Spanish government extends life of nuclear power plant

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Spain's industry ministry has renewed an operating permit for the Vandellos II nuclear power plant located in northeastern Spain, sources close to the ministry said Wednesday.

The current operating licence for the nuclear power plant located at L'Hospitalet del Infant near Tarragona expires at the end of the month.

The plant, which belongs to Spanish utility Endesa, began operating in August 1987.

Spain has eight nuclear reactors at six power plants which generate about a fifth of its electricity.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, a socialist, 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.

He pledged the country would focus instead on the development of renewable energy like solar and wind power.

But 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, reversing its policy of gradually phasing out nuclear power.

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

But oil-price volatility and growing concerns over the environmental impact of carbon emissions has led many nations like Britain and Germany to ease their anti-nuclear stance in recent years.

© 2010 AFP

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