IEA Stresses The Importance of Nuclear For Spain’s Long-Term Energy Strategies

The International Energy Agency recently published the Energy Policy Report “Spain 2021”, a periodical in-depth peer review of the energy policies to support their development and encourages the exchange of international best practices and experiences.

Spain has made considerable progress towards its goal of reaching net zero emissions by 2050, but future gains need to be supported by stable policies, adequate public financing and incentives for private investment.

Spain’s 2050 objective for national climate neutrality calls for renewables to provide 100% of electricity and 97% of the total energy mix.

The country’s energy policies are centred on massive deployment of renewable energy, energy efficiency, electrification and renewable hydrogen.

This entailed phasing out both coal-fired and nuclear power plants.

Nuclear power, which accounts for 22% of power generation and it is an important source of low-carbon generation, will begin shutting down from 2027.

IEA warns that, although the new policies and increased electrification will reduce Spain’s import dependency, “the rapid closure of coal and nuclear facilities over the coming decade bears watching, as it could increase the country’s call on natural gas, especially if new renewables capacity cannot be built as quickly as planned.

The report offers a 40-page chapter especially on the Spain’s nuclear sector describing the country’s nuclear policy, NPP operation, fuel supply, decommissioning & radwaste, and research & development.

It recognises how

“Spain has developed a well-integrated and efficient nuclear infrastructure including seven operating NPPs, a fuel manufacturing facility, solutions for decommissioning of nuclear facilities and the management of radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel, and efficient regulatory institutions. The performance of operating NPPs is excellent, maintaining high-capacity factors of around 90% for the last decade. Currently, nuclear energy produces about 20% of Spain’s total electricity, contributing to the security of supply, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and diversification of energy sources.”

Then the report supports four recommendations to the government with respect to the nuclear sector are that it should:

  • Closely monitor the financial situation of NPPs to prevent unforeseen or sudden final shutdown that could significantly deteriorate the security of electricity supply.
  • Pursue timely implementation of the back-end strategy, including the centralised storage facility and the deep geological repository, to avoid unnecessary cost escalation for NPP decommissioning and radwaste management, including final waste disposal.
  • Develop projects that could enable the effective preservation and transfer of knowledge and expertise using current technical infrastructure and highly skilled workers as well as the institutional advantages of Enresa in the NPP decommissioning business.
  • Consider the usefulness of nuclear energy, including for non-electricity applications, for diversifying technical options to achieve long-term carbon neutrality by 2050.

The IEA says “nuclear technology is considered to have great potential to contribute to decarbonisation of not only the electricity system, but also hard-to-abate sectors, such as manufacturing and transport, through high-temperature heat supply and hydrogen production”. It concludes:

Given the great challenge for achieving carbon neutrality in 2050, the high level of nuclear technology infrastructure and skilled professionals in Spain could be utilised more effectively for developing and implementing long-term energy strategies.

Read the full Energy Policy Report “Spain 2021” here.