The major electricity companies agreed in 2019 with Enresa, the public company in charge of radioactive waste, a timetable for the progressive closure of all nuclear power plants that will lead to a total atomic blackout in the country. The agreement with Endesa, Iberdrola, Naturgy and EDP contemplates a staggered decommissioning of the plants starting in 2027 and culminating with the last closure in 2035.
In recent months PP, Vox and Ciudadanos have been lobbying to revise the closure schedule to lengthen the deadlines in the midst of the energy crisis. And more recently the energy sector itself has also begun to join in, both the large companies in a timid way - just offering to discuss a review if the Government deems it necessary - and the professional associations of the nuclear industry.
The Government is shaking off the pressure and is firmly defending the agreed decommissioning dates without changes. And the Ministry for Ecological Transition confirms that in the next revision of the National Integrated Energy and Climate Plan (PNIEC), the roadmap of which technologies will be used to produce electricity until 2030, there is no possibility that it will include a change in the decommissioning schedule towards nuclear shutdown.
"The Government is not considering a change in the schedule or an increase in the life of nuclear power plants. The Government will continue with the agreement between the owner companies and Enresa, and they will see it in the next update of the PNIEC", has sentenced the Secretary of State for Energy, Sara Aagesen, in the Congress of Deputies to questions from the Popular Party, which has defended the extension of the useful life of the Spanish reactors. The Executive must submit to the European Commission an update of the Plan with more demanding objectives in order to have the new version approved during this year.
"There is no interest from the electricity companies".
From the Government it is stressed that no company has conveyed its willingness to change the deadlines and that delaying the closure is not a solution to meet the urgencies caused by the previous crisis. " There is no interest on the part of the companies to extend the useful life of the plants (...) The companies are not willing to increase their investment in nuclear power plants, but rather to allocate their investments to renewable energies", said the Secretary of State.
The nuclear sector has been pointing out that there is no technical impossibility for the plants to operate beyond the planned dates, but warning that they will only do so if their economic viability is guaranteed. That is, the electricity companies are not opposed to continue operating their reactors if they are guaranteed profitability with some kind of stable remuneration or fixed income, and also with less taxes than those they currently pay.
Decision in 2024
The nuclear sector also warns that the deadlines for deciding whether to review the schedule of plant closures are not unlimited, and if the first closures are to be delayed, the decision cannot be delayed. And is that to postpone the first closures, particularly that of Almaraz I in 2027, a decision must be taken this year or next year at the latest. The nuclear companies are thus giving homework to the current Executive (which must review this year the Integrated National Energy and Climate Plan, with the forecast of production technologies to be used until 2030) or to the next government that emerges from the elections scheduled for the end of the year.n
From the employers' association Foro Nuclear, from the companies that own the plants and also from the Nuclear Safety Council (CSN), the regulator that oversees the safety of the country's plants, it is stressed that the prior process of planning the necessary investments and resources and the procedure of study and preparation for the extension of the operating permit of each nuclear power plant requires a period of about three years. So avoiding the first reactor closure scheduled for 2027 requires a decision to be taken next year at the latest.
The CSN, Enresa and the power companies themselves are working with the closure schedule agreed with the Government as the roadmap for operating and planning deadlines. The gradual and staggered closure of the seven Spanish reactors agreed in 2019 with the major utilities contemplates that Almaraz I will close in 2027, Almaraz II in 2028, Ascó I in 2030, Cofrentes in 2030, Ascó II in 2032, Vandellós II in 2035 and Trillo also in 2035.