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Greenpeace urges Spain to shut reactors after Japan quake

Greenpeace urged the Spanish government Sunday to stick to its promise to close Spain’s six nuclear power plants in the wake of a feared meltdown of two reactors in quake-hit Japan.

Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero vowed during general elections in 2004 and 2008 to gradually phase out nuclear power when the lifespan of the country’s six nuclear plants expired.

But he has since softened his stance and in July 2009 the government said it would extend the operating licence for the country’s oldest nuclear reactor, the Garona plant in northern Spain, for another two years until July 2013.

Carlos Bravo, the director of Greenpeace’s anti-nuclear campaign in Spain, urged the Spanish government to "learn the lessons" of the situation in Japan and fulfill its promise to close the nation’s nuclear power plants.

"What has happened in Japan reminds us that nuclear energy is very dangerous, even when it is developed in a highly advanced country like Japan," he told public television TVE.

Bravo said the first plant which should be shut down is Garona, which he said has a similar design as Japan’s Fukushima No. 1 atomic plant, which suffered an explosion on Saturday a day after the biggest quake ever recorded in the country unleashed a monster 10-metre (33-foot) tsunami.

The atomic emergency widened on Sunday as the cooling systems vital for preventing overheating failed at a second reactor, and the government warned there was a risk it too could be hit with a blast.

In an editorial published Sunday, centre-right Spanish newspaper El Mundo said "there was no doubt that the accident at Fukushima will reopen the old debate over nuclear security."

"It is very important as a result to dispose of all of the information regarding what happened in this case, which can not be minimised or ignored."