Almaraz nuclear threat: French accident “may strengthen campaigners case”

Conflicting stories over the threat posed to Portugal of Spain’s obsolete nuclear plant on the Tejo river at Almaraz have appeared this week.

One, citing the nuclear accident at a plant in France on Thursday, suggests it boosts case to mothball the plant – and veto the construction of a nuclear waste dump (click here).

But another, hidden away on an inside page today of Correio da Manhã, says a new decision taken in Spain may set a dangerous precedent.

The decision, by the Council for Nuclear Safety, involves a “thumbs up” to extending the life of another nuclear plant in the country (in Garona, near Burgos) to 60 years – instead of the current 40.

As CM explains, if the it is accepted by parliament, the country’s five other nuclear plants could be treated accordingly – allowing Almaraz, with all its myriad safety concerns (click here) – to continue worrying environmentalists and impacting on local populations.

CM’s Sunday magazine has already carried a major exposé on the health issues posed by the plant, and the concern of Spanish environmentalists that not enough is being done to protect communities.

But Portugal stands to be every bit as affected as Spain in the event of a nuclear accident at Almaraz. MEP Carlos Zorrinho dubs it the “Fukushima hanging over Portugal’s head”.

Discussing the accident in France yesterday, in which authorities claim no radioactivity was leaked, though five people had to be treated for ‘light intoxication’, Zorrinho has told reporters that Europe has at least 66 Fukushimas just waiting to happen, as nuclear plants throughout the continent are “very old”.

Accidents are “systemic risks”, stressed Zorrinho – saying Portugal’s government has to take a firm position over Almaraz next time it gets the opportunity for talks with Spain.

These are said to be coming up in May, during the next Iberian summit.

As Zorrinho told Diário de Notícias, the agenda is not known yet, but “the Tejo and its hydrographical basin will be there, and therefore Almaraz automatically will be too”.

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