Spain nuclear watchdog to inspect Cofrentes plant

Monday, September 28, 2009

MADRID, Sept 24 (Reuters) - Spain's nuclear regulator said on Thursday it will inspect the 1,000 megawatt Iberdrola-owned Cofrentes nuclear power station after part of a fuel rod was dropped during refuelling work.

The Nuclear Safety Council (CSN) added in a statement that it had given the event on Tuesday a preliminary rating of 1 on the International Nuclear Events Scale (INES), but that workers, the general population and environment were not at risk.

The INES ranges from 1 to 7 and the International Atomic Energy Authority defines a 1 rating as a "breach of operating limits at a nuclear facility".

The highest recent rating for a nuclear incident in Spain was 2, assigned last year for a breach of safety rules in handling a radioactive leak at the Asco I plant, whose operators were later fined 15.4 million euros ($22.68 million).

The most serious nuclear incident in Spain occurred in 1989, when safety systems broke down after a fire at the Vandellos I plant, which was later closed.

Spain's eight remaining nuclear plants supply around 20 percent of the country's electricity.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's Socialist government has vowed to phase out the plants in favour of booming renewable energy, and has ordered the ageing 500 MW Garona plant to close in 2013.

The opposition People's Party have said they will keep Garona open if they return to power.

National Grid operator REE and analysts say that Spain is not yet ready to do without the baseload provided by nuclear power, and most reactors will likely remain in service for decades.

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