Spain’s new government will ask nuclear regulators for advice on the continued operation of the Garoña nuclear power plant, which was dealt an arbitrarily short operating licence by the previous administration.
The Spanish cabinet revoked an order from 2009 that set July 2013 as the latest time that Garoña may be used for power generation. The next step is for the Nuclear Safety Council (Consejo de Seguridad Nuclear, CSN) to consider the technical possibilities for longer operation and what technical improvements it may require. The Spanish government is expected to order this work imminently.
It was in 2009 that Garoña’s last operating licence expired, and at that time the CSN’s report to government said there were no barriers to operation up to 2019, although it did specify certain upgrades it wanted to see made during refuelling outages scheduled for 2011 and 2013.
Under Spanish law, decisions on nuclear operation are taken by the Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Trade. Currently holding this portfolio within government is Jose Manuel Soria, part of the People’s Party that took power in November. In a recent radio interview he said, “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 CSN could still continue providing energy for a determined amount of time.”
Nuclenor, the owner and operator of the Garoña plant, welcomed the moves by government, saying it would “ensure the technical criteria of the CSN are the ones that determine the future of the facility.” It noted that the CSN was the “only body competent in this matter.”
The CSN said it would consider a new licensing request for Garona, should the order come from government, taking into account the improvements set out as a result of the stress test exercise led by the European Commission.
Garoña is a 446 MWe boiling water reactor that was constructed in the late 1960s.