Portugal “accepts” controversial nuclear waste dump on banks of River Tejo

After all the hue and cry, the claims that Portugal faces the threat of a nuclear disaster the likes of Russia’s Chernobyl, the PS government has announced that a working group set up to study the implications of plans to extend the life of Spain’s apparently obsolete power station at Almaraz has found everything to be “secure and adequate”.

It is a declaration that has exasperated environmentalists who point to a hidden agenda.

As Francisco Ferreira, president of Zero, the Portuguese association for a sustainable world, has told journalists he cannot even understand how the working group managed to come to this decision in six weeks.

“We do not know if there was a giving in to interests that go beyond the construction of the warehouse” for radioactive waste described earlier this year as having a “semi-active life of centuries and centuries” (click here).

Ferreira added that Portugal’s acceptance of plans for a site just 100 km from the country’s border with Spain “creates a very serious precedent for identical situations in future”.

And this is the crux of the issue. Almaraz is just one of what Euro MEP Carlos Zorrinho dubs 66 Fukushimas (the name synonymous with nuclear meltdown in Japan) “waiting to happen” in Europe.

Put in other words, it is one of 66 ‘obsolete nuclear power plants’ that should be dismantled but which could end up seeing their lives extended well beyond ‘sell-by dates’.

Talking in February, Zorrinho was keen for Portugal to take a “firm position” with Spain – saying Almaraz and the implications of Spain’s plans to extend its life would most certainly be on the Iberian summit in May.

Thus, Portugal’s “acceptance” of the nuclear waste dump already under construction may still face stiff challenges

NGOs Quercus and the Iberian anti-nuclear movement have been scathing of what they term the working group’s “total submission” to the Spanish government.

Bloco de Esquerda MPs too are expected to take the issue up with environment minister João Pedro Matos Fernandes, particularly as the working group’s wording leaves little doubt as to the likelihood of risks involved.

Signing off the group’s report, Nuno Lacasta, president of Portuguese Environment Association APA, agreed that in the case of a severe accident, “the release of gases” and “contamination of the bay of the Tejo through discharge of water that could be contaminated” would have to be “evaluated”, if necessary by aircraft, writes Correio da Manhã – although, for the time being, “no transfrontier impacts for our country have been detected”.

The problems of Almaraz have been in the news for well over a year, following a report that five independent experts had detected serious failings in the plant’s cooling system (click here).

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