Spain to nix nuclear and coal power by 2030

Almaraz nuclear power plant, in central Spain, will take its two nuclear reactors offline within the next five years, once they reach their 40-year-long operating limit. [Shutterstock]

Spain will close the last of its nuclear reactors and coal power plants before 2030, according to State Secretary for Energy José Dominguez, who made the announcement shortly after Madrid pledged to work towards a completely renewable electricity system.

Dominguez said on Thursday (15 November) that the current socialist government does not plan to extend the lifespan of any of its nuclear reactors beyond their current 40-year shelf-life.

Spain’s oldest reactor is more than 37 years old, so according to current plans will shut up shop in 2021, while its newest just celebrated its third decade of operation, and will go offline in 2028.

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“It will probably take us beyond 2030 but we will not reach 2040. Before 2040, we will have closed them,” the state secretary explained, referring to the fact that permanently shutting down and decommissioning nuclear reactors is a long process.

He added that phasing out nuclear power in Spain is a “social decision”, insisting that it should be done in a “safe and orderly manner”, acknowledging it could take decades to achieve.

Nuclear power satisfied about 20% of Spain’s electricity needs in 2016, according to the International Energy Agency, while a variety of renewable sources provided about 23%.

A new draft climate law published this week by the government aims to make the Iberian nation’s electricity system 100% renewable by 2050, as well as cutting its total emissions by as much as 90% by the turn of mid-century.

However, the plan as it stands does not make any mention of the nuclear phase-out option, although it does confirm that getting rid of coal power is firmly on the agenda.

Spain targets 100% renewable power by 2050

Spain’s government has published a new climate plan that targets a 100% renewable energy electricity system by 2050, with goals that outstrip those adopted by the EU and a ban on new gas and oil exploration.

Spain will have to keep investing heavily in renewable energy uptake, which under the draft law will have to hit 35% by 2030, as well as relying more on gas, given that Dominguez also announced that the phase-out of coal will continue as planned.

Nine of Spain’s 14 coal plants will close in June 2020, as they will not meet EU rules for heavy polluters, and Dominguez confirmed that the other five will not make it past 2030.

“What we think is going to happen, but we are not imposing it, is that they will close between 2020 and 2030. In 2030, there will be no coal power plants, but I believe they will close by themselves before then, without us having to close them ourselves,” the state secretary revealed earlier in the week.

As part of the draft climate law, which the government hopes to present to parliament before the end of the year, Spain will also ban fracking, scrap new fossil fuel subsidies and stop issuing new gas an oil exploration permits.

Dominguez’s government colleague, Ecological Minister Teresa Ribera, has already previously announced that a deal has been struck to close Spain’s remaining coal mines, with schemes like early retirement offered to workers.

EU's 'just transition fund' gesture muddies budget waters

Europe’s fossil fuel-dependent regions could benefit from an additional €5 billion under the next EU budget, thanks to a proposal endorsed by the European Parliament. But it could complicate already complex talks with the Council, which is eager to cut future spending.

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