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Nuclear waste dump on Tejo river begins construction “in next few days”

The ongoing battle between Spain and Portugal over plans to extend the life of an obsolete nuclear power station just 100 kms from the two countries’ borders moved into stark new territory today.

Spanish authorities have effectively said that despite Portugal’s extreme safety concerns, they will be ploughing ahead regardless and building a warehouse facility on the banks of the river Tejo to store uranium bars that will remain radioactive for the next 300 years.

Building will begin “within the next few days”, Spanish secretary of State for the EU Jorge Toledo has told Lusa.

Toledo met with his Portuguese counterpart Margarida Marques in Lisbon this morning, as the Portuguese government lodged its complaint about Spain’s stance to the European Union.

As reports have explained, Portugal considers Spain to be in contravention of EC directives on issues that involve countries with shared borders.

But Toledo insists Spain sees its decision to construct a warehouse for uranium bars
that “no longer serve to feed reactors” as powered by concerns over safety.

“If there wasn’t a warehouse, we would be facing a scenario of risk”, he told Lusa, which went on to explain that Almaraz has “two reactors, each with a “pool” to store nuclear waste”.

The problem is that reactor 1 will “reach its limit of capacity in 2018” – the year the warehouse facility should be up and running.

Even more worrying comes the opinion of an environmental lawyer who says Portugal’s complaint to the EU is “unlikely to have any real effect”.

Ana Cristina Figueiredo told Lusa that the move is “symbolic” – given that these kinds of complaints take a long time, and cannot force the suspension of projects.

Environmentalists pushing for Portugal to nonetheless stand its ground fear the warehouse is a ruse for extending the life of the old plant way beyond 2020.

Almaraz has been in operation since 1980 and “makes a frontier with the Portuguese districts of Castelo Branco and Portalegre”, writes Diário de Notícias.

Vila Velha do Ródão is the first Portuguese town on the Tejo once it enters Portuguese territory, and as multiple sources have explained, this far, Portugal has no ‘emergency plan’ in event of any kind of nuclear accident at Almaraz (click here).

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