Wednesday, November 30

The Government finally rules out building a single warehouse to store nuclear waste

The Government finally rules out the option of a single centralized temporary warehouse (ATC) to store nuclear power plant waste and opts to distribute the radioactive waste in seven different locations, one for each nuclear power plant.

The fine that France has charged Spain since 2017 for storing its nuclear waste already exceeds 110 million

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The Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge has announced on Tuesday night that it has requested the Nuclear Safety Council (CSN) the report on the 7th General Radioactive Waste Plan (PGRR) provided for in the Law on nuclear energy, as well as the report of the autonomous communities in terms of land planning and the environment.

The plan is the instrument to establish the policy on radioactive waste management and on the dismantling and decommissioning of nuclear facilities. This document has to replace the waste plan approved in 2006, which has expired since 2010, and which the Government is obliged to update to avoid a fine from the European Commission.

In 2018, after arriving in government, the third vice president and minister for the Ecological Transition, Teresa Ribera, promised to have this plan ready in 2019. She did so shortly after decreeing the paralysis of the controversial ATC that the PP Executive decided build in Villar de Cañas (Cuenca), due to doubts about the land of the chosen site.

Now it is confirmed that the ATC is finally buried. According to the document, during the pleadings process “the difficulties that arise to achieve the necessary degree of social, political and institutional consensus for the construction of a facility of this nature have been revealed, for which it is considered unfeasible to have an ATC” like the one provided for in the previous waste plan and that the PP government tried to set up in that Cuenca municipality when Castilla-La Mancha was governed by the popular María Dolores de Cospedal.

Thus, the new draft contemplates “a reference scenario” that includes the “start-up of seven Decentralized Temporary Warehouses at the plant sites for spent fuel and high-level waste, until its transfer to definitive storage”, a deep geological storage (AGP), “along with their respective complementary facilities or additional measures for the maintenance of spent fuel containers.”

The option of dispersing the waste, more expensive than a single warehouse, was already raised in April together with that of the ATC, by proposing the construction of seven decentralized temporary warehouses (ATD) scattered on the sites of the nuclear power plants: Almaraz (Cáceres), Ascó and Vandellós II (Tarragona), Cofrentes (Valencia), Santa María de Garoña (Burgos), José Cabrera and Trillo (Guadalajara).

Those seven warehouses spread over five Spanish provinces are a more expensive solution than the ATC. In the draft that was published in April, it was estimated that its expected cost for the 2023-2100 period would be 19,234 million euros, compared to the 17,109 million that, according to the document, the ATC alternative would cost. A difference of 2,125 million. Waste management is paid for through a patrimonial benefit paid by electricity companies for their nuclear production.

PGA for 2072

The draft of the plan foresees the “continuity of the actions to expand the capacity of the Individualized Temporary Storages for the spent fuel in the nuclear power plants, which allow its exploitation and its dismantling”. The final step will be to bury the waste in an AGP, “the most sustainable and safe option as the end point of management,” according to the document. Its location would not be decided until 2029-2032, and it would not become operational until 2072.

The new version prepared by the department of Teresa Ribera “is the result of the analysis and takes into consideration the allegations made in the public information and consultation process” to which the initial version was submitted from April 12 to June 16 .

This revised version also includes the cessation of the operation of nuclear power plants between 2027 and 2035, in coherence with the Integrated National Energy and Climate Plan 2021-2030 (PNIEC) and with the Protocol for the orderly cessation of operation of nuclear power plants, signed in March 2019 between the public company Enresa and the electricity companies.

Likewise, the start of the dismantling of the nuclear power plants is foreseen three years after their definitive cessation of operation, “except that of Vandellós I, whose last phase will be executed from 2030”; and the continuity of the operation of the storage center of El Cabril (Córdoba), for very low, low and medium level waste, “until the dismantling of the plants is completed”.

Once the reports are received, the ministry will prepare the final proposal for the 7th GRWP, which will be sent to the environmental body so that it can formulate the Strategic Environmental Declaration. Finally, it will be approved by the Council of Ministers and will subsequently be reported to the Cortes Generales and the European Commission, in compliance with the Radioactive Waste Management Directive.

The report requested from the CSN on the revised version of the 7th GRWP is independent of the binding reports related to nuclear safety, radiological protection and physical protection, which the CSN must issue prior to the authorizations that MITECO grants for the exercise of Enresa’s activities contemplated in the 7th PGRR.

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