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Spanish town applies to become nuclear waste dump

Tue 26th Jan 2010

Spain's parliament first voted in 2004 to build a centralized site for storing spent nuclear fuel, but the project is not popular and the central government did not call for bids to house the dump until last month.

The council of Asco in the northeastern Catalonia region voted by seven votes to two to bid for the site, which the central government estimates will cost 700 million euros to build and create 300 jobs for five years.

"We have the opportunity to build an Asco...which will spur controversy but doubtless bring important revenues to the local economy," Mayor Rafael Vidal said in comments broadcast on television channel CNN+.

Protesters opposed to the ATC, as the waste dump is known in Spanish, packed the streets of Asco on Sunday and Monday.

Jose Montilla, the president of the Catalan regional government, said on Monday he was against building a dump in Catalonia, which is home to three of Spain's eight nuclear power stations as well as many wind farms and hydroelectric plants.

"Catalan power stations produce 40 % of all of Spain's power. We've done our bit," he said.

PLANTS NEARLY FULL

Spent nuclear fuel in Spain is currently stored on site in power stations, but the government predicts they will begin to fill up in 2013. The United Nations' nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, has urged Spain to begin work on a purpose-built site.

With the deadline for bids falling on January 31, the only other town to throw its hat into the ring so far is Yebra in the central-southern Castilla-La Mancha region -- whose president strongly opposes the move.

"I am willing to take every political, social and legal measure, whatever it takes, to stop the nuclear dump being built in Castilla-La Mancha," Castilla-La Mancha President Jose Maria Barreda said.

Environmentalist group Greenpeace said the government had failed to achieve widespread public support for the ATC.

"If the government wants to solve the nuclear waste problem and close the nuclear debate once and for all, it will have to table a good plan for closing nuclear plants," a Greenpeace statement said.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero's Socialist government has vowed to build no new nuclear plants, but is prepared to let most existing plants run until at least the 2020s.

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