Spain selects site for waste storage

03 January 2012

Villar de Cañas has won the right to host a storage facility for Spain's used nuclear fuel and help fill a gap in the country's nuclear power framework. The region will benefit from the creation of up to 500 construction jobs and then skilled work for around 60 years.


The small town in central Cuenca province was among 14 localities that declared individual interest at the end of 2009 in having the storage facility. Eight of these applications were formally accepted and, although all were declared technically suitable, it was Villar de Cañas that was officially selected on 30 December 2011.


Villar de Canas
How the facility and its auxiliary buildings could look


The interministerial commission responsible considered Villar de Cañas to have 'very good' credentials in terms of geology, seismology, meteorology, hydrology, site geometry and risk in relation to local population centres. The government noted the social situation in Villar de Cañas would be improved by the addition of new highly skilled jobs from the storage site and accompanying technology centre. Between 300 and 500 workers will be needed during a five-year construction period. The €700 million ($910 million) project will be managed by Enresa and is expected to operate for 60 years.


Garoña on the agenda


Spain's new government, elected in November, has begun to think again about the controversial shutdown date for the Garoña nuclear power plant.


Safety regulators said the plant was fit to operate until 2019 subject to certain upgrades, but the previous minister of industry, energy and tourism granted a licence only to 2013. This may now be reviewed, the new minister Jose Manuel Soria said in a radio interview: "The People's Party doesn't want to underutilize any sources of energy, especially nuclear because there are eight nuclear reactors, which according to the Nuclear Safety Council could still continue providing energy for a determined amount of time."

Nuclear ppower has the advantages of generating huge volumes of electricity while keeping its wastes in a solid form within the plant. Of these wastes, the most serious in terms of safe management is the used nuclear fuel that contains some 99% of the radioactivity.


The facility at Villar de Cañas will accept transport casks of used nuclear fuel assemblies or vitrified wastes that are currently stored at each of Spain's nuclear power plants. These items will be removed and placed in smaller containers for placement in a dry store cooled by the passive circulation of air. The facility is modeled on the successful HABOG plant that fulfills the same role in the Netherlands.


Bringing about a permanent disposal route for used fuel and high-level waste is a political challenge that has yet to be fully met in any nuclear-powered country, but the assurance of proper storage for decades to come brings valuable environmental and industrial certainty. Speaking for Foro Nuclear, the Spanish nuclear trade body, Maria Teresa Dominguez called the interim store a "key element for energy strategy."


Researched and written
by World Nuclear News