Spain is Seeking to Lessen its Dependence on Nuclear Energy

Spain is Seeking to Lessen its Dependence on Nuclear Energy

This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard Spain Country Manager Wendy Paredes


In Spain, there are seven nuclear power plants operating—Almaraz I, Almaraz II, Ascó I, Ascó II, Cofrentes, Trillo, and Vandellós II—for which there are 7 light water reactors with an electric power installed of 7,398.77 Megawatts (MW).  Spain also has also a nuclear fuel factory in Juzbado as well as a low and medium activity radioactive waste storage center in El Cabril.

The gross installed power nuclear is close to 6.5% of the total installed electrical power in the country. It generates between 55,000 and 60,000 GWh each year, more than 20% of the electricity consumed in the country. With an average annual operation of roughly 8,000 hours, this technology operates the most hours in the electrical system, becoming the main source of production in the Spanish electrical system for over a decade.

However, Spain is seeking to lessen its dependence on nuclear energy. Many of its existing nuclear aging power plans are being decommissioned and there are no plans for their replacement.

Nuclear Plants in Spain

The Almaraz I and II nuclear power plants are located in the province of Cáceres and have an electrical power of 1,049.40 MW and 1,044.50 MW respectively. The plants occupy an area of 1,683 hectares located in the municipalities of Almaraz, Saucedilla, Serrejón, and Romangordo. In May 1973 the construction of Almaraz plant started and began its operations in 1981. Unit II did so in 1983.

The Ascó I and II nuclear power plants are located in the town of Ascó, in the Ribera d’Ebre region, Tarragona province. The construction authorization for Unit I was granted in 1974 and the second unit was received in 1975. The Asco I plant has an electrical power of 1,032.50 MW and the Asco II plant’s is 1,027.21 MW.

The Cofrentes nuclear power plant is located two kilometers from the town of Cofrentes in the province of Valencia. It is equipped with a thermal power of 3,237 MW and 1,092.02 MW of electrical power. The authorization for the construction was granted in 1975 and it was connected to the national electricity grid nine years later in October 1984.

The Trillo nuclear power plant is located in the municipality of Trillo in the province of Guadalajara and it has an electrical power of 1,066 MW. In 1979 the construction authorization was granted and in 1988 it was connected to the electricity grid.

The Vandellós II nuclear power plant is located on the Mediterranean coast in the province of Tarragona and in the municipality of Vandellós. This power plant has an electrical power of 1,087,14 MW.

Spain is planning to reduce the use of nuclear power. Currently Vandellós I and José Cabrera are being dismantled. Moreover, the Santa María de Garoña plant is in the pre-dismantling process.

The Vandellós I plant ceased its activity in 1989 and since 2004, has been in a latency phase of 25 years. The complete decommissioning is scheduled for 2028. The José Cabrera nuclear power plant ceased its activity on April 30th 2006 and is currently in the process of being dismantled. Finally, the Santa María de Garoña nuclear power plant is in the pre-dismantling proces, and on August 1st 2017, the Ministry of Energy, Tourism and Digital Agenda announced the denial of the renewal of the operating authorization.

Nuclear Power Normative in Spain

The overseeing body on Spain’s nuclear power policies and safety standards is the Nuclear Safety Council (CSN). It proposes to the Government the necessary regulations on nuclear safety and radiological protection. Its regulatory activity covers all the phases in the lives of nuclear facilities – location, design, control, proper operation, and dismantling.

Spain has a list of legal and regulatory rules, that make up its nuclear legal system. They include:

  • Law 25-1964, of April 29, on nuclear energy.
  • Law 15-1980, of April 22, creating the Nuclear Safety Council.
  • Law 12-2011, of May 27, on civil liability for nuclear damage or damage caused by radioactive materials.
  • Law 14-1999, of May 4, on Public Rates and Prices for services provided by the Nuclear Safety Council.
  • Law 27-2006, of July 18, which regulates the rights of access to information, public participation, and access to justice in environmental matters.
  • Law 19-2013, of December 9, on transparency, access to information and good governance.

By being part of the European Union, Spain additionally belongs to the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). The mission of Euratom is to contribute in raising the standard of living in EU Member States through the creation and safe development of nuclear industries.

Euratom supports the establishment of uniform safety standards for the radiological protection of the population and workers. It seeks to guarantee through appropriate controls that nuclear materials will not be used for purposes other than those for which they are intended. And it establishes relationships with other countries and international organizations that promote progress in the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Nuclear waste disposal in Spain

Spanish Law 25/1964, recommends different disposal processes according to the classification of nuclear waste materials. Spain uses the following  nuclear waste classification criteria used by the International Atomic Energy Agency and the European Commission:

  • Low and medium level waste that have low specific activity per radioactive element and can be temporarily stored, treated, conditioned, and then permanently stored in the facilities of “El Cabril”.
  • High-level waste that are basically made up of spent nuclear fuel and require specific facilities for its treatment, conditioning, and definitive storage.

Article 38 of Law 25/1964, establishes that the management of radioactive waste constitutes an essential public service that is reserved to the ownership of the State, entrusted to the National Radioactive Waste Company ENRESA.

Spain’s Position on Nuclear Energy

Spain reported that nuclear electricity production represents between 35% and 40% of the emission-free electricity generated in the country, avoiding the emission into the atmosphere of about 30 million tons of CO2 each year. But even if nuclear is considered clean energy because it does not emit CO2, there is a great debate about whether it should be considered green energy, at the same level as renewables such as solar or wind. Now this discussion has moved to the European Commission, where there are countries that advocate including nuclear energy in the green taxonomy and others that want to prevent nuclear energy from receiving fiscal support as if it were just another renewable energy.

Spain, Austria, Denmark, Luxembourg, and Germany have issued a joint letter to the European Commission requesting that nuclear energy be excluded from the aid and lower taxes that renewables will have.

The National Integrated Energy and Climate Plan foresees for 2030 a total installed power in the electricity sector of 161 GW, of which 50 GW will be wind energy; 39 GW, solar photovoltaic; 27 GW, gas combined cycles; 16 GW, hydraulic; 9.5 GW, pumping; 7 GW, solar thermoelectric, and 3 GW, nuclear. The goal is to give priority to renewable energies since they are competitive, although the government’s position is to continue taking nuclear energy into account because it helps decarbonize the atmosphere.

Image Source:


Climate Scorecard depends on support from people like you.

We are a team of researchers providing information on efforts to reduce global emissions. We help make you better informed and able to advocate for improved climate change efforts. Donations of any amount are welcome.