Spain nuclear lobby calls for 13 GW in new plants

Thursday, February 7, 2008

MADRID, Feb 7 (Reuters) - Spain needs to build at least 13,000 megawatts worth of nuclear plants to achieve a feasible power generation mix by 2030, according to a study released by the country's nuclear lobby on Thursday.

Spain's eight existing nuclear power reactors each produce about 1,000 MW of electricity, but new reactors being built in other countries are much bigger.

Nuclear power has made a comeback in some countries, despite public fears arising from the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, as the European Union strives to cut emissions of greenhouse gas carbon dioxide and reduce dependence on uncertain supplies of imported fuels like gas and coal.

The report by lobby group Foro Nuclear, released just before Russia threatened to cut off gas supplies to Ukraine in another dispute over debts, estimated that Spain's installed generating capacity would need to rise to some 125,000 MW by 2030, which compares to about 90,000 MW at present.

The report's main aim was to estimate the mix of different types of electrical energy Spain will need "bearing in mind certainty of supply and quality of service to customers," said co-authors Victoriano Casajus and Cristina Martinez.

Of the projected total, nuclear power would have to provide some 20,000 MW, or 16 percent, of installed capacity, the report said.

The total includes 13,000 MW of new reactors, plus life extensions for existing plants.

The nuclear plants would be enough to cover about 24 percent of projected peak winter demand of 82,700 MW, the report said.

Installed capacity refers to the total maximum generating capacity, although many power installations, especially wind turbines, run at less than full output much of the time.

Nuclear plants do, however, usually run at near full capacity, so they tend to cover a greater share of demand than their share of installed capacity suggests.

Currently, nuclear plants account for 9 percent of Spain's installed capacity, but cover 20 percent of production.

Spain has built no new power plants since the mid 1980s and has closed two in recent years. The governing Socialist party has pledged not to build any more plants for at least 10 years, with elections due on March 9.

Officials at the opposition People's Party, currently trailing the Socialists by four to six points in the polls, would not comment on the party's nuclear power policy.

Spain's eight nuclear power plants are operated by all three of the country's main generating companies, Endesa, Iberdrola and Union Fenosa.

Eduardo Gonzalez, president of Foro Nuclear and the Nuclear Industry Association, said Spanish companies had the financial capacity to invest, but needed a suitable regulatory framework.

"Spanish companies are willing to invest abroad in nuclear power plants, in places were this is not frowned upon," Gonzalez said at the launch of the Foro Nuclear forum's report.

Industry sources have said that Iberdrola was in talks with British Energy to build nuclear power plants in Britain. (Reporting by Martin Roberts; Editing by Daniel Fineren) spain

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