Nuclear Power Plant Isar, Germany

Spent nuclear fuel pool

Turbine of a nuclear plant

Vandellós-1 Nuclear Power Plant, Spain

Vandellós-1 Nuclear Power Plant, Spain

The Vandellós I nuclear power plant is a graphite-gas nuclear power plant that began operating in 1972. It was part of the group of first generation nuclear power plants in Spain, formed by the Zorita nuclear power plant, Santa Mª de Garoña and the Vandellós I nuclear power plant. It was owned by the Spanish-French company HIFRENSA (Hispano-Francesa de Electricidad).

The nuclear power plant had 480 megawatts (MW) of power. So far the Spanish nuclear power plants were refrigerated and moderated by water. The Vandellós plant, on the other hand, was cooled by gas and its nuclear reaction was moderated by graphite. This system would represent significant disadvantages in the treatment of waste and nuclear proliferation.

In the spent nuclear fuel there was plutonium that could be extracted for military use. On the other hand, radioactive graphite could not be taken to El Cabril to manage it as a residue of medium and low activity, because it contains carbon 14 with a half-life that exceeds the maximum allowed in the El Cabril nuclear waste warehouse with more than 5,000 years It is currently in the plant itself.

Closure and dismantling of the nuclear power plant

The 1990 was definitively closed because of the fire that the Vandellós I nuclear power plant suffered in October 1989.

The first two levels of dismantling have already been carried out:

The previous phase or level I of dismantling was carried out by HIFRENSA, the company that owns the Vandellós I nuclear power plant. This phase included the discharge of the reactor and the evacuation of the fuel (tasks that ended in 1994), and the conditioning of the waste from operation and the extraction and preconditioning of the waste deposited in the graphite silos.

The spent nuclear fuel was taken to France for reprocessing and deposited in the nuclear waste warehouse that the French state company AREVA has in La Hague (Normandy). The contract signed with the French Government establishes that Spain will have to take charge of this waste as of December 31, 2010, otherwise it will be penalized with 60,000 Euros per day. This is the reason why it is speculated that the nuclear waste from the Vandellós I nuclear power plant could be returned by train later this year.

In level 2 of the decommissioning of the Vandellós I nuclear power plant, it consisted of dismantling and demolishing the buildings and systems of the power station, except the reactor caisson, which must remain confined to the next level.

Dismantling of the building of the Vandellós nuclear power plant I

From here we have to wait for 25 years, with the objective that the radioactivity inside the caisson falls to levels that facilitate its total dismantling with the minimum radiological cost. It will be then when its location is finally released.

In January 1998, the former Ministry of Industry and Energy (MINER) authorized the execution of the decommissioning activities of the Vandellós I nuclear power plant and the transfer of its ownership to HIFRENSA, once the dismantling process had been completed.

Between February 1998 and February 1999, the site conditioning tasks for the dismantling in radiological zones were carried out and conventional equipment and structures were dismantled.

From 1999 until June 2003, conventional materials were separated from radioactive waste, ensuring the total decontamination of the structures. The low and medium activity waste was sent to the El Cabril storage center.

During that period, more than 80% of the site was released, and about 300,000 tons of materials were classified, of which less than 2,000 tons were conditioned as Low and Medium Activity Nuclear Waste (RBMA).

Level 3 will begin around the year 2027, when the latency period of 25 years has elapsed. In this phase, the reactor drawer will be dismantled completely freeing the site that will once again be owned by HIFRENSA.

Reactor typeGCR
Grid connection1972-05-06
OwnerHispano-Francesa De Energia Nuclear, S.A.
OperatorHispano-Francesa De Energia Nuclear, S.A.
ZoneL'Hospitalet de L'Infant (Tarragona)

Published: January 6, 2013
Last review: November 23, 2018

Nuclear power plants in Spain