool to an interim storage facility. It must also treat the radioactive waste generated during the plant's operation.

Spanish decommissioning firm Enresa will need a dismantling permit and must also apply for ownership of the plant before works can get underway. Enresa estimates that dismantling Garona would take about ten years. Spain has seven other nuclear reactors that produce some 20% of its electricity.

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