Watchdog backs new licence for oldest nuclear reactor

7th June 2009, Comments 0 comments

Spain's nuclear watchdog has recommended that the government renew the operating licence of the oldest of the country's six nuclear plants for another 10 years

Madrid - Spain's nuclear watchdog has recommended that the government renew the operating licence of the oldest of the country's six nuclear plants for another 10 years.

The Nuclear Safety Council said it will only publish its recommendations on Monday after weekend elections for the European Parliament but radio Cadena Ser and other media said the report it sent to the industry ministry said the plant at Garona could safely operate for another decade.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's government now has until 5 July, when the 38-year-old nuclear plant's licence expires, to decide whether to follow the watchdog's recommendations.

A decision to prolong the life of the Garona plant on the Ebro river in northern Spain would be a major reversal for Zapatero who pledged during general elections in 2004 and 2004 to gradually phase out nuclear power and concentrate instead on renewable energy.

The party and Zapatero's cabinet are divided over the issue, with some arguing that atomic power could help Spain cut fuel imports and curb generation costs.

Spain's six nuclear power plants produce around 20 percent of the country's electricity.

Support for atomic energy waned in Europe after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident in the Ukraine raised safety concerns over the energy source.

But in the wake of oil-price volatility, England has approved the construction of a new generation of nuclear plants while German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said laws calling for nuclear reactors to be phased out by about 2021 were "unreasonable."

The Garona plant is run by Nuclenor, which is jointly owned by Spain's two biggest utilities, Iberdrola and Endesa.

AFP / Expatica

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