Spanish utility Nuclenor has begun shutting down the Garoña nuclear power plant, which was due to close in mid-2013. The company said that closing the plant now will avoid it being burdened with a new energy tax set to be imposed next year.
Garoña – Spain’s oldest nuclear power plant – was disconnected from the grid at 10.57pm yesterday. Work has begun on the gradual removal of fuel from the reactor’s core and its transfer to the plant’s storage pool. Nuclenor operates Garona – a 466 MWe boiling water reactor – on behalf of plant owners Iberdrola and Endesa.
Nuclenor’s board of directors took the decision to close the plant by the end of this year on 14 December, the day after Spain’s senate approved a draft of a bill for tax measures for sustainable energy, part of the country’s energy reform bill. These taxes will be imposed on the production of electricity and used nuclear fuel.
The company said that it has analysed economic and legal reports compiled on its behalf by independent experts and concluded that, if the bill is passed as drafted, the Garoña plant would face additional taxes in 2013 of €153 million ($201 million). These, it claims, “would increase current economic losses at Nuclenor to the point where it would have to consider dissolution and bankruptcy.” Nuclenor said that it took the decision to shut Garoña now “in order to guarantee that the company can continue to respond to its obligations to its workers and suppliers.”
However, the company noted that its decision to end operation of Garoña could be reversed if the bill is not enacted, or if it is, various conditions are imposed which substantially change the bill compared to how it currently stands. The bill is set to be discussed in the House of Representatives this week.
In September 2012, Nuclenor missed the deadline to submit an operating licence renewal application for the Garoña plant, meaning that it would have to shut when its current licence expires in July 2013. The company said that the government had failed to inform it of how pending energy reforms would affect the plant’s economic feasibility. Nuclenor said that it made several requests to the industry ministry to either extend the deadline for the application submission or to provide details about the planned energy reforms. It said these would have “cleared up the regulatory doubts that surround the future of the Garoña plant so as to be able to make a decision to justify the return of investment that would be required.” Some €120 million ($153 million) of investments would also be required in modernization and safety upgrades at Garoña to continue its operation.