Almaraz gets ten more years

09 June 2010

The operating licence of the two-unit Almaraz nuclear power plant in the Cáceres province of western Spain has been renewed for a further ten years following governmental approval.


Plant operator Centrales Nucleares Almaraz-Trillo (CNAT) announced that it had received notification from the Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Commerce that it had approved the licence extension.


Almaraz 1 and 2 (CNAT)
Almaraz, cleared for another ten years' operation (Image: CNAT)


Spanish nuclear safety regulators - the Nuclear Safety Council, (Consejo de Seguridad Nuclear, CSN) - submitted a report to the ministry at the end of April approving the plant’s continued operation.


In its report, the CSN said it had verified the plant owners - Iberdrola, 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.'


The CSN compiled 61 'specialized technical reports' on the status of the plant and carried out 297 inspections. It had also evaluated about 100 operational reports from plant staff.


With the approval of the licence extension, Almaraz managers are 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.


Almaraz features two Westinghouse pressurized water reactors brought into commercial operation in 1981 and 1984. They both produce about 950 MWe for the central-western portion of the country.


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 eight operating nuclear power reactors generate about one-fifth of the country's electricity. The period of operation of Spain's reactors has no fixed term. Operating licences are renewed periodically after the evaluation of the CSN and approval by the ministry.


Researched and written

by World Nuclear News