Asco nulcear plant (Credit: IAEA)Spain’s three main electricity companies (Endesa, Iberdrola and Naturgy) on 30 January reached agreement in principle with the Ministry of Ecological Transition to scale the closure of its nuclear plants gradually between 2025 and 2035.

Spain has seven reactors at five sites (Almaraz, Valdellós, Asco, Cofrentes and Trillo). Although nuclear has consistently accounted for more than 20% of Spain’s electricity, it is now being phased out. The draft climate law introduced in November 2018 aims for 100% renewable electricity by 2050 with renewables accounting for 35% by 2030. Although the law has yet to be formally adopted, State Secretary for Energy José Dominguez had said the government would not extend operation of the reactors beyond their 40-year design life, meaning they would close between 2023 (Almaraz) and 2028 (Trillo).  

Spain’s electricity companies have long disagreed about the planned phaseout.

Iberdrola has been proposing various options in talks with the Ministry for Ecological Transition including allowing limited plant upgrades up to a limit of 40 years in operation to allow greater flexibility in the transition to a mix where renewable energy would dominate. Endesa has consistently supported long term operation of nuclear plants, with adequate profitability and guarantees that they would meet the highest national and international safety standards. Endesa favours plant life extension to 2050, given that there is no other alternative that can guarantee the security of supply, competitive electricity prices and help meeting emissions targets.

The companies’ meeting with the Minister for the Ecological Transition took place before Spain’s National Integrated Plan for Energy and Climate has been finalised. Integrated National Energy and Climate Plans (INECPs) are the frameworks within which European Union member states have to plan, in an integrated manner, their climate and energy objectives. Each state was obliged to prepare its INECP and to submit this to the European Commission by December 2018. Several states, including Spain, did not meet the deadline and were given an extension until 31 January, but still failed to do so. It is assumed that the EU Commissioner of Energy and Climate Action, Spain’s Miguel Arias Cañete, will now grant a new grace period until the end of February, Domínguez, said.

Photo: Spain's Asco nuclear plant (Credit: IAEA)