Ministry upholds Berkeley licence denial

08 February 2023

Spain's Ministry for Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge (MITECO) has upheld its refusal to authorise Berkeley Energia to build a uranium processing plant at the company's Salamanca project in western Spain.

The Salamanca project in western Spain (Image: Berkeley Energia)

In November 2021, MITECO rejected Berkeley's application following an unfavourable report for the granting of the Authorisation for Construction for the plant as a radioactive facility - known as NSC II - which was issued by Spain's Nuclear Safety Council (Consejo De Seguridad Nuclear, CSN) in July of that year. Later the same month, Berkeley submitted a supplementary Improvement Report and corresponding arguments addressing all the issues raised by the CSN and requested a reassessment. Further documentation was submitted to MITECO in early August 2021, when the company again restated the project's compliance with all requirements for the NSC II to be awarded.

Berkeley considered MITECO had rejected its NSC II application "without following legally established procedure", including taking into account the company's Improvement Report which supplemented its initial NSC II application. Berkeley submitted an administrative appeal against MITECO's decision under Spanish law in December 2021.

The company said it has now has received formal notification from MITECO that it has rejected its administrative appeal.

"MITECO has not only infringed regulations on administrative procedures in Spain but also under protection afforded to Berkeley under the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT), which would imply that the decision on the rejection of the company's NSC II application is not legal," Berkeley said.

The company submitted a written notification of an investment dispute to Spain's Prime Minister and MITECO in November 2022. This notification, Berkeley noted, is necessary to preserve its rights to initiate international arbitration should the dispute not be satisfactorily resolved.

However, the company said it has informed the Spanish government that it "is prepared to collaborate and remains hopeful that the dispute can be resolved amicably through prompt negotiations" to overturn the rejection of NSC II.

"To date, the company has received no correspondence from the Kingdom of Spain or MITECO in relation to the investment dispute," it added.

The Salamanca project has 59.8 million pounds U3O8 (23,000 tU) of measured and indicated resources as well as inferred resources of 29.6 million pounds of U3O8. According to a definitive feasibility study published by Berkeley in 2016, it would be capable of producing an average of 4.4 million pounds of uranium per year at a cash cost of USD13.30 per pound over an initial ten-year period.

Initial on-site infrastructure work began in 2016, and work began on road realignment and a power line upgrade ahead of main construction. The Municipality of Retortillo in 2020 issued Berkeley Energia a land use permit, known as an Urbanism Licence, for construction works at the project, leaving the NSC II as the only outstanding approval required for full construction to begin.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News