Spain’s Centralised Interim Storage Facility
Nuclear energy issues are again the subject of controversy in Spain. In the past few months the Government's decision to authorise the construction of an interim storage facility for high-level radioactive waste has divided the country and has raised many concerns.
For the time being Spain does not have such a facility and most of its nuclear power operating plants' high-level waste and spent fuel are kept at the plants, apart from a small fraction that was sent temporally to the UK and France for reprocessing.
The Centralized Interim Storage Facility (Almacen Temporal Centralizado - most commonly known as ATC) is directly inspired by the experiences of the Dutch. A central building divided into different modules will be constructed to store high-level radioactive waste arising from all Spanish nuclear power plants' activities. Some additional radiotoxic substances that cannot be processed at El Cabril (where low and intermediate level radioactive waste is being handled) will also be stored in this new facility.
The estimated amount of radioactive waste to be stored is around 6,700 tons and it would require a facility with a capacity volume equivalent to a 4 meters high basketball court to store it. The construction project should take about 14 years, including the design period, its approval and the construction of the different modules. The first module should be completed at the end of the fifth project development year. The Spanish Government plans to develop, in the same area where the ATC should be built, a nuclear waste research facility.
The decision to build the ATC has made nuclear energy once again catch the public’s eye as the Government has begun a period of time during which any Spanish municipality can present its bid to host the project. This has brought a lot of political debate within each candidate town. Indeed, hosting such a facility would, on the one hand, bring employment opportunities and a stable source of revenue for the local community. On the other hand, some claim that such a facility would entail a risk for the population and that tourism and visitors would be discouraged to visit the chosen municipality and its surroundings.
The Spanish Government is due to take a decision in the weeks to come. In the meantime, protests have arisen in the 8 towns that have applied for the storage facility to be built in their municipality. The populations are split between those in favor and those against.
The Spanish Young Generation Network, “Jóvenes Nucleares”, consider that it is necessary to provide citizens with valuable information, including facts on other similar experiences around the world, and to point out that this type of facility is safe and does not entail any risk either for the host municipality or its population.
From our perspective, nuclear energy must be produced in a responsible manner and must contribute to sustainable development. In other words, there should be an open cycle from the mining and conversion of raw uranium to the disposal, storage, processing and isolation of radioactive waste. It is the duty of society to complete the whole cycle in a proper, safe, serious and responsible way and that includes dealing with waste. Advanced research is being carried out on the possibility that in the near future this waste will be able to be reprocessed and used again as fuel for new generation reactors.
Spanish Young Generation Network.