MADRID – The Spanish government announced on Tuesday the closure and future dismantling of Spain’s oldest nuclear reactor, which has remained offline since 2012 after its reactivation was discarded due to its little impact on the overall Spanish power grid, the political and financial uncertainties surrounding it and the large investment required to make it become operational again.
During a press conference, the Spanish Energy Minister, Alvaro Nadal, announced the ministerial decree turning down its license renewal which he added would be signed “immediately.”
The nuclear power reactor Santa Maria de Garoña, located in the province of Burgos (Northern Spain) is composed of a single 466 megawatts boiling water reactor (BWR) that opened in 1970.
Back then, the closure of this reactor became one of the leading battle cries of Spain’s budding anti-nuclear movement.
There is also a “clear political opposition” among leading Spanish political parties to bring the reactor back to life, according to the energy minister.
Last February, the Spanish Nuclear Security Council approved a favorable report on its re-opening so long as the plant-operating company agreed to a series of security-upgrading investments on the reactor.
The Garoña facility is currently owned by Nuclenor, a company shared 50-50 by Spain’s Endesa and Iberdrola power utility companies.
Endesa assured on Tuesday it respected a decision taken by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s government not to go ahead with its reactivation and it would abide by and proceed with its dismantlement.
In September 2012, Nuclenor decided not to pursue extending its power generating license till 2019, based on financial concerns such as the massive investments required for its continued operation and the new Spanish taxes on spent nuclear fuel.
The reactor was switched off-grid by Nuclenor on December 2012.
However, the company changed its mind in 2013 and asked the government to keep it operating until 2031.
The Spanish energy minister explained that the reactor’s final dismantling would take between 13-16 years and that the government’s decision on this specific case would not apply to the remaining Spanish nuclear power stations.
There are currently five nuclear power plants operational in Spain, totaling seven reactors plus another two in the dismantling phase (Vandellos and Jose Cabrera power plants) that soon will be joined by the Garoña power plant.