Spanish towns bid to host waste facility

01 February 2010

At least a dozen Spanish towns, most with populations of 500 or less, have submitted bids to host the country's centralized interim high-level waste storage facility. However, regional authorities have said they will oppose many of the bids.


By the 30 January deadline, bids had been received from three towns already hosting nuclear facilities: Ascó, home of the operating Ascó nuclear power plant near Tarragona; Yebra, near the decommissioned Zorita nuclear plant in Guadalajara province; and Zarra near Valencia. In addition, several small towns also submitted bids: Albala (Caceres); Congosto de Valdavia (Planecia); Melgar de Arriba (Valladolid); Santervas de Campos (Valladolid); Santiuste de San Juan Bautista (Segovia); Torrubia de Soria (Soria); Villar de Canas (Cuenca); and Villar del Pozo (Ciudad Real).


Since 1983 Spain's policy has been for an open nuclear fuel cycle with no reprocessing and the plan for used fuel envisages initial on-site storage at each reactor for ten years. Some temporary storage for dry casks is also envisaged at Trillo up to 2010 and establishment of a longer-term centralised facility from then. Meanwhile, research will progress on deep geological disposal as well as transmutation, with a decision on disposal to be made after 2010. Granite, clay and salt formations are under consideration.


In mid-2006, the Spanish parliament approved Enresa's plans to develop a temporary central nuclear waste storage facility by 2010, and the Spanish regulator, the Nuclear Safety Council (Consejo de Seguridad Nuclear, CSN) approved the design, which is similar to the Habog facility in the Netherlands. In December 2009, the government called for municipalities to volunteer to host this €700 million ($975 million) facility for high-level wastes and used fuel. The government offered to pay up to €7.8 million ($10.8 million) annually once the facility is operational. Designed for 100 years, it is to hold 6700 tonnes of used fuel and 2600 m3 of intermediate-level wastes, plus 12 m3 of high-level waste from after the reprocessing of fuel from Vandellos 1. The facility is to be built in three stages, each taking five years.


Despite the many bids to host the waste storage facility, regional authorities in Spain have substantial autonomy from the central government and many have said they will try to block bids to site the project within or near them.


The mayor of Santiuste de San Juan Bautista (Segovia), Octavio Carmelo Esteban Fernández has already asked to withdraw the municipality's bid to host the radioactive waste storage facility. She said that although the bid had been approved by a majority vote by the council on 29 January, there had been no consultation with the neighbouring regions or the inhabitants of the area. Due to the opposition voiced since the bid was announced, the town now wants to retract its bid, she said.


Jose Maria Barreda, head of the Castilla-La Mancha regional government in the central-southern region of Spain, has ordered his legal team to study the legality of lodging an appeal against two small councils in the region who have tendered bids. He told Reuters: "I am willing to take every political, social and legal measure, whatever it takes..."
Meanwhile, Jose Montilla Barreda, who heads the northeastern Catalonia government, said he opposes a bid by Ascó to host the facility. Also, Jose Antonio de Santiago-Juarez, the head of the northerly Castilla-Leon region has said that he would only approve one of the three bids in that region if the central government reverses a decision taken in 2009 to close the local Garoña nuclear power plant in 2013.


Researched and written

by World Nuclear News