Spain’s Official State Gazette (BOE) on 7 October published an Order that grants the Ascó-Vandellós II Nuclear Association (ANAV) renewal of the authorisation for the operation of the Ascó I and Ascó II nuclear plants in Tarragona.
Ascó I is authorised until 1 October 2030 when it will cease operation. Asco II received a ten-year renewal to 1 October 2031. ANAV has managed the plants since they were transferred to it in October 2014. The nuclear power plant is owned by Endesa and Iberdrola. In 2020 it produced 35% of the electricity generated in Catalonia. Ascó I was commissioned in December 1984, while Ascó II in March 1986. The Nuclear Safety Council (CSN) issued a favourable report in July supporting the extension operation.
The Ascó plant is one of Spain’s five operational nuclear plants and comprises two 1030MWe pressurised-water reactor units. Ascó 1 (100%-owned by Endesa) went into commercial operation in 1984 and Ascó II (Endesa 85%, Iberdrola 15%) in 1986. In July, an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Safety Aspects of Long Term Operation (Salto) team completed a review of long term operational safety at the plant. The review was requested by ANAV.
ANAV maintains a major investment programme at the Ascó nuclear power plant to ensure the optimal state of the facility, as well as the safe and reliable operation of the plant. In recent years significant improvements have been undertaken such as design modifications arising from post-Fukushima analyses, including the installation of a filtered containment ventilation system and passive decombinators of hydrogen inside the containment building, and the commissioning of an alternative emergency management centre (CAGE), as well as other measures incorporated with the aim of increasing robustness and responsiveness to events that could go beyond their design bases.
ANAV has also continued with the renewal of components and the modernisation of systems as a firm commitment to the preparation for a long-term operation.
In March, Spain’s Ministry for Ecological Transition and the Challenge Demographic (Miteco) approved a ministerial order granting the renewal of the operating authorisation for the Cofrentes nuclear plant until 30 November 2030, the date set for its final closure. Miteco said the closure date is in line with the approved Protocol relating to the cessation schedule for operating Spanish NPPs and with the Integrated National Energy and Climate Plan (2021-2030). This protocol envisages the orderly closure of the nuclear park between 2027 and 2035.
The 1064MWe Cofrentes nuclear power plant is Spain’s only boiling water reactor (BWR). The other six plants are all pressurised water reactors. Cofrentes, operated by Iberdrola, is the fourth reactor to extend its operating licence since the government announced plans in 2019 to close all seven plants between 2025 and 2035 as part of plans to generate all electricity from renewable sources by 2050.
The first licence renewals were approved in March 2020 for the two units at the Almaraz NPP (owned by Iberdrola -53%, Endesa -36%, and Naturgy -11%). Almaraz 1 (1,011MWe) was authorised to operate until 1 November 2027, and unit 2 (1006MWe) until 31 October 2028. In June 2020, Vandellos 2 (1045MWe) owned by Endesa (72%) and Iberdrola (28%), was granted a licence renewal to July 2030. The unit is scheduled for permanent closure in 2034. The last plant due for licence renewal in March 2023, is the Trillo NPP (1003MWe), scheduled to close in 2035.
In 2020 nuclear energy nuclear accounted for 22.2% of electricity production, followed by wind power with 21.7%, and gas combined cycle with 17.8% of the total.
Photo: Spain's Asco nuclear plant (Credit: IAEA)