You are here

Spain: large anti-nuclear campaigns after Fukushima

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Grup de Cientifics I Tecnics per un Futur No Nuclear

Fukushima has had a big impact in Spain, mainly in Catalonia, as this country is one of the most nuclearized countries of the world. In 2010, almost 50% of all the generated electricity in Catalonia was nuclear. The main issue is the extension of operational licenses of several reactors.

Despite the lack of serious information about the Fukushima nuclear accident in the main media, a coalition of antinuclear Catalan groups just after the Fukushima accident called for a sit-in in front of the Catalan government and City Council main buildings (17 March 2011). Also they succeed in organizing a big march (supported by more than 100 environmental, political, social and solidarity organisations), on Sunday 5 June 2011, the World Environment Day, from the Spanish Government Delegation building in Barcelona to the Endesa main office in the city. The Spanish Socialist Party won the elections with the commitment to establish a timetable to shutdown the nuclear reactors, but at present nothing has been decided and the only nuclear decision has been to extend the life of the oldest nuclear reactor operating in Spain (Santa María de Garoña, GE BWR, similar to Fukushima number 1 unit).

Endesa was the former public utility that was privatized by the conservative government in 1998 and is now owned by Enel. Endesa, as public utility, played a main role in late seventies and early eighties buying shares of many Spanish private utilities engaged in building nuclear power plants that experienced big financial problems. And now Endesa owns 45.3% of all the nuclear power capacity in Spain (Iberdrola 44,9%, GasNatural Fenosa 7.5% and HC 2.1%). The antinuclear Barcelona march was attended by many thousands of people from all ages, showing a 250 square meter banner (15x15m) with a gigantic Smiling Sun logo.

The antinuclear march was a big success because since November 1989, just after the serious accident that Vandellos I reactor experienced on October of that year, not one antinuclear demonstration had been organized any place in Spain. Only the Barcelona based Group of Scientists and Technicians for a Non Nuclear Future (founded in Barcelona at the end of 1980 and registered as NGO just after the Chernobyl accident) was able to organize an annual event called the Catalan Conference for a Future Without Nuclear Power (since 1992 it was renamed as Catalan Conference for a Sustainable Energy Future Without Nuclear Power). During the last edition of the conference (the 25th) two main energy studies were presented: the SolarCat and the SosTec, the first showing two scenarios on how Catalonia could have a 100% renewable electricity system between 2030 and 2045 and the second exploring how to shutdown the three remaining nuclear reactors operating in Catalonia before 2020. As invited guests, Walt Patterson (author of many books on energy) and Javier García Breva (former IDAE director and now chairman of Renewables Foundation) were able to give lectures.

To understand the success of the present antinuclear events it is necessary to remember that on occasion of the 20th anniversary of Chernobyl accident (2006) in Barcelona a big antinuclear music festival around Earth Day was organized. In Barcelona, Catalonia Earth Day is organizing since 1996, an annual Earth Fair and the last editions of the Earth Fair were attended by 100.000 people). Also, in 2010, at the same event, a successful demonstration was organized to show the rejection of the proposal of the Spanish Government plans to build a Nuclear Waste Centralised Storage facility. Many thousands of people with antinuclear face-masks, showed the opposition to the project. And a few weeks before the June 5 march, another massive antinuclear event during the Earth Fair was organized and attended by many thousands of people.

After the Fukushima nuclear disaster other antinuclear demonstrations were organised in Madrid (8 May, supported by 27 political, social and environmental organisations) and Bilbao (Basque Country, 23 June, supported by 20 social and environmental organisations).

On July 26, 2010 the Spanish government renewed the operational license of Vandellòs 2 nuclear reactor until 2020. On March 10, 2011 (one day before Fukushima) it did the same with Cofrentes nuclear reactor, renewing the operational license until 2021. Next October 1, 2011 the operational license of Ascó nuclear plant (with two reactors, Ascó 1 and Ascó 2) will end. Now there is a strong campaign to ask the Spanish government not to renew the Ascó operational license because it is the nuclear plant experiencing almost 50% of all the nuclear irregular events in Spain. Last July 22, 2011 the Catalan Parliament rejected a proposal introduced by ‘Solidaritat Catalana per a la Independència’ (a coalition of 5 political parties, including the Catalan green party ‘Els Verds – Alternativa Verda’), supported by the Socialist Party (PSC), the Republican Party (ERC) and the leftist party (ICV-EUA) asking the Catalan government to address a petition to the Spanish Government in order not to renew the operational license of Ascó, until the nuclear power plant will succeed with the stress tests adopted after the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe. The majority of votes from the Catalan center-rigth party CiU (ruling at present the Catalan government) with the support of the Spanish rightist party PP rejected the proposal, showing clearly their support for the nuclear industry.

Source and contact: Group of Scientists and Technicians for a Non Nuclear Future, Tanquem les Nuclears, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain.