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    The Government is open to bringing forward the final nuclear cemetery as requested by the electric utilities.

    November 15, 2022 - CE Noticias Financieras


      The Government is working on the approval of the new General Radioactive Waste Plan and with the aim of updating before the end of the legislature the roadmap on how to manage waste, how to dismantle nuclear power plants and how much and how to pay for all the work. The Ministry for Ecological Transition has already drawn up a final version of the plan in which it is committed to building seven different warehouses to store the waste, one at each of the nuclear power plants.

      The plan of the Executive is to keep nuclear waste in each plant after the closure of the plants, whose staggered decommissioning is scheduled between 2027 and 2035. The nuclear waste will remain there for decades, until a deep geological repository (AGP) is built with the aim of being operational in 2073 to store the waste forever.

      In principle, the final nuclear cemetery - a sort of big hole in the ground where the waste will rest for thousands of years - will not be ready for 50 years, that is the deadline set with the future plan, but the Government is now open to bringing forward those deadlines as the big electricity companies that own the nuclear power plants have been demanding.

      "We can shorten the deadlines and have the AGP as soon as possible," said the Secretary of State for Energy, Sara Aagesen, at a seminar on the project of the future final storage held this week in Madrid. A goal demanded by the large electricity companies that control the nuclear fleet in the Spanish market, which are asking to accelerate the start-up so that the facility will be ready more than two decades ahead of schedule.

      The electricity companies want it in 2050

      Endesa, Iberdrola, Naturgy and EDP, owners of the reactors located in Spain, presented a joint document of observations to the draft of the General Radioactive Waste Plan (PGRR) in which they asked to maintain only for two decades the nuclear waste in each of the plants and directly activate the construction of the definitive cemetery to advance its start-up 25 years earlier than expected by the Executive, so that it is operational in 2050 at the latest and not in 2073, as advanced by this media.

      Some of the Spanish nuclear power plants already have their own individualized temporary storage facilities (ATI) -Zorita, Garoña and Trillo- and the rest are in the process of being awarded and will be available between 2025 and 2026 -Almaraz, Vandellós, Ascó and Cofrentes-. Endesa, Iberdrola, Naturgy and EDP have proposed in their submissions to use these individual storage facilities as an intermediate solution for a couple of decades, until all the waste can be transferred to the large final cemetery, the AGP, in 2050.

      The proposal of the large electric utilities is to use the IWTs of each power plant to leave the waste there for two decades, but without actually carrying out the work to convert them into more complete storage facilities and with complementary facilities in which to house the waste for more than fifty years, as contemplated in the Government's PGRR to convert them into decentralized temporary storage facilities (ATD).

      Target 2073

      Enresa, the public company in charge of managing nuclear waste and the dismantling of the power plants, supports the objective of bringing forward the definitive nuclear cemetery in order to free up the land currently occupied by the nuclear power plants as soon as possible for other industrial projects and to reduce the total investment contemplated for developing the PGRR, of 26,500 million euros until the end of the century.

      The state-owned company defends having included in its drafts of the future of the PGRR the deadline of having the final storage facility ready in 2073 out of prudence. Current international experience shows that the time needed to develop the whole process until the start-up of a geological repository is between 40 and 50 years. And Enresa has opted for this longer period, although it understands that it could be shortened.

      Enresa's president, José Luis Navarro, assumes that the knowledge that can be obtained from other countries that have more advanced their AGP projects (Finland could have it operational by 2025, France and Sweden are already working on the construction permits, Germany is finalizing the selection of the location...) will make it possible to shorten the 50-year duration of the whole process estimated up to now. "We all have the will to shorten the deadlines. The sooner the AGP is ready, the better for all parties. As soon as the PGRR is approved we will start to develop and take steps without wasting time," he said during the seminar.

      "The deadlines and times may be shortened depending on the speed of the first stages of development of the PGRR," stressed the Secretary of State for Energy. Until the repository is in place, an inventory of possible locations must be made based on their geological characteristics, a site must be selected, the terrain must be characterized in detail, the project licensing work must be carried out , the repository must be built and the waste must be transported from the power plants.

      Between the eighties and nineties of the last century, Enresa already carried out preparatory work for the future AGP. The company already carried out an initial study of areas throughout Spain with geological characteristics (having clayey, granitic or saline soils) and stability to accommodate the repository, and also made generic designs of what the facility should be like depending on the different types of terrain. In 1996, the site search plan was halted due to the social noise generated by the possible location of the definitive facility and to opt for the construction of a temporary storage facility.

      A law to facilitate consensus

      Until the latest version of the waste plan, the Ministry for Ecological Transition kept open two alternatives to store waste for a few decades: build seven warehouses throughout Spain or build a single temporary centralized cemetery. The Government claims that the "lack of social, political and institutional consensus" demonstrated during the period of allegations of the draft of the new waste plan made "unfeasible" the option of a single centralized storage. The nuclear sector points out that this is due to the fact that no autonomous community supported the possibility of hosting the nuclear cemetery, despite the interest of some city councils.

      The Government, Enresa and the Nuclear Safety Council (CSN) recognize that achieving political and social consensus is the biggest challenge to promote the final repository project and that the process should not be derailed. The president of Enresa, José Luis Navarro, and the president of the CSN, Juan Carlos Lentijo, have defended the need to give maximum stability to the process by means of a law with clear support in Parliament to articulate a procedure of institutional and social participation which will be the basis of consensus for the successful selection of a location for the AGP.


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