Amaya Quincoces Riesco |

Madrid (EFE).- With a tense energy framework due to the war in Ukraine and the horizon of closing nuclear plants in Spain, which will culminate in 2035, the sector is preparing to adapt the storage of spent fuel from the seven reactors still operating to the new radioactive waste plan (PGRR) promoted by the Government.

In Spain, there is currently no other option for treating spent fuel from nuclear plants than storing it, although there are other alternatives in the world, explained Montse Godall, head of communication and external relations for the Ascó-Nuclear Association. Vandellós (Anav) -owned by Endesa Generación and Iberdrola Generación Nuclear)-, which operates the three operational reactors in Catalonia, all of them in Tarragona.

Godall added that “France, for example, reprocesses fuel, that is, it has reactors that use fuel that contains uranium extracted from other elements that have previously been in the reactor” to produce electricity, something that nuclear plants generate from from the heat generated by the fission of uranium atoms.

The three reactors that Anav operates generate 50 percent of the energy consumed in Catalonia, and 9 percent of the total for the State, according to its spokesperson, who explained about the storage of radioactive waste that its deposit in specific locations, either temporarily or permanently, is the only option being considered in this country, that is, to keep them, and whoever decides is the Government.

Photograph of the Centralized Temporary Warehouse in the Dutch town of Borselle, in a file image. EFE/Pilar Gonzalez

Regarding the French option for the management of radioactive waste similar to recycling, the Anav spokeswoman said, during a visit by the media to the Ascó facility, organized by the Nuclear Forum, that she does not know if it would be possible to implement it in Spain Although in any case, France has many more nuclear power plants than this country, and the situation of both is different.

radioactive waste

He added that there is a lot of operating experience on the subject of radioactive waste in the world, and he highlighted the case of Finland, “which is about” to put its Deep Geological Storage (AGP) into service, as the final process of managing the waste. spent nuclear fuel.

Also Sweden, together with other countries, according to experts, is taking steps to build facilities of this type, in which suitable geological formations are used several hundred meters deep, designed to receive high-activity waste such as spent fuel from nuclear plants, for hundreds of thousands of years.

This depth, which in practice isolates the debris from disturbances that could occur on the surface, allows the debris to be located in a static environment, and contrasts with the geological environment near the surface, which is more dynamic with less stable conditions.

nuclear waste
Interior of the Trillo nuclear power plant, in a file image. EFE/TRILLO NUCLEAR POWER PLANT

There are currently seven operating nuclear reactors in Spain: Almaraz I and II (Cáceres), Ascó I and II (Tarragona), Cofrentes (Valencia), Trillo (Guadalajara) and Vandellós II (Tarragona).

ATC project in Villar de Cañas (Cuenca)

The initial project was to build a Centralized Temporary Storage (ATC) in Villar de Cañas (Cuenca), for highly radioactive waste, as was unanimously approved by the Congress of Deputies in 2004 with the then Socialist Government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.

Finally, what will be built will be seven decentralized sites for the spent fuel after the cessation of operations, one in each reactor now in operation, and later they will be transferred to a deep geological storage, in 2073, as a definitive solution, as stated in the seventh general plan for radioactive waste, pending approval by the Government, after passing through the Nuclear Safety Council (CSN).

Although the bulk of the waste storage expansion project depends on Enresa, the Catalan plants, as far as they are concerned, will dimension their approaches “with sufficient margin” in the long term, beyond the minimums established by the seventh general waste plan radioactive and the new criteria of the National Integrated Energy and Climate Plan 2021-2030 (PNIEC).

“We are responsible for part of the project, the environmental impact study of the concrete slab on which the containers will be deposited as necessary”, a process in which, on the other hand, “nothing will be done that was not being done previously, it will simply be necessary to gain space, “according to the Anav spokeswoman.

General view of the dismantling of the “José Cabrera” power plant, in Almonacid de Zorita, Guadalajara, in a file image. EFE/Pepe Zamora

Nuclear plants since the beginning of their activities and operation «have been storing their fuel; that is to say, the technical solution to manage it exists from the first moment».

The spent fuel treatment process begins in the pools, at the facility itself, where the water guarantees shielding, sealing against heat and radiation.

Subsequently, to free up positions, the spent elements that have been in the fuel pool for a longer time are placed in a dry container, which, in short, is sealed with helium and covered, to be deposited in temporary storage.

In the case of Vandellós, all the fuel is still in the pool, it does not have individual or decentralized temporary storage, but “the time will come when it will need to expand its capacity.”

In the case of Ascó, which will need to expand its waste storage capacity in 2027, its individualized temporary warehouses for each of its two reactors were dimensioned in due course, in accordance with the provisions of the last waste plan, the sixth, where a centralized temporary warehouse was contemplated that will not be built in the end.

«That ATC has been delayed to a point where we are told that it will not arrive, that there is a change of decision; It is not a technical issue, it is a political, management decision, ”said the Anav spokesperson.

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