IAEA reviews long term operational safety at Spain’s Ascó NPP

3 August 2021

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Safety Aspects of Long Term Operation  (Salto) team on 30 July completed a review of long term operational safety at the Ascó NPP in Spain. The review was requested by the plant’s operator, Asociación Nuclear Ascó-Vandellós II (ANAV).

The Ascó plant is one of Spain’s five operational NPPs and comprises  two 1030MWe pressurised-water reactor units. Unit 1 went into commercial operation in 1984 and unit 2 in 1986. ANAV plans to extend the operation of both units beyond the initial lifetime and has applied for licence renewal for the two units.

During the nine-day mission, the Salto team reviewed implementation of recommendations made during a Pre-Salto review mission in January 2019 as well as the operator’s preparedness for long0term operation (LTO) by assessing the programmes, procedures and practices implemented at the plant.

“Staff at the plant are implementing preparations for safe LTO in a timely manner and are professional, open and receptive to the Salto team’s recommendations and suggestions for improvement,” said team leader and IAEA Senior Nuclear Safety Officer Robert Krivanek. “Most of the ageing management and LTO activities are already in line with IAEA safety standards, and the Salto team encourages the plant management to implement all remaining activities for safe LTO.”

The 11-member review team – comprising experts from Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, France, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Sweden, as well as two IAEA staff members – identified good practices and performances to be shared with the global nuclear industry, including:

  • Management of a living design basis document to ensure comprehensive configuration management.
  • Innovative and integrated usage of ageing management programme data regarding soil movement under safety related buildings for LTO analysis.
  • Effectivity assessment of safety-related organisational changes one year after their approval.

The team also made recommendations to further enhance preparations for LTO, noting that the plant should:

  • Implement a consistent strategy for the use of ageing management and LTO safety standards.
  • Ensure comprehensive identification and labelling of structures and components within the scope of safe ageing management and LTO.
  • Develop and implement a comprehensive equipment qualification programme to preserve fulfillment of safety functions during LTO.

“Our main goal is to obtain an objective and independent assessment of the Ascó plant’s preparedness for LTO. The SALTO team’s evaluation of our activities against IAEA safety standards gives us the best opportunity to achieve this,” said Jose Antonio Gago, ANAV Chief Executive Officer. The plant management undertook to address the areas identified for further improvement and to continue cooperation with the IAEA. A Salto follow-up mission to the Ascó is expected in the third quarter of 2023.

The team provided the draft report to ANAV and to the Nuclear Safety Council (CSN), Spain’s nuclear regulatory authority, at the end of the mission. ANAV and CSN will have an opportunity to make factual comments on the draft. A final report will be submitted to ANAV, CSN and the Spanish Government within three months.

The CSN Plenary recently approved an extension to the operating licences for units 1 and 2 of the Asco NPP (Tarragona) for a period of nine years for unit I (until 2030) and 10 years for unit II (until 2031) with the limits and conditions on nuclear safety and radiological protection established for each case. The regulator has included 10 conditions to which the operation of Unit 1 will be subject in this new period, and 11 conditions for unit 2. CSN said it will send a report on its decision to the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge for final approval.

CNS said the decision is based both on the verification of the correct operation of the plant and the maintenance of the adequate level of security to continue its operation, as well as on the verification of the capacity of the installation to respond to current regulatory requirements of greater requirement to those strictly required in its original design. The security improvement proposals that the licensee has made as a result of the Periodic Security Review (RPS) have been taken into account.

The favourable report is based on the evaluation, contained in a set of numerous specialised technical reports, including information from inspections and other supervision and control processes carried out for the plant during the validity of the current authorisation by the CSN. The Plenary also favourably viewed a request for renewal of the physical protection authorisation for units 1 & 2, which will into force simultaneously and for the same period as the operating licences.

Other issues favourably viewed by the Plenary include: revision of the radioactive waste management and used fuel plan associated with the long-term operation of this facility; a request related to design modification of fire protection systems; and proposed change to the Technical Operating Specifications for the storage and transport of the HI-STORM / HI-STAR container.

Image: During the nine-day mission, the SALTO team focused on aspects essential to the safe Long Term Operation (LTO) of both units (Photo: J. M. Biarnés/ANAV)

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