Home Sciences Nuclear ceases to be the main source of energy in Spain

Nuclear ceases to be the main source of energy in Spain


Nuclear energy lost in 2021, in favor of wind power, the first place in the ranking of electricity generation in Spain after occupying it for ten consecutive years, although it continues to produce a fifth (20.8 percent) of the total, according to the president of the Nuclear Industry Forum, Ignacio Araluce.

“In the last ten years we were the technology that has produced the most and this year we are the second, which makes us happy: the first has been wind power”, said Araluce, who praised the progress of renewable energies in the framework of the ecological transition but has defended the fundamental role of nuclear power in this process.

Araluce has specified that with 6.31 percent (7,398.7 MW) of all installed power in Spain (112,000 MW), the seven nuclear reactors currently in operation generated 54,040 gigawatt hours, during 86.7 percent of the hours of the year.

In this context, the representative of the sector has defended in declarations to Europa Press the “essential” contribution of nuclear power to the national electricity systemsince it works with “the maximum security guarantees”, and provides a “firm, continuous and stable” electricity supply, as well as its relevant role in the framework of the energy transition, given that its production prevented 20 million tons from entering the atmosphere of greenhouse gases, the equivalent of 35% of the national car park.

“Nuclear energy is still very important because it is a base power, stable, expected, it produces at all times and does not have these ups and downs. That is why we are absolutely necessary in the energy transition”, argued Araluce, who highlighted that 68.5 percent of Spanish electricity generation was free of CO2 emissions, 1.5% more than in 2020 and that figure, nuclear contributed 30.36% of the electricity without emissions.

Renewal of exploitation authorizations

The explanation for the loss of first place is due, in Araluce’s words, to the fact that while nuclear power maintains the same installed power and production, if renewables increase their power “they will grow; it is logical.” To this is added that of the seven operational reactors, in 2021 the scheduled shutdowns of six of them coincided, but it predicts that in 2022 the hours of generation will increase.

On the other hand, he pointed out that in 2021 the operating authorizations for the Ascó I and II (Tarragona) and Cofrentes (Valencia) plants were renewed.

Regarding the energy context, has celebrated the “numerous advantages” of renewables: free fuel, low installation cost and profitable production, compared to the “disadvantage” of their intermittence. Thus, he has stressed that wind power produced 2,100 hours of the year and photovoltaic 1,400 hours compared to almost 8,000 for nuclear power. In this way, he has pointed out that to supply a plant, it would be necessary to install almost six times the current installed power in photovoltaic energy and solve “regulation and storage problems”.

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In European terms, the president of the Spanish Nuclear Industry Forum describes the European Commission’s December 31 proposal as a “great endorsement” of said technology includes nuclear within the taxonomy “not as green, but as necessary in the energy transition”.

“Now they consider us absolutely necessary during the transition”celebrates Araluce, who explains that this change means maintaining the nuclear park, being able to go to the markets to access the necessary financing for its operation and maintenance.

In his opinion, in Europe nuclear energy is producing a “movement that did not exist before” and sees with joy that steps are being taken for the construction of new plants throughout the world.

On the other hand, he has observed how, as a result of the war in Ukraine, countries see this technology as “very important” from a strategic point of view to reduce dependence on foreign sources at less risk than other energies, since the impact on the price of the fuel does not reach 10% in this case compared to almost 90% of gas or coal. Beyond Europe, he assures that nuclear energy “enjoys very good health in the world.”

Spain, different from the rest

However, he sees the context in Spain differently, where the nuclear power plant closure plan, agreed between the owner companies and the national waste company in charge of their dismantling, Enresa, establishes the closure of the plants between 2027 and 2035.

In this time frame of little more than a decade, he sees as the main challenges to be able to guarantee the economic stability of the plants, since it ensures that right now they are “drowned in taxes” and they do not know the price that their energy can be sold in the coming years. “We are concerned about the economic stability of nuclear power plants,” he warned during the meeting.

Araluce has commented that the cost of nuclear generation is approximately 60 euros per megawatt, but the owners have sold their production for this and next year at 70 euros per megawatt.

Thus, he has ruled that the nuclear ones are not earning the benefits that fell from the sky “nor are they lining up” and, despite this, they have the commitment established in the National Integrated Energy and Climate Plan to continue operating until its closure. “It is very difficult to commit if viability is not guaranteed. Taxes continue to be extremely high and we do not know at what price we will be able to sell energy in the future,” Araluce warns, predicting that they will not be able to operate at system losses.

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So much so that the sector does not even dare to request an extension of the closing schedule, although it has doubted that it can be fulfilled. On the other hand, he has shown his “astonishment” at the new draft of the 7th National Plan for Radioactive Waste, which raises the price agreed for waste management between the owners of the power plants and the Government by more than 2,000 million euros.

“Costs have gone up”

“Costs have gone up and we don’t know why. The nuclear power plants reached that agreement to continue producing at that time with a rate based on certain costs, but now, in the middle of the game, they have to pay more. That can not be “, he has denounced.

Facing the future Decommissioning, has recalled that this corresponds to the Government and Enresa, while the power plants are responsible for paying and does not understand that an alternative to the centralized temporary warehouse (ATC) is now being contemplated, as planned, such as the ATD, which would mean installing a warehouse in each site until 2073, when the plan foresees that the deep geological repository (AGP) will be ready where the waste will definitively rest.

Likewise, it criticizes the fact that, if the draft of the plan estimates that the site for the AGP will be resolved in 2040 and a construction period of ten years, the nuclear waste must be kept in seven sites until 2073, without being able to release the land from the central.

In any case, although he has made it clear that this option does not seem good to the sector, he has recalled that the responsibility for waste treatment corresponds to the State and to the holders to pay, but he warns: “We will not pay more than what we agreed and these increases are extra costs that are not due to the activity of the plants but to other issues”.


Environment section contact: crisisclimatica@prensaiberica.es

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