Vandellòs and Ascó will have to store their radioactive waste for 50 years

Confirmed. There will be no Centralized Temporary Warehouse (ATC) for Spain's nuclear waste. The government definitively rules out building a single warehouse for high-level waste generated by nuclear power plants and is committed to the creation of Decentralized Temporary Warehouses (ATD) that will be located in the seven plants in the country, including those of Vandellòs and Ascó. This is detailed in the 7th General Radioactive Waste Plan prepared by the Ministry for Ecological Transition, which definitively buries the previous plan, which was approved in 2006 and had expired for more than a decade.

In this way, for the time being there will not be a single nuclear cemetery for spent fuel from nuclear power plants, which is considered high-level waste, but each plant will have its own warehouse for the waste generated from both its production as well as the dismantling process. Ultimately, the bet is to build a deep geological warehouse, in a location yet to be determined, where all the radioactive waste that accumulates in the ATDs will be taken. This installation, however, is projected for within 50 years.

The mayor of Vandellòs i l'Hospitalet de l'Infant, Alfons Garcia, assured yesterday that "of the proposals that were foreseen in the draft of this seventh plan, this was the most successful, because it rules out the centralized warehouse, which would mean not complying with the planned dismantling terms. Likewise, the mayor welcomes the long-term commitment to burying the waste in a deep geological warehouse, although he asks that the planned deadlines be shortened. The current plan contemplates that this geological warehouse will not come into operation until 50 years from now, in 2072. Its location will be analyzed and decided between 2033 and 2039.

“We agree with the temporary warehouse as long as there is a production process and a subsequent dismantling of the plant. It cannot be kept indefinitely. If production continues until 2035, the terms have to be shortened in a realistic way so that there is no residue left that means mortgaging those lands for decades, "defends the mayor.

deep geological repository

"The ATDs provide an adequate time frame to develop the final storage solution, granting sufficient time to design, license, build and put into operation the future deep geological storage", details the General Radioactive Waste Plan. Likewise, the document defines this alternative as “the most sustainable and safest option as the end point for the management of high level waste and spent fuel”.

In this regard, it should be remembered that in 2030 the Ascó I nuclear power plant is expected to cease production and, two years later, that of Ascó II. In the case of Vandellòs II, it will continue to operate until February 2035. However, the capacity to store spent fuel is not sufficient to complete the useful life of any of them. That is why, before the construction of the DTAs, it is planned that the Ascó Individualized Temporary Warehouses (ATI) will be expanded, which began operating ten years ago, and that one will be built in Vandellòs II, the only Spanish plant that does not yet have these deposits for radioactive waste.

The Council of Ministers already authorized ENRESA (National Radioactive Waste Company) in the summer of 2021 to manufacture four of these warehouses, including the two in the province, with an amount of 220 million euros. The forecast is that they will come into operation in 2026, when the Vandellòs swimming pools and the Ascó warehouses are expected to exhaust their capacity. Subsequently, these warehouses with waste will be integrated into the DTAs that each plant will have.

On the other hand, the plan presented by the Spanish government also refers to the waste from the Vandellòs I plant, closed in 1989 and partially dismantled since 2003. Currently, the radioactive remains that were extracted from the plant are stored in facilities in France, which represents a significant expense for the state coffers, which already exceeds 100 million euros per year. The current planning is for a new warehouse to be built in Vandellòs I so that this waste can be returned in 2027.

Petition to unify the ATDs

From the City Council, however, they will demand that the central government, instead of building a decentralized warehouse for each nuclear power plant in the municipality, unify both facilities in a single location. «We presented a series of allegations to the previous draft in which we basically asked to group the warehouses that will be in our plants into one. At the moment it is not contemplated, but we will continue to stress the need to unify the two ATDs”, explains the mayor of Vandellòs.

Garcia, who is vice president of the Association of Municipalities in Areas of Nuclear Power Plants (AMAC), held a meeting on Tuesday with the third vice president and minister of Ecological Transition, Teresa Ribera, where they announced the content of the General Radioactive Waste Plan. This document also deals with the dismantling of all the Spanish plants and details that it will start up three years after the cessation of activity. In the case of Vandellòs I, the forecast is for dismantling to start in 2030.

This new version of the plan is now on public display and the ministry has requested the required reports from both the Nuclear Safety Council (CSN) and the affected autonomous communities, before it passes to parliamentary approval. As the minister informed the mayors, the forecast is that the document will be definitively approved before the end of the current legislature, in December 2023.

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