Spanish site suitable for waste store

28 July 2015

Spain's nuclear regulator has concluded that Villar de Cañas is a suitable site for a national high-level waste storage facility. However, it has requested additional technical studies and reports.

Villar de Canas
How the Villar de Cañas facility could look (Image: Enresa)

In a meeting yesterday, the Nuclear Safety Council (Consejo de Seguridad Nuclear, CSN) agreed - with four votes in favour and one against - in approving a report which says that the small town of Villar de Cañas in central Cuenca province is a suitable site for the facility.

The CSN's report concludes that the site "is justified and needs are adequately covered" as stipulated under the Sixth General Radioactive Waste Plan, approved in June 2006. That plan sets the national policy and strategy for the management of radioactive waste and used fuel and says that the construction of a temporary storage facility for intermediate- and high-level waste, as well as used fuel, is a priority.

From the point of view of safety, the CSN said, the suitability of the Villar de Cañas site "refers to the set of terrain features and design engineering barriers common in the nuclear world, where safety is guaranteed'. It added, 'The technical evaluation noted that the proposed site has no exclusive phenomena."

The CSN said that, pursuant to regulations on nuclear and radioactive facilities, "prior authorization or official recognition that a chosen site is considered suitable" allows the licensee - in this case Spanish decommissioning firm Enresa - to begin preliminary works while the regulatory approval process continues. This includes building external infrastructure such as access to roads to the site.

The CSN will now submit its report to the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism, which has the final say on whether a licence for the facility can be issued. However, the regulator has requested that more technical studies and analyses are conducted before making its final decision.

Villar de Cañas was officially selected as the location of the storage facility in December 2011. Thirteen other localities had also declared individual interest at the end of 2009 in hosting the facility.

The facility 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 will provide storage for some 12,816 cubic metres of waste for 60 years, by which time a repository for permanent disposal should be available.

In January, Tecnatom and Gas Natural Fenosa won a €3.1 million ($3.6 million) contract from Enresa to provide engineering design support for the facility.

Antonio Cornadó, president of the Spanish nuclear industry forum Foronuclear, said: "The centralization of the temporary management of used fuel from Spanish nuclear power plants is an important step for the Spanish nuclear program, and is in line with the strategies that have been internationally adopted. He added, "Its construction and launch is an opportunity for the Spanish industry, which has the technological capacity to completely carry out this project."

The Spanish facility is modelled on the successful HABOG plant that fulfils the same role in the Netherlands.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News