Spanish nuclear plant appeals 2013 closure

Friday, September 18, 2009

MADRID, Sept 15 (Reuters) - Spain's oldest nuclear power station filed an appeal on Monday against a government decision to close the 500-megawatt plant in 2013, operators Nuclenor said on their website.

"Nuclenor considers that there are solid reasons to support the continued operation of the Santa Maria de Garona plant until 2019," a statement on the Nuclenor site said.

In July, Spain's Industry Ministry renewed Garona's operating permit for four years. It turned down a request by Nuclenor to keep Garona open for another 10 years because the 40-year lifespan the plant was designed for will expire in 2011. The Nuclear Safety Council (CSN) had said in June that Garona was safe to run for another 10 years in a non-binding report.

While the government mulled its decision over Garona, Spanish unions urged it to protect the livelihood of some 300 workers at the plant.

Spain had the highest unemployment rate in the euro zone at 18.5 percent in July followed by Ireland with 12.5 percent, according to recent European Union data.

The plant in northern Spain is jointly owned by the country's two leading utilities, Iberdrola and Enel-owned Endesa

Spain's eight remaining nuclear plants feed about 7,300 MW to the grid when all are working normally, and provide about 20 percent of the country's demand for electricity.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's Socialist government plans to gradually phase out nuclear power in favour of a booming renewable energy sector.

Spain's biggest opposition party, the People's Party, has said that if it wins elections scheduled for 2012, it will allow Garona to run until 2019.

Permits to operate six nuclear plants are up for renewal by 2011, but national grid operator REE said in June it could not do without the steady baseload of power they generate in the short term.

Apart from Garona, Spain's nuclear plants' will not complete their 40-year lifespans until at least 2020.

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