The Spanish government has ratified a law removing a statutory 40-year limit on nuclear power plant operating life.
|Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero attended the vote (Image: La Moncloa)
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.
Specifically, 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 signalling the start of a political shift from earlier plans by the ruling PSOE (Socialist Party) to progressively phase out nuclear.
The decision to abandon the arbitrary life limit was greeted by Foratom, the European nuclear energy's trade association, as confirmatory of the "subtle but significant" shift away from a Spanish nuclear phase-out policy. "The recommendation ... illustrates the growing political consensus in Spain that extending the operational duration of its nuclear power plants is essential if the country is to ensure continued security of energy supply and fulfil its CO2 reduction commitments," the organisation said in a statement.
Spain's own Foro Nuclear said the new law should provide a predictable and stable regulatory framework, which would include all technologies and energy sources.
Spanish second vice-president Elena Salgado expressed great satisfaction at the approval of the law, saying it would provide "the foundation for an economy that is more concerned about the environment and more innovative". The law will come into force following its publication in Spain's Official State Gazette.
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News