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Nuclear Energy in Spain: Evolution and Closure of Nuclear Power Plants

Nuclear energy in Spain: evolution and closure of nuclear power plants

Spain is one of the fourteen member states of the European Union that has nuclear power plants in operation.

Nuclear energy represents more than 20% of the total electricity generation in Spain.

The main sources of production of the Spanish electricity system are: natural gas, nuclear energy, other energy sources (such as cogeneration, mini-hydro energy, biomass or the use of waste) and finally, other renewable energies: hydraulic energy and wind energy.

Most of the radioactive waste generated in Spain is of very low, low and medium activity. Nuclear waste management is carried out in the centralized warehouse in El Cabril (Córdoba).

Spain is part of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as a state without nuclear weapons. In 1998 it signed the additional protocol in relation to its safeguards agreements with the IAEA and Euratom.

Currently Spain imports all uranium nuclear fuel. However, Spain had several uranium mines that were managed by ENUSA and have already been dismantled.

Nuclear Power Plants Operating in Spain

Currently in Spain it has seven operating reactors with a total power of 7121 MWe:

Nuclear power station Reactor type Net power (MWe) Year of commissioning

Almaraz Central 1

Pressurized water (PWR)

1011

1981

Almaraz Power Plant 2

Pressurized water (PWR)

995

1983

Ascó Central 1

Pressurized water (PWR)

995

1983

Central Ascó 2

Boiling water (BWR)

997

1985

Central de Cofrentes

Pressurized water (PWR)

1064

1984

Central de Trillo 1

Pressurized water (PWR)

1003

1988

Central de Vandellòs 2

Pressurized water (PWR)

1045

1987

First Generation Plants

Nuclear energy in Spain began in 1964 with the beginning of the construction of three nuclear power plants: the José Cabrera nuclear power plant (with a pressurized water reactor), the Santa María de Garoña nuclear power plant ( boiling water nuclear reactor ), Vandellós 1 nuclear power plant (a gas reactor).

Second Generation Plants

During the seventies the construction of 7 nuclear reactors began. However, two of these plants are not completed due to the subsequent nuclear moratorium.

Third Generation Plants

The third generation starts in the 1980s, when five nuclear power projects are started.

In 1984 a nuclear moratorium was decreed during the socialist government in Spain that implies the cancellation of three of these projects.

The third generation nuclear power plants that were finally put into production are the Trillo nuclear power plant and the Vandellós II nuclear power plant.

The nuclear moratorium was confirmed in 1994 and the nuclear power plant project under development was abandoned.

In February 2011, the Conservative government eliminated a legal provision that limits the useful life of nuclear power plants to 40 years. In this year, the government also lifted the 1984 moratorium.

What Is the Future of Nuclear Power Plants in Spain?

In 2020, the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge launched the National Comprehensive Energy and Climate Plan 2021-2030 . The objective of this plan is to gradually close down the seven nuclear reactors that are still in operation.

Spain is part of a group of 5 countries that has formally asked the European Commission that aid for nuclear energy be excluded from the aid that renewable energies will have in order to avoid climate change.

The forecast is that between 2025 and 2030 the reactors of Almaraz, Ascó I and the Cofrentes nuclear power plant will be closed.

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Published: December 11, 2009
Last review: December 19, 2021