Spain’s Ministry for the Ecological Transition & Demographic Challenge (Miteco – Ministerio para la Transición Ecológica y el Reto Demográfico) has authorised the start of the dismantling of the Santa María de Garoña NPP. The order also authorises the transfer of ownership of the facility from operator Nuclenor to Radioactive waste management agency Empresa Nacional de Residuos Radiactivos SA (Enresa).

The Garoña NPP, a 446 MWe boiling water reactor which began operation in 1971, was Spain’s oldest nuclear plant. It ceased operation in 2012 when Nuclenor (a joint venture of Endesa and Iberdrola), objected to a new tax. Although it had a permit until 2019 and was formally closed down in 2017.

The project consists of two phases and will last until 2033. It is budgeted at €475m ($533m) and provides for up to 350 people to work on it simultaneously. Miteco, through the Institute for Just Transition (ITJ), has been collaborating since 2020 with the 27 municipalities affected by the closure and has already allocated €7.7m to finance 12 municipal projects.

In Phase 1 (2023-2026) the systems, structures and components of the turbine building will be dismantled, and the modifications to the systems and facilities necessary for the management of the resulting waste will be undertaken. At the same time, used fuel will be evacuated from the pool to the Individualised Temporary Storage (ATI – Almacén Temporal Individualizado) of the plant.

In Phase 2 (2027-2033), with the fuel already in the ATI, the final dismantling of the radiological buildings will be addressed, continuing with the decontamination, declassification and demolition, ending with restoration of the site.

The authorisation was granted after the project was submitted to public consultation between March and April 2021, after the Nuclear Safety Council Plenary issued the mandatory favourable report in May and after having obtained the Environmental Impact Statement that establishes the conditions with which the project must comply.

Image: The Santa María de Garoña nuclear power plant (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)