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Spanish nuclear plants' operating permits renewed

Source: Reuters - Tue 8th Jun 2010

Spain has renewed 10-year operating permits for two of its eight nuclear power plants, operators said on Tuesday, in a sign that nuclear energy will be around in the country for decades yet.

"The Industry Ministry has deemed favorable the report issued on April 30 by the Nuclear Safety Council" a statement on the operators' website said, referring to a non-binding report by the nuclear watchdog.

Current permits for the two 1,000-megawatt plants in southwest Spain were due to expire on Tuesday, and the government has the power to turn down renewals.

Last year, the government did turn down a 10-year renewal for the 460-MW Garona plant, because that would have meant allowing it to run beyond a current legal limit of 40 years.

Garona was ordered to close in 2013, and Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero at the time recalled his Socialist party's 2008 electoral pledge to "gradually replace" nuclear power with Spain's booming renewable energy sources.

Nuclear power provides about 20 percent of Spain's electricity, but it is unpopular and in 2008 elections neither major party said it would join in the European "nuclear renaissance" and build new plants.


Tuesday's renewals had been expected, however, by government and industry sources because Almaraz I and II will not exceed the 40-year limit of they run for another 10 years.

has since proposed laws that would allow seven of Spain's plants to run past 40 years, or until at least the 2020s.

Analysts have pointed out that keeping most of the nuclear fleet is consistent with government plans unveiled earlier this year to comply with European Union renewable energy targets for 2020, in which it assumed all current plants - except for Girona - would still be around in 10 years' time.

Spain's biggest utility Iberdrola owns 53 percent of Almaraz I and II, while Enel-owned Endesa has 36 percent and Gas Natural Fenosa the remaining 11 percent.

A 10-year permit for the 1,000-MW Vandellos II plant is due to expire on July 26, and is expected to be renewed.

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