Major row as Spain votes to prolong Almaraz nuclear threat with controversial waste dump

A major row has erupted following the Spanish government’s decision to prolong what environmentalists see as a ‘nuclear threat’ on Portugal’s doorstep.

Involving the continued use of an obsolete nuclear plant on the Tejo river at Almaraz – just 100 kms from the border with Portugal – the perceived threat increased exponentially this week after Spain voted to site a nuclear waste dump alongside the plant.

The move came as a “surprise” to environment minister João Pedro Matos Fernandes who has made no secret of Portugal’s concerns about safety at Almaraz (see:

With environmental associations calling for serious action in the form of complaints to Brussels, TVI24 reports today (Friday) that Portugal is demanding ‘explanations’.

The business attaché from Spain’s embassy has been summoned to Lisbon for talks with foreign affairs minister Augusto Santos Silva, while in Madrid, the Portuguese ambassador has been in touch with relevant authorities.

As TVI24 explains, Matos Fernandes actually sent a letter to his Spanish counterpart earlier this month demanding ‘explanations’ over Spanish intentions for Almaraz.

“In the letter, the government communicated that transfrontier impacts from the construction of the waste dump had not been evaluated, according to EC legislation”, says the station’s website.

Matos Fernandes has since said that as far as he is concerned, the Spanish decision is not only illegal – in that it has not conformed to prerequisites set out in European law – it shows ‘disloyalty’ between the two countries.

Meantime, environmental association ZERO is on the warpath, calling for the direct intervention of prime minister António Costa, while other movements like Tejo Seguro are highlighting the fact that Portugal has no “emergency plan” in the eventuality of a nuclear accident at Almaraz (see:

Meteorologist Costa Alves, attached to Tejo Seguro, put the issue into a nutshell: “100 kms from Castelo Branco we have an ageing nuclear plant with various functional problems and now on top of this we have the onus of dealing with a dump site for radioactive material that will have a semi-active life of centuries and centuries”.

Activists say they are planning a new round of protests, as Portuguese government sources push Spain “not to make a formal decision” about the dumpsite before the two countries have a chance to meet early in the New Year.

Diário de Notícias suggests that the earliest date for a meeting could be January 12.

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PHOTO taken from a report by Rádio Renascença which can be seen in full here: