New lease of life for Garoña

03 July 2012

Citing the plant's low-carbon power production and economic contribution, the Spanish government has wiped away a previous ruling to close the Garoña nuclear power plant in July 2013 - opening the possibility for it to operate until 2019.

Plant owner and operator Nuclenor welcomed the revocation of the previous government's order, saying it "fully incorporates" the opinion of the Nuclear Safety Council (Consejo de Seguridad Nuclear, CSN) which concluded there was no safety reason the plant couldn't continue generating power for a few more years.

Nuclenor said it will now "assume with determination, professionalism and enthusiasm the challenge of proving that Santa Maria de Garoña deserves to continue operating on its own merits." The company is a joint venture of Endesa and Iberdrola. It now has until 6 September to apply to the CSN for a new operating license that could run to 2019.

Garona worker (Nuclenor) 460x120
Garoña workers and their families can look forward to a few more years of employment

The decision, published in the official state bulletin today, said Spain's dependence on imported energy meant that supplies must be diversified to use all available sources. It noted that "nuclear energy contributes significantly to the diversification."

Furthermore, the plant is a significant factor in the economy of the northern Burgos region, where trade association Foro Nuclear said it directly supports 1500 families and contributes about €355 million ($446 million) per year through procurement, contracting, employment and taxes. The government said this economic factor "deserves special consideration, given the current economic climate."

ForoNuclear president Maria Teresa Dominguez said the decision was the right one, because it was based on rational arguments and consistent with the government's overall energy policy.

The previous ruling that Garoña could operate only until July 2013 came in contrast to the CSN's opinion at the time, which specified clearly that the plant was suitable to operate for at least ten years after 2009, given certain engineering improvements. The selection of a short licence was made in 2009 by the previous government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, which until February 2011 adhered to the concept of 40 years as a reference lifespan for a nuclear reactor.

Having generated its first power in 1966, Garoña is the oldest of Spain's nuclear power plants. It is a 466 MWe boiling water reactor that to date has produced over 131 billion kWh.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News