Spanish regulator sets conditions for Garoña restart

31 July 2014

The operator of Spain's Garoña nuclear power plant, Nuclenor, has until the end of September to provide a schedule to meet a series of requirements set by the country's nuclear regulator for its restart.

Garona 460 (Foronuclear)
The Garoña plant near Burgos in northern Spain (Image: Foronuclear)

At its meeting on 30 July, the Nuclear Safety Council (Consejo de Seguridad Nuclear, CSN) voted in favour of issuing a complementary technical instruction to Nuclenor on documentation and additional requirements associated with its operating licence renewal application for the Garoña plant.

The new technical instruction sets out requirements grouped into eight specific areas. Among these are those associated with the current situation of cessation of operation; those related to long-term operation; and, inspections and tests on the reactor vessel. The CSN has also included design modifications based on lessons learned from the 2011 Fukushima accident and the subsequent European stress tests.

The CSN said that a number of these requirements call for an analysis of the results of inspections or the implementation of design modifications before it will allow fuel to be loaded into Garoña.

Among the most important requirements is that Nuclenor conducts inspections on the functionality and structural integrity of Garoña's reactor vessel and its components. The CSN said this is to ensure the vessel has no manufacturing defects similar to those found at two units in Belgium. The operator must also implement a program for inspecting and monitoring penetrations in the lower part of the reactor vessel, where the guide tubes of the control rod drive mechanism are located.

To meet post-Fukushima requirements, the CSN has also required Nuclenor to install a filtered venting system in Garoña's containment, as well as installing a hydrogen recombining system in its reactor building. As with other Spanish nuclear power plants, an alternative emergency management centre must also be established at Garoña.

The CSN has also stated that Nuclenor must carry out modifications identified as part of a periodic safety review in 2009 but not implemented due to the plant's subsequent closure. These include the installation of a system to treat and control radioactive gases within plant areas in the event of an accident; improved independence of equipment and wiring for safety and non-safety system; and improved fire protection systems.

The regulator has requested that Nuclenor submits a timetable by 30 September for when it anticipates meeting each of its requirements.

Restart effort

In September 2012, Nuclenor - a joint venture of Endesa and Iberdrola - missed the deadline to submit an operating licence renewal application for Garoña meaning that it had to shut by the time its licence expired on 6 July 2013. However, the reactor was closed in mid-December 2012 to avoid a full year of retroactive tax charges for which Nuclenor would have been liable if it was operating on 1 January 2013.

Early this year, industry succeeded in lobbying for regulatory changes that made it possible for a reactor closed for reasons unrelated to safety or radiological protection to be granted a new operating licence within 12 months of its shutdown. Nuclenor submitted a licence renewal application for Garoña to the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism on 27 May, requesting a licence for Garoña to operate until 2031. The ministry subsequently forwarded this to CSN for evaluation.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News