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Nuclear Power Plant Isar, Germany

Spent nuclear fuel pool

Turbine of a nuclear plant

The Role of Nuclear Energy in the Spanish Electricity Network

The role of nuclear energy in the Spanish Electricity Network

Few people know how the pricing of electricity works in Spain. In this sense, to speak simply, an average is made between the cost of energy and the amount of energy that can be generated.

This means that, when talking about renewable energy, we have an energy with great power, which “works” all year and whose cost is very low. Let's see what is the role of this type of energy in the Spanish electricity market.

Production Thanks to Nuclear Energy

During 2019, among the seven Spanish nuclear reactors they produced  55,843 GWh , which reaches almost 22% of the total electricity produced in Spain.

In this way, nuclear energy is the leader in electricity production in Spain , generating more than one fifth of the electricity consumed. In addition, it is the source that avoids more emissions per year.

Peninsular electricity generation chartAfter nuclear energy, and very close to it, we find the combined cycles and, behind, the wind energy.

Spanish nuclear reactors operate at less than 7% of their net power and, despite this, generate electricity constantly, giving stability to our electricity supply.

It is the type of energy that has operated the most, reaching almost 90% of annual hours, since it must be taken into account that, last year, some plants were stopped due to refueling, maintenance and updates.

In relation to one of the largest “buts” that is put to this type of energy (pollution), during the past year they put a brake on pollution, producing more than 36% of green energy.

Nuclear Power and the Price of the Electricity Market

This type of electricity is offered at zero cost in the pool of the electricity price of the wholesale electricity market.

This pricing strategy is due to the low flexibility of the plants and the costs associated with changes in power, stops and starts. It is believed that the price is so low because the costs are too, since they are amortized. However, continuous improvements in nuclear power plants make costs important.

According to a study by AleaSoft, it is believed that the cost of producing this type of energy is between € 40 / MWh and € 50 / MWh , between variable costs (fuels) and fixed costs (personnel, maintenance and operation), in addition of the 7% tax on the generation.

How Much Does the Kilowatt Hour of Nuclear Energy Cost?

The biggest characteristics of a nuclear power plant is that it is very reliable. They produce large amounts of electricity since they are almost the entire year producing and because their raw material, uranium, constitutes 6% of the kilowatt hour price and is produced in countries that are politically stable partners. Although that cost increases greatly, the kilowatt hour is almost unaffected.

The higher costs are usually derived from the investment , both initial and recurring, in terms of security .

The high cost of a nuclear power plant (which is usually between 4,000 and 5,000 million euros) means that a period of thirty years of amortization is required.

The Spanish Nuclear Blackout

This blackout has a very specific date, 2035. The companies that own this type of power plants agreed this closure with the National Nuclear Waste Company (Enresa).

This planning with so much time is good for the market since it requires stability, planning and progressive changes. Progressively, the change to renewable energies should be made, with the help of gas, whether natural gas, propane or butane .

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Published: February 21, 2020
Last review: February 21, 2020