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Energy generation in Spain

Nuclear power plants

In 2009 8 nuclear reactors in Spain are in operation. The first one started commercial operation in 1971, the last one in 1988.

Spain's current national energy plan, which runs until 2011, does not foresee any new nuclear power plants.

Energy mix

Spain has few energy sources of its own, main energy sources are coal and hydro. Nuclear energy contributed 23% of the total electricity production in 2005. Spain has the fifth-largest electricity market in the EU.

Oil has traditionally played a major role in the Spanish energy sector and the country is Europe's second largest liquefied natural gas importer behind France. Natural gas is expected to account for a much larger portion of total energy consumption in future; the consumption rate went from 2 percent in the 1970s to 12.8 percent in 2001. Exploiting renewable energy sources is also a key facet in Spain's energy strategy. Wind power production in particular and renewable energy in general in Spain is reaching up to 17% of total Spanish production.

Developments in the nuclear sector

2012: Santa Maria de Garoña life time extension

"Spain's nuclear regulator, the Consejo de Seguridad Nuclear (CSN), has reported to the Spanish government that there is no impediment from the point of view of nuclear safety or radiation protection to the operation of the Santa Maria de Garoña reactor beyond 2013.

The Spanish government approved only a four-year extension when the licence for Nuclenor's 446 MWe boiling water reactor when its licence last came up for renewal in 2009, even though the CSN had already ruled that the plant could operate safely until at least 2019. However, a cabinet decision last month by the recently elected conservative government overturned the decree that would have forced the plant to close in 2013.

The government then asked the CSN to review the situation, as well as considering any technical improvements that might be required for the plant to operate beyond 2013. The CSN has now made its report back to the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism, the government office with responsibility for final decisions on nuclear plant operations in Spain.

When it ruled in 2009 that Garoña would be safe to operate to 2019, the CSN identified a number of improvements to be made at the plant over the next four years. In its new report, the CSN again emphasises that various nuclear safety and radiation protection conditions must be met for the plant to be allowed to operate to 2019. The plant's operators are required to satisfy the regulator that monitoring, inspection, maintenance and management activities carried out at the plant since July 2009 are consistent with those established for the renewal of the operating permit until 2019. This must be completed by July 2012."


2010: No more limits for operational lifetime

" The wide-ranging Sustainable Energy Act, known by its Spanish acronym LES (Ley de Economía Sostenible), was approved by 323 votes to 19, with one abstention, in the lower house of the Spanish government on 15 February. The amendment on nuclear energy within the LES was approved by 334 votes to 10, with no abstentions. The law had already passed through the upper house.
Specifically, the nuclear energy amendment states that the government will determine nuclear's share in Spanish generation and also the lifetimes of existing nuclear plants based on a variety of considerations including regulatory requirements for nuclear safety and radiological protection as advised by the Spanish nuclear regulator, plus trends in demand, the development of new technologies, security of supply, costs of electricity production and greenhouse gas emissions.
Previous legislation imposed a 40-year operating life on Spain's nuclear reactors, which would have seen all of Spain's eight operating reactors facing closure between 2011 and 2018. However, in 2009 the Spanish government granted a four-year life extension to the Garona nuclear power plant, extending its life to 42 years and signalling the start of a political shift from earlier plans by the ruling PSOE (Socialist Party) to progressively phase out nuclear.
The decision to abandon the arbitrary life limit was greeted by Foratom, the European nuclear energy's trade association, as confirmatory of the "subtle but significant" shift away from a Spanish nuclear phase-out policy. "The recommendation ... illustrates the growing political consensus in Spain that extending the operational duration of its nuclear power plants is essential if the country is to ensure continued security of energy supply and fulfil its CO2 reduction commitments," the organisation said in a statement.
Spain's own Foro Nuclear said the new law should provide a predictable and stable regulatory framework, which would include all technologies and energy sources.

Spanish second vice-president Elena Salgado expressed great satisfaction at the approval of the law, saying it would provide "the foundation for an economy that is more concerned about the environment and more innovative". The law will come into force following its publication in Spain's Official State Gazette."


2004: Announcement ouf nuclear phase-out

In April 2004 the newly elected Socialist premier Jose Luis Zapatero announced that his government would gradually phase out nuclear energy and increase financing for renewable energy sources. However, the first shutdown of the incident-sensitive reactor Zorita took place in 2006 after 38 years of operation as it was planned and not earlier as it was demanded by environmental NGOs.

2003: Liberalization of the energy market

Liberalization of the energy market has been a main priority of Spain's government; the process started already in the late 1990s, from the beginning of 2003 consumers have been able to choose their own energy suppliers.


In 1998 Article 24 of the 1996 European Union electricity market directive explicitly recognizes the right of governments to allow formerly regulated utilities which made heavy investments to recover stranded costs. In the case of nuclear power plants, in particular, that includes not only plant investments but also long-term liabilities for waste management and decommissioning. Spain is the first country to secure stranded costs, according to Adolfo de Ubieta, director of the nuclear division of utility association Enesa, who said the measure could provide stability for utilities' financial recovery.


In 1996 the Spanish government agreed to allow utilities affected by the forced cancellations of five big nuclear units under construction to issue government-backed securities covering some $5,7-billion worth of sunk costs. The debt issue, described at the time as the biggest financial operation ever launched in Spain, was a big success, giving the utilities welcome relief from their heavy debt.
De Ubieta said converting stranded costs into securities that are sold into the financial market has the potential to provide the utilities with "tremendous amounts of cash" for purposes like business development and diversification.
The securing measure must pass Spain's parliament, and there is "a lot of debate" about the measure, which some see as an undue favour to the utilities. "It will take at least 9 or 10 months" before the measure can be approved, if at all.

Sites With Nuclear Facilities

siteplantreactor typconstruction startoperation startshut down
AlmarazAlmaraz-1PWR 90019731981
Almaraz-2PWR 90019731983
AscoAsco-1PWR 90019741983
Asco-2PWR 90019751985
CofrentesCofrentesBWR 90019751984
El CabrilEl CabrilLLW/ILW storage
St. Maria de GaronaSt.Maria de GaronaBWR 440196619712013
Vandellos-2PWR 94019811987
ZoritaZoritaPWR 150196419682006