In a deal encouraged by European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, Portugal has agreed to drop its complaint against Spain over the siting of a nuclear waste dump at the obsolete nuclear power station at Almaraz, on the banks of the Tejo river, 100 kms from Portuguese territory.
According to Público, the reason for the deal stems from the “economic, social and geopolitical challenges that the EU is facing at this time” making “litigation between member states that are traditionally allied” issues that should be dealt with “rapidly” and in “a spirit of cooperation”.
The decision “results from the meeting that took place in Malta on February 3 on the initiative of Jean-Claude Juncker” says a statement released by the European Commission today (on Tuesday).
The small print – other papers stress – involves Spain agreeing “not to advance with the use of a warehouse for nuclear waste” at Almaraz “until the Portuguese authorities have analysed pertinent information and visited the installations”.
In this context, the statement continues, a Portuguese delegation will be visiting Almaraz “in the next few days” to consider all the “legitimate preoccupations over this project and come up with adequate measures to address these preoccupations in a proportional manner”.
The agreement, signed in Juncker’s presence by prime ministers António Costa and Mariano Rajoy, is unlikely to appease environmentalists or those living in and around Almaraz who have already gone public over the number of health issues affecting populations in the immediate surroundings.
Portuguese MEP Carlos Zorrinho has already described Almaraz as the “Fukushima hanging over Portugal’s head”, while Europe as a whole faces as many as 66 Fukushimas: elderly nuclear plants that could spark nuclear accidents at any moment, he said.
Coincidentally, high levels of radioactive iodine, suggesting a nuclear incident somewhere over the Arctic circle, were registered last week over northern Europe and down through France and Spain. Their source, say reports, has been considered “a mystery”.