Soraya Rodriguez, environment secretary for Spain’s Socialist government, has said that the government will not set closure dates for the country’s eight nuclear reactors “because we have to decide whether we are in a position to close them or not,” according to a Reuters report.

The move comes despite a pledge to replace nuclear generation with renewables and the early shutdown of the 38-year-old 150MWe Jose Cabrera PWR on 1 May. Rodriguez pragmatically admitted: “At the moment the government is not in a position to do it because we do not have the renewable alternatives available.”

Furthermore, the government has hinted that it may even extend the operating lives of nuclear stations which currently supply around 20% of the country’s power.

Despite pressure from left-wing and environmentalist groups to rule on when the plants will close, the government is struggling to respond to soaring oil prices and growing carbon emissions – particularly in the face of an extended drought that has hit its hydro generation capacity.

Rodriguez contends that the policy on nuclear generation remains unchanged but that any decision on closures will not take place until after the next general election, expected during spring 2008. In the meantime, the government is expected to leave any decisions on extending plant operations, most of which are licensed to operate until at least 2010 to the Nuclear Safety Council.

• Meanwhile, Germany’s EnBW is reportedly preparing documentation to extend the life of its 840MWe Neckarwestheim 1 unit, a proposal for which is expected before the end of the year. There is no indication which plant or plants may see their operations reduced in order to support the application under the terms of the country’s nuclear phase-out deal that would require volumes of unused production rights from other nuclear plants to transfer to Neckarwestheim 1. The unit is currently due to close in 2009.

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