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    Government gives 18 months to plan for nuclear power plant closures

    January 20, 2022 - CE Noticias Financieras


      The companies that own the seven operating reactors in Spain (in which Iberdrola, Endesa, Naturgy and EDP participate as group or majority shareholders) must submit a decommissioning plan to the Nuclear Safety Council (CSN) within 18 months.The regulations establish that the responsibility for planning and carrying out the decommissioning of nuclear power plants falls on the Empresa Nacional de Residuos Radioactivos (Enresa), which must also take care of the final management of the spent nuclear fuel and the radioactive waste generated.Instruction IS-45 establishes the rules on the decommissioning of facilities in the early stages of operation. Enresa has a fund that is fed by contributions from the plants themselves to guarantee the economic viability of decommissioning.Despite the fact that more and more countries are betting on nuclear power, the seven operating reactors will close in 2035 despite the fact that nuclear has been leading electricity production in Spain for ten consecutive years, being responsible for 33% of electricity without emissions and with 90% of the hours of the year in operation. Brussels has asked EU countries to invest half a trillion euros in new nuclear power plants. However, the Government continues its crusade against nuclear and has refused to consider it, together with natural gas, as green energy. The CSN points out that, after the definitive decommissioning, it is necessary to progressively eliminate the remaining radioactivity that may remain in the affected areas. Only when the residual risks of the plant and its former site have been eliminated completely or to an acceptable minimum can the plant be considered "decommissioned".The ultimate objective of the decommissioning of any nuclear power plant is to ensure that the uses that may be made of its former site "do not pose radiological risks to the population or to the environment".First of all, the fuel assemblies and other mobile radioactive sources, i.e. the spent irradiated nuclear fuels, where most of the radioactivity generated during the operation of the plant remains, must be disposed of. A small part of this radioactivity produced has been able to "migrate" over time, contaminating different parts of the facility, due to small leaks through "punctures" or small fuel breaks that may occur during normal operation of the plant, as well as the neutron activation phenomena that have accompanied the production of electrical energy. During the operation of the nuclear reactor a neutron flux is produced which has activated, to a greater or lesser extent, large quantities of different materials, such as the so-called "internal" materials of the reactor, the core cooling circuits themselves, the shielding and biological protection concrete, and even the steam generators, if these are located near the reactor, says the CSN.This phenomenon leaves a radioactive contamination "embedded in the material itself" which has been activated during the operation of the plant. The dismantling and decommissioning of the plant implies the removal of all these structures.In the decommissioning of nuclear power plants, it must be taken into account that work is carried out in an environment of ionizing radiation that requires radiological protection of the workers and the confinement of the products handled and residual material generated: the aerosols or dusts originated during the dismantling, demolition and segregation of materials, and the fluids generated during the decontamination tasks. These restrictions or precautions can only be respected if there is rigorous planning and organization of the activities to be carried out during dismantling, and therefore, the CSN points out, cannot be entrusted to just any conventional demolition company. It is a nuclear activity that has to be prepared with specialized engineering and, above all, with perfectly trained operators and supervisors.


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