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Nuclear Power in Spain

Nuclear Power in Spain

Nuclear power in Spain began in 1964 with the start of the construction of three nuclear power plants: the José Carbrera nuclear power plant, the Santa María de Garoña nuclear power plant and the Vandellós nuclear power plant 1.

The first reactor that was built was that of the José Cabrera nuclear power plant, Zorita. The type of nuclear reactor in the plant is a pressurized water reactor. Two years later the construction of the Santa María de Garoña nuclear power plant begins. In this case, a boiling water nuclear reactor (BWR) is installed in Garoña. Finally, the third nuclear power plant of this generation is the Vandellós 1 nuclear power plant. A nuclear gas reactor was installed in Vandellós 1. This first generation of reactors served to increase the experience in Spain on nuclear energy with three different types of nuclear reactors.

The construction of the second generation of nuclear power plants in Spain began in the seventies. During this decade the construction of 7 nuclear reactors begins, of which, two of them are not finished. The nuclear power plants of the second generation were built by the following companies: Employers Agrupados, INITEC and ENSA.

The third generation begins in the 1980s. During the third generation, five nuclear power projects are initiated. In 1984 a nuclear moratorium was decreed during the socialist government in Spain, which implies the cancellation of three of these projects. The nuclear power plants of the third generation that were finally put into production are the Trillo nuclear power plant and the Vandellós-2 nuclear power plant.

The nuclear moratorium was confirmed in 1994. At this time the construction and start-up of the nuclear plants that were being developed are abandoned.

In February 2011, the Spanish parliament eliminated a legal provision limiting the useful life of nuclear power plants to 40 years. The conservative government elected in November 2011 eliminated the 1984 moratorium and, at the beginning of 2012, an industry report recommended, in principle, an extension of the life of 20-year-old Spanish nuclear plants.

Nuclear power plants in operation in Spain

Currently in Spain 7 nuclear reactors are operating with a total power of 7121 MWe:

  • Almaraz Nuclear Power Plant 1. PWR nuclear water pressure reactor. Net power of 1011 electric megawatts. Start-up in 1981
  • Almaraz Nuclear Power Plant 2. PWR nuclear water pressure reactor. Net power of 1006 Mwe. Start-up in 1983
  • Asco Nuclear Power Plant 1. PWR nuclear water pressure reactor. Net power of 995 megawatts electric. Start-up in 1983
  • Nuclear power plant of Asco 2. Nuclear reactor of boiling water BWR. Net power of 997 MWe. Start-up in 1985
  • Nuclear power plant of Cofrentes. PWR nuclear water pressure reactor. Net power of 1064 megawatts electric. Start-up in 1984
  • Trillo Nuclear Power Plant 1. PWR nuclear water pressure reactor. Net power of 1003 electric megawatts. Start-up in 1988.
  • Vandellós nuclear power plant. 2. PWR nuclear water pressure reactor. Net power of 1045 MWe. Start-up in 1987                                                     

Nuclear fuel cycle

Currently Spain imports all uranium nuclear fuel, although at the time ENUSA, a Spanish company had several uranium mining operations that have already been dismantled. ENUSA currently owns 11% of Eurodif, with a large uranium enrichment plant by diffusion in Marcoule in France that stopped operating in 2012. ENUSA also contracts other conversion and enrichment services abroad.

The Juusado plant of ENUSA in Salamanca, commissioned in 1985, produces fuel elements for BWR boiling water nuclear reactors and PWR pressurized water nuclear reactors for the Spanish reactors. In addition, the Juzbado plant also supplies other customers in Europe.

In 2008, more than half of its 921 fuel assemblies were exported.

Importance of nuclear energy in Spain

En España existen ocho reactores nucleares que representan aproximadamente el 18,29% del total de energía en España. La principal fuente energética se obtiene mediante el ciclo combinado (central eléctrica que genera energía mediante una turbina de gas y el ciclo de vapor de agua usando una o varias turbinas de vapor) – 29,89% -, la energía nuclear es la segunda fuente de producción energética. En tercer lugar, aparecen otras formas de producción energética como la cogeneración, la energía minihidráulica, la biomasa o el aprovechamiento de residuos que representan el 16,55% del consumo total. En las últimas posiciones se sitúan las denominadas energías verdes la energía hidráulica y la energía eólica que supone el 6,59% y el 9,81% respectivamente.

Renewable energies are a great opportunity that today are becoming profitable, such as wind energy or solar energy. Currently, green energy sources are booming in the world.

The problem with renewable energies is that they depend on meteorological factors, such as wind, solar radiation, etc. As a result of this, the electricity production that is obtained does not always correspond to the power required at a certain moment. The studies mark that limit in approximately 20%. Therefore, 80% of the energy must be generated by other means.

With current technology there are two possibilities: to produce energy by burning hydrocarbons derived from fossil fuels (oil, coal, natural gas ...). The main disadvantage of fossil energy is that it harms the environment. The released gases favor the greenhouse effect and the global warming of the planet. The other alternative is the generation of electricity using nuclear energy, the internal energy of atoms through nuclear fission. The main drawback of nuclear energy is the management of nuclear waste and the highly damaging effects in the case of a nuclear accident.

Treaty of nuclear non-proliferation

España forma parte del Tratado de No Proliferación Nuclear (TNP) como un estado sin armas nucleares. Su acuerdo de salvaguardias en virtud del Tratado de No Proliferación Nuclear entró en vigor en 1967 y en 1985 se enmarcó en el acuerdo de salvaguardias de Euratom. En 1998 firmó el protocolo adicional en relación con sus acuerdos de salvaguardias con el OIEA y Euratom.

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Last review: April 29, 2019