Urgent meeting demanded with Spain over obsolete Almaraz nuclear plant

Portugal is demanding an urgent meeting with Spain over plans to continue the life of an obsolete and allegedly unsafe nuclear power plant 100 kms from the Portuguese border.

Environment minister João Pedro Matos Fernandes said the action was being taken following the nuclear security council’s green-light to plans for a nuclear waste depository near the Almaraz plant as this suggests it “will remain in activity, beyond its current licence”.

Parliament approved a Bloco de Esquerda motion last April, calling for the plant to be mothballed on the basis of a report by five independent experts, who all expressed doubts that “a cooling system for essential services” was in fact “reliable” (click here).

The case is one of many being championed by Greenpeace, though Spain’s nuclear supervisory body maintains there is no cause for alarm.

Choosing words carefully, Matos Fernandes said he did not want to “embark on alarmist reactions” but that he had been made aware of “small incidents” at the Almaraz plant that appeared not to be being addressed: certain “unconformities in the manufacture of parts used” which regulatory authorities in Spain were not apparently seeing the need to address.

He said that while Portugal “respects Spain’s sovereignty in relation to its energy policies” , it is seeking to intervene to “guarantee scrupulous compliance with safety regulations”.

Almaraz is situated on the Tejo river which joins the two countries. Fears are that any incident would quickly impact on national territory, causing all kinds of environmental upsets.

Thus the call for an urgent meeting “to force Madrid to give answers”.

Spain and Portugal have an agreement under the Espoo Convention that should involve environmental impact studies going ahead before anything like the planned nuclear waste dump could be constructed, explains Observador website today.

In related news, activists from the Algarve’s anti-oil group Tavira em Transição have been in Spain this week monitoring the situation at a nearby industrial site in Huelva.

Posting a series of images on Facebook today, the group says what it found was “dramatic”, and the effects of localised pollution on the environment were such that members who took part are still suffering from sore throats and running noses.

Seventy-five per cent of the business in Huelva is connected to the petrochemical industry, the group’s Ângela Rosa told us. The thought of something like this being constructed in the Algarve is “just too terrible to think about”, she said. “Huelva is an area with one of the highest rates of cancer in Europe and one of the highest levels of unemployment”.