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Spain decides on aging nuclear plant

Spain decides on aging nuclear plant

The Spanish government is to allow the country's oldest nuclear power station to continue producing electricity for four years before closing it down in 2013, the industry minister said Thursday.
The operating license of the Garona nuclear power plant in northern Spain, which came on line in 1971 and was designed to operate for 40 years _ until 2001 _ expires Sunday.
"It hasn't been an easy decision, but it has been carefully thought out," said Miguel Sebastian.
The country's nuclear regulatory agency recommended last month that Garona be allowed to operate for 10 more years, as long as it undergoes a safety upgrade.
But environmental campaigners have long claimed the plant is outdated and suffering from severe cracking and corrosion affecting various components of its reactor vessel.
"This decision means the continued exposure of the population and the environment to an increased risk of a nuclear accident from this dangerous plant," environmental group Greenpeace said in a statement.
Residents of Garona, many of whom work at the station, have demonstrated asking for the station to remain operational.
In the campaign leading up to his re-election to a second term last year, Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero pledged to phase out nuclear power in Spain as plants' operating licenses run out.
Spaniards have been waiting to see if he will keep his promise and reject the watchdog's recommendation, as well as pressure from industry to keep Garona running.
The government's decision will have pleased neither environmentalists nor those who favor nuclear power as a greenhouse gas-free option.
Spain has six plants with a total of eight reactors that provide 20 percent of the country's electricity. The Garona plant provides 1.4 percent.
In comments over the past few weeks, Zapatero has hinted he will not heed the regulators' recommendation to keep the plant running.
In a radio interview Thursday, he declined to tip his hand, saying only that the decision will be "balanced, responsible and one that is in the country's interest."


Updated : 2021-10-19 16:49 GMT+08:00