Energy minister accused of “disinterest” over perceived nuclear threat on Portugal’s doorstep

Away from all the stories in the national spotlight last week plans were approved to extend the life of ‘obsolete’ nuclear power station Almaraz, sitting on the bank of the Tejo river in Spain, just 100 kms from the Portuguese border.

It’s a move that has exasperated all those that believe Almaraz poses a major health threat to local communities and beyond – and one that Opposition MPs in Portugal believe shows energy minister João Pedro Matos Fernandes “is just not sufficiently interested”.

A joint statement written by PSD social democrats stresses “there have been many alerts” over safety at Almaraz, from politicians, citizens movements, environmentalists, etc. “and the probability of a serious accident, whether it contaminates the Tejo or the atmosphere of the surrounding region, is increasing with the ageing of material” that has been in use beyond the station’s 40-year function limit.

Indeed, in tune with so many other groups and organisations, the PSD believes Almaraz’ lifespan “is already exaggerated”.

To go beyond the limits of 2023 and 2024 (Almaraz has two reactors) means Portugal should be at the very least meaningfully involved in the process of extending the power station’s licence, something that doesn’t appear to be happening.

Say reports this week: “The PSD has accused the government of not showing particular interest in the situation, as if it did not have the potential to affect our country”.

Two years ago, a shocking report claimed that a simulation performed by the Portuguese army in 2010 showed that a serious accident in Almaraz could expose as many as 800,000 Portuguese to radiation (click here).

At the time, Euro MP José Faria went public with his belief that “fraud lies behind” Portugal’s relaxed attitude to the scare stories (click here).

For now, there is simply the agreement by power companies in charge of the station – Iberdrola, Endesa and Naturgy – to request a licence extension from the Spanish government, dependent on an investment of up to €600 million in maintenance.

The agreement respects the protocol already entered into to phas- out Spain’s nuclear power stations between 2025 and 2035.

Says Público, the Portuguese government “has already shown its displeasure with the production of electricity through nuclear energy, but defends that Madrid is sovereign to decide the way in which it produces electrical energy in its own country”.

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