Decommissioning application submitted for Garoña

26 May 2020

Spanish decommissioning firm Enresa has submitted an application to the Ministry for Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge (MITECO) for the transfer of ownership of the Garoña nuclear power plant and the first phase of its dismantling. The single-unit plant was shut down in mid-December 2012.

Nuclenor's Garoña plant (Image: Foro Nuclear)

Enresa said it submitted all the documentation required to support its request for the transfer of ownership of Garoña from Nuclenor, plus the initial phase of decommissioning, to MITECO on 21 May. Once a mandatory report is received from the Nuclear Safety Council (Consejo de Seguridad Nuclear, CSN), together with an environmental impact statement, the ministry will adopt the appropriate resolution, the company said.

According to Enresa's forecasts, the authorisation could be issued in 2022, from which time the first phase of the plant's dismantling could begin. In this phase, expected to last three years, the main activities will be the loading of the used fuel into containers and its transfer from the storage pool to the on-site interim storage facility. This phase also includes the dismantling of the turbine building in order to prepare for the second phase of dismantling.

The second phase will also require authorisation by MITECO, again after a favourable report from the CSN. The second phase, which is expected to start in 2025, is expected to last seven years and will involve the dismantling of the reactor, as well as the rest of the buildings with radiological implications, continuing with the decontamination, declassification activities and demolition of buildings, and concluding with the environmental restoration of the site.

Enresa said activities in preparation for decommissioning will continue at Garoña whilst authorisation is awaited. It noted that Enresa and Nuclenor recently completed the radiological characterisation of the turbine building, and the decommissioning of systems not necessary for dismantling are close to completion. Activities related to the elimination of conventional risks, the decontamination of systems and the adaptation of auxiliary facilities to the needs of dismantling will begin shortly, as well as the loading of the first five used fuel containers and their transfer to the interim storage facility.

The total estimated cost of decommissioning Garoña is about EUR468 million (USD514 million), which will come from the national radioactive waste fund, which Enresa manages and which is financed by contributions from the owners of operating nuclear power plants. This amount, Enresa noted, does not include the cost already incurred in the construction of the interim storage facility, nor the containers for used fuel.

Garoña's 446 MWe boiling water reactor began operations in 1971 and was deemed by the regulator, CSN, to be suitable for operation until 2019 given certain technical upgrades. In September 2012, operator Nuclenor - a joint venture of Endesa and Iberdrola - missed the deadline to submit an operating licence renewal application for Garoña, meaning that it had to shut by the time its licence expired on 6 July 2013. However, the reactor was closed in mid-December 2012 to avoid a full year of retroactive tax charges for which Nuclenor would have been liable if it was operating on 1 January 2013.

In February 2014, the industry succeeded in lobbying for regulatory changes that made it possible for a reactor closed for reasons unrelated to safety or radiological protection to be granted a new operating licence within 12 months of its shutdown. Nuclenor submitted a licence renewal application for Garoña to the Ministry of Energy, Tourism and the Digital Agenda in May 2014, requesting a licence for Garoña to operate until 2031. The ministry subsequently forwarded this to CSN for evaluation. In February 2017, CSN gave conditional approval for the restart and continued operation of Garoña, but said Nuclenor would be required to make a number of safety upgrades. However, in August of that year, the energy minister announced that the government had decided not to approve the renewal of Garoña's operating licence.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News