Friday, May 20

The Government opens the door to distribute the temporary storage of nuclear waste in seven locations

The Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge proposes the implementation of a single centralized temporary warehouse (ATC) to store high-level nuclear waste or, as an alternative, build seven decentralized temporary warehouses (ATD) scattered in 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).

These are the two alternatives that are included in the proposal for the seventh General Radioactive Waste Plan that the Ministry for Ecological Transition has just put out for consultation. These solutions would be the previous step to the definitive storage of spent fuel and high-level waste in a deep geological repository (AGP) as of 2073. The selection process for that definitive underground repository would not begin until 2029, according to the proposal published this monday.

Teresa Ribera’s department has started the public information procedure for the document, the first version of which was published by the public company Enresa in March 2020, as soon as confinement was decreed.

This plan has to replace the waste plan approved in 2006, which has expired since 2010. In 2018, after coming to government, Ribera promised to have it ready in 2019. He did so shortly after ordering the suspension of the controversial ATC that the PP executive decided to build in Villar de Cañas (Cuenca), due to doubts about the land of the chosen site.

The document published this Monday raises the start-up of these temporary warehouses or ATD, which, emphasizes the ministry, must have a complementary facility for maintenance operations of the containers in which the spent fuel is stored, unlike the warehouses temporary individual (ATI) that have had to be built next to the reactors, after the Cuenca project was suspended and due to the lack of space to store the waste in the reactor pools.

Those seven warehouses distributed in five Spanish provinces would be a more expensive solution than the ATC, although they would have in their favor the lower resistance of the local populations to this type of installation. 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.

The ministry emphasizes that “the decision that is finally adopted necessarily requires a high degree of social, political and institutional consensus, in addition to a good technical assessment and a framework for public participation.” As the document that has come out for consultation points out, “the social acceptance of an installation of these characteristics conditions the entire process and, therefore, provides a high degree of uncertainty”.

gradual blackout

The initial version of the 7th GRWP contemplates a reference scenario that includes the cessation of the operation of nuclear power plants between 2027 and 2035, in coherence with the National Integrated Energy and Climate Plan 2021-2030 (PNIEC) and with the Protocol of cessation operating order for the plants, signed in March 2019 between Enresa and the electricity companies, and which contemplates that Almaraz I would close in 2027, Almaraz II a year later, Ascó I and Cofrentes in 2030, Ascó II in 2032, and Vandellós II and Trillo would stop operating in 2035.

The document contemplates the beginning of the dismantling of the nuclear power plants three years after their definitive cessation of operation, except for Vandellós I, whose last phase will be executed from 2030, as well as the continuity to expand the capacity of the current ATIs for fuel spent on the plants, which allow their exploitation and dismantling.

Once the period of public information has concluded and the reports and allegations presented have been analysed, the ministry will draw up the final version of the plan, which will be approved by the Council of Ministers, after a report from the Nuclear Safety Council and after hearing the autonomous communities on matters of land planning and environment. The approved Plan will subsequently be reported to the Cortes Generales and the European Commission in compliance with the Radioactive Waste Management Directive.