The government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero is to decide whether to allow an ageing nuclear plant to remain in service longer than its 40-year normal lifespan.
According to television reports in Spain the Garona nuclear reactor will get the green light until 2013. Prime Minister Zapatero has emphasised the importance of alternative energy sources. “The government has to maintain what is strictly necessary concerning nuclear energy, just the absolutely essential, but the emphasis is on renewable energy,” he said. Workers from the Garona nuclear plant gathered in Madrid to protest the possible closure of the reactor near Burgos in northern Spain in 2013. They faced environmentalists demanding that the plants be closed immediately. Luis Gonzalez Reyes of Spain’s Ecologists in Action said: “It’s about the greed of some private energy companies such as Endese and Iberdrola to continue making a profit.” Spain has eight functioning nuclear plants. Some will not turn 40 until 2020. Permits for six of them are due to be renewed by 2011. Zapatero’s socialists have pledged to gradually replace nuclear power with renewable energy. Spain is the second biggest solar energy producer in the world and is ranked number three worldwide for the production of wind energy. Zapatero’s goal is to cut greenhouse gas emissions and the country’s heavy dependence on imported fuels. This is the first test of his electoral pledge to phase out nuclear power.