Garoña gets nuclear safety approval

08 June 2009

After a favourable report from safety regulators, Spain's Garoña nuclear power plant could operate for another ten years. The final decision, however, lies with the government.


Garona announcement (CSN)
CSN makes its announcement today


In addition to certain monitoring and reporting obligations, the CSN has required a new system for gas treatment in potential accident situations to be installed before the start of a scheduled refuelling stop in 2011. Before refuelling in 2013 the CSN also requires further independence of safety-related electrical systems from others in order to physically separate them by a certain distance in line with current standards. Fire safety systems and equipment should also be improved by that time.

The CSN has also issued technical instructions directing Nuclenor to improve instrumentation for measuring combustible gases within the containment, improve safety for external events such as earthquakes and test emergency diesel generators for a prolonged period at close to their maximum design temperature. As an independent regulator, the CSN also has the right to impose further requirements to maintain nuclear safety as it sees fit.

Unanimous agreement was found by Spain's Nuclear Safety Council (Consejo de Seguridad Nuclear, CSN) after six sessions of study. The body concluded that plant owner and operator, Nuclenor, had fully implemented a work program to manage the ageing of the 446 MWe boiling water reactor, which was constructed in the late 1960s.


The CSN has sent a proposal to Miguel Sebastián's Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Trade for an extended period of power generation at Garoña 'subject to limits and conditions on nuclear safety and radiation protection.' The proposal contains a number of improvements it requires to be made at Garoña over the next four years.


The Spanish Nuclear Industry Forum, Foro Nuclear, said it 'trusts the government's decision is consistent with this pronouncement in the absence of economic, technical, environmental or security facts that might advise a contrary decision.' It noted that Nuclenor had invested €155 million ($214 million) in modernizing Garoña.


Spain has held an anti-nuclear stance since the early 1980s, with the longstanding moratorium meaning that no new reactors may be built while existing units should shut down at the end of their operating licenses. This saw the 142 MWe Zorita reactor shut in 2006, while nuclear power continues to supply around 20% of Spain's electricity, due in part to a program to boost the performance of the current eight reactors.


In the meantime, the country has had success with renewables deployment and claims to be on schedule to supply 20% of end-use electricity from renewable sources by 2020. The figure for low-carbon generation could therefore be over 40% in the 2020s should nuclear be permitted to continue. Otherwise, six reactors' operating licenses expire in that decade.


The Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Trade is to announce its decision on Garoña by 5 July.