The Spanish government has ratified a law removing a statutory 40-year limit on nuclear power plant operating life.
The wide-ranging Sustainable Energy Act, known by its Spanish acronym LES (Ley de Economía Sostenible), was approved by 323 votes to 19, with one abstention, in the lower house of the Spanish government on 15 February. The amendment on nuclear energy within the LES was approved by 334 votes to 10, with no abstentions. The law had already passed through the upper house.
The nuclear energy amendment states that the government will determine nuclear's share in Spanish generation and also the lifetimes of existing nuclear plants based on a variety of considerations including regulatory requirements for nuclear safety and radiological protection as advised by the Spanish nuclear regulator, plus trends in demand, the development of new technologies, security of supply, costs of electricity production and greenhouse gas emissions.
Previous legislation imposed a 40-year operating life on Spain's nuclear reactors, which would have seen all of Spain's eight operating reactors facing closure between 2011 and 2018. However, in 2009 the Spanish government granted a four-year life extension to the Garona nuclear power plant, extending its life to 42 years and signaling the start of a political shift from earlier plans by the ruling PSOE (Socialist Party) to progressively phase out nuclear.
'Nuclear Danger’ is the message Greenpeace Spain took to the country’s Cofrentes nuclear energy plant on February 15, as activists scaled one of the plant’s cooling towers. Greenpeace are demanding that Spain’s Nuclear Security Council refuse to renew the plant’s permit to operate - which expires on March 19 – because of the extremely poor levels of security at Cofrentes. The aging Cofrentes reactor is in bad shape. It has an endless list of bugs and unresolved security issues. Among the many weaknesses it has identified, Greenpeace has expressed concerns about the fire-fighting systems, access to the control room, the increasing radioactivity received by maintenance workers, and delays in the analysis of events and incidents.
Meanwhile, take a look at the renewable energy sector in Spain. According to a study by the Institute for Energy Diversification and Saving of Energy released in November last year, the number of current direct jobs provided by the renewables industry is more than 75,000. Taking into account the official renewable growth forecast, Spain can expect to see a further 128,000 created by 2020. On the other hand, the nuclear sector in 2005 had just 4,124 employees, of which 52.8% were the permanent staff at nuclear power plants. Spain is a leading nation when it comes to the production of renewable energy. It is showing we can live in a world without nuclear energy.
Sources: Greenpeace.org, 16 February 2011 / World Nuclear News, 17 February 2011.
Contact: Grup de Cientifics i Tecnics per un Futur No Nuclear