You are here

Nuclear News

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Spain: Garoña plant closer to definitive end?
The nuclear power plant of Garoña (Burgos), the oldest of the Spanish nuclear plants, is a hostage of its owner Enterprise Nuclenor (itself owned by the large enterprises ENDESA and Iberdrola). Garoña, whose reactor is identical to Fukushima Daiichi reactor #1, has been used by the Spanish nuclear lobby to press on the Government.

The first part of this struggle, until December 2012, was public and Nuclenor used Garoña to try to stop the new Law on Fiscal Measures that introduced a tax on the spent fuel of Spanish nuclear power plants. The amount of this tax could be of the order of 1.6 euro-cents per kWh. As it was ordered by the European Commission, the tax was not modified and therefore Nuclenor decided to stop the plant and to put all the uranium into the spent fuel pool on 28 December 2012. So Garoña is now stopped with all the fuel in the pool.

The second part of the argument has been hidden and the citizens have had no information on the discussions. We know that the Industry Minister is preparing a new law covering the electricity sector but we do not know if any of the proposals of the large Spanish electrical enterprises will be taken into account. It is clear, nevertheless, that something has happened since Nuclenor surprisingly asked the Minister to keep Garoña 'frozen' for one more year, thus allowing for the possibility of restarting the plant.

This happened on May 24, only one month and ten days before the definitive closure of Garoña. Minister Soria decided to pass the request directly to the Spanish Regulator, the Consejo de Seguridad Nuclear (CSN). The CSN was heavily pressured by the nuclear lobby and approved an extension of Garoña's licence for one year. Three CSN members voted for the extension, two voted against.

This has damaged CSN's reputation, since it appears as a puppet that is able to approve a request in a very short time under pressure from the nuclear enterprises. Moreover, the CSN gave a new type of authorisation to keep the plant in its present status, with the fuel in the pool, but without starting the decommissioning.

The main spokespeople from Iberdrola, ENDESA and Unesa have been making public declarations that Garoña cannot stop or the investments of these enterprises will move from Spain to other countries like the US if they are not guaranteed by the new law under preparation. The CSN appears ready to accept the schedule imposed by the nuclear lobby.

Once the CSN has given its permission, the Government has only to issue an Order that allows Nuclenor to ask for the prolongation of the life of Garoña. This should have been published before June 6, that is the last day to start studying the documents issued by the CSN to proceed to the definitive stop of Garoña. Strange things happened again, since the Government did not publish such an order! So the CSN sent the documents related to the closure of the plant. Only a very strange and scandalous legal manoeuvre by the Government could avoid the definitive closure of Garoña.

We have a strange contradictory feeling now. On one hand, we are happy since we are closer to the end of this dangerous nuclear plant. On the other hand we have seen how the nuclear lobby is able to modify Government decisions and to press strongly on the regulator. Meanwhile, the public has been excluded from the debate. We would like to start thinking of future development of the area without Garoña.

− Francisco Castejón, Ecologistas en Acción, Spain


UNSCEAR Fukushima propaganda
Since the last issue of the Monitor, the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effect of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) has published a media release, based on an as-yet unpublished report, trivialising the long-term cancer death toll from the Fukushima nuclear disaster. UNSCEAR states in its May 31 media release that: "It is unlikely to be able to attribute any health effects in the future among the general public and the vast majority of workers."

That tells us nothing we didn't already know: epidemiological studies are unlikely to produce statistically-significant results given the high incidence of cancers in the general population. As discussed in Nuclear Monitor #758 (15 March 2013, available at, early estimates of the long-term cancer death toll range from 130 to 3,000.

The media release says that actions taken to protect the public (evacuation and sheltering) significantly reduced radiation exposures. Wolfgang Weiss from UNSCEAR said: "These measures reduced the potential exposure by up to a factor of 10. If that had not been the case, we might have seen the cancer rates rising and other health problems emerging over the next several decades." Weiss's statement falsely implies that cancer rates will not rise due to Fukushima fallout.

Carl-Magnus Larsson, chair of UNSCEAR, said: "Families are suffering, and people have been uprooted and are concerned about their livelihoods and futures, the health of their children ... it is these issues that will be the long-lasting fallout of the accident." Again, the implication seems to be that radiation exposure is not an issue. Larsson's statement is also an invitation to nuclear apologists and propagandists to trot out tired old lies about how the problem is not radiation itself but fear of radiation. Responding to the UNSCEAR media release, a World Nuclear News item was titled: 'Fear and Stress Outweigh Fukushima Radiation Risk'.

The UNSCEAR media release has still more to offer nuclear apologists and propagandists, noting that additional exposures received by most Japanese people from Fukushima fallout are less than the doses received from natural background radiation. That is certainly true, but UNSCEAR should note that radiation doses below background levels can cause cancer. A 2010 UNSCEAR report states that "even at low doses of radiation it is likely that there is a very small but non-zero chance of the production of DNA mutations that increase the risk of cancer developing. Thus, the current balance of available evidence tends to favour a non-threshold response for the mutational component of radiation-associated cancer induction at low doses and low dose rates."

The 31 May 2013 UNSCEAR media release is posted at
The 2010 UNSCEAR report is posted at
For useful background to UNSCEAR's latest jiggery-pokery, see Dr Ian Fairlie's 25 February 2013 web-post, 'UNSCEAR Attempt to Limit Collective Dose Assessments from Fukushima's Fallout', posted at


USA: San Onofre reactors permanently shut down
Both reactors at the San Onofre nuclear power plant in California are being retired after a long battle. "We have concluded that the continuing uncertainty about when or if San Onofre might return to service was not good for our customers, our investors or the need to plan for our region's long-term electricity needs," said Ted Craver from Edison International - the parent company of San Onofre owners Southern California Edison (SCE).

In January 2012, a fault in one of two new steam generators installed as part of an uprate program of reactor #3 resulted in an automatic shut down when radioactive material was detected coming from a worn tube in the steam generator. Reactor #2 was kept off-line after a maintenance outage because it shares the same steam generator design and also suffered from tube wear and vibration issues to a lesser degree.

A review process by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, incomplete after eight months, will presumably be discontinued in light of the decision by Edison / SCE. The two reactors have licences to operate until 2022.

A well-organised local, state and national campaign fought against the restart of the reactors. Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth US, said: "This is very good news for the people of Southern California. We have long said that these reactors are too dangerous to operate and now Edison has agreed. The people of California now have the opportunity to move away from the failed promise of dirty and dangerous nuclear power and replace it with the safe and clean energy provided by the sun and the wind."

The two reactors — situated along the Pacific Coast in the densely populated corridor between San Diego and Los Angeles — are the largest to shut down permanently in the US in the past 50 years. San Onofre's two reactors are the third and fourth reactors to be retired so far this year in the US − Dominion shut its reactor in Wisconsin in May because of unfavourable economics, and Duke said in February that it would not restart Crystal River 3 because mechanical problems were too expensive to fix.

In other shut-downs over the years, the Shoreham plant in New York was completed in 1984 for US$6 billion but never opened because of community opposition. Decaying generator tubes helped push San Onofre's original reactor into retirement in 1992, even though it was designed to run until 2004. In 1993, the Trojan plant in Oregon was closed years earlier than planned because of cracks in steam tubes.

World Nuclear News, Regulatory delay closes San Onofre, 7 June 2013,
Timeline: San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station
Friends of the Earth to NRC: Operating San Onofre as a Nuclear Experiment Is Not an Option,
San Onofre insider says NRC should not allow nuclear restart,
San Onofre Nuclear Plant at the Brink,

Santa Maria de GaronaSan Onofre 2San Onofre 1San Onofre 3