Spanish nuclear safety regulators have approved ten more years of operation for the Almaraz power plant. The final decision, however, rests with the government.
The Nuclear Safety Council, (Consejo de Seguridad Nuclear, CSN) sent its report to the Ministry of Industry Tourism and Commerce on 30 April.
It said it had verified the plant owners - Iberdola, Endesa and Union Fenosa - had kept commitments made at the last extension in 2000 and added that their decision was 'based on checking the proper functioning of the plant and maintaining the appropriate level of security to... meet regulatory requirements more demanding than strictly required by the regulations in force.'
Almaraz features two Westinghouse pressurized water reactors brought into commercial operation in 1983 and 1984. They both produce about 950 MWe for the central-western portion of the country.
The CSN has compiled 61 'specialized technical reports' on the status of the plant and carried out 297 inspections. It has also evaluated about 100 operational reports from plant staff.
If the license extension is approved by ministers, Almaraz managers would be required to make a number of changes to the plant during the next ten years. Listed first were modifications to 'strengthen the guarantees of safe shutdown in case of fire' including installing new alternate shutdown control panels outside the control room. It must also bring in a new fire protection system for certain areas which must be able to withstand earthquakes. Later on new fire regulations will come into force meaning further upgrades and changes to practices.
Also among the CSN's requirements are that ventilation and filtration are improved in plant buildings and new fuel facilities installed to double fuel handing capacity. Electrical systems and instrumentation systems are to have improved physical separation of certain paths, circuits and cables.
Spanish politics has for several years favoured a rapidly expanding renewable energy sector over nuclear, which nevertheless supplies about half the country's low-carbon power. In the past there were policies to gradually end the use of nuclear power, but while this phase-out position has ended there remains very low confidence surrounding the nuclear sector.
In July last year the Garoña nuclear power plant was given regulatory approval to operate until June 2019 but ministers only granted an operating license to 2013. This was called an 'arbitrary act without justification in law' by Garoña owner Nuclenor.
Spain's nuclear trade body Foronuclear called the government's actions a 'grave mistake' and added that Garoña avoided 3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year compared to the grid mix that will replace it. Because Spain is missing its targets under the Kyoto Protocol, the purchase of additional credits will cost the country €60 million ($84 million) per year.
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News