Spain’s regulator rejects Berkeley’s plans for uranium mine in Salamanca

15 July 2021

Spain's Nuclear Safety Council (Consejo de Seguridad Nuclear -CSN) on 12 July blocked Berkeley Energia's planned uranium mine in Salamanca citing safety concerns. The CSN Plenary reported unfavourably on the request presented by Berkeley Minera Spain (BME) on the authorisation of construction of a uranium concentrates manufacturing plant in the municipality of Retortillo (Salamanca).

Berkeley's plans to mine uranium at its Retortillo project in the western region of Salamanca received preliminary approval in early 2013 but has since faced growing local opposition. Berkeley earlier said the mine would run for 14 years, generating investment of over €250 million ($297m) and more than 2,500 jobs in the region.

The Retortillo mine ceased uranium extraction in 2000, when state-owned Enusa stopped exploiting the deposits due to their low profitability.

CSN said it took the decision because of uncertainty over how radioactive waste would be stored at the facility. UK-based Berkeley, whose Madrid-listed shares fell more than 12% to €0.34 after the decision, said in a statement it refuted the CSN's assessment and was disappointed with the decision. "The company will strongly defend its position and will immediately consider the range of legal options available," it said. Berkeley said all the documentation submitted had been prepared following the advice of independent bodies, noting that it had already obtained more than 120 prior permits and favourable reports from authorities at local, regional and EU level. However, The Stop Uranio environmental protection group, which has been campaigning against the mine's development, welcomed the decision.

The Plenary voted four to one in favour of a Proposal for a Technical Opinion prepared by the Technical Directorate for Radiological Protection. The technical opinion will be sent to the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge and the reason for the decision was the low "reliability" and the "high uncertainties" of the safety analysis of the installation based on geotechnical and hydrogeological factors. The "technical deficiencies" identified in the assessment relate mainly to the disposal of very low level radioactive waste.

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