Spain faces nuclear disaster

LAST UPDATED: 11 Jun, 2007 @ 12:17
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Warnings of radiation leak “1,000 times” worse than Chernobyl

DETERIORATING key components at Spain’s nuclear stations could lead to a disaster worse than Chernobyl, according to a leading environmental group.

In its study The Dangers of Nuclear Reactors, Greenpeace also slammed “the permissive stance” of the Consejo de Seguridad Nuclear (CSN) regulator towards the poor security at nuclear reactors around the country.
The report concluded the government should close Spain’s nuclear power stations to prevent “a radiation leak 1,000 times worse than Chernobyl.”

A reactor exploded at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in northern Ukraine in 1986. Scientists disagree at the extent of human casualties with the World Health Organisation believing only 50 people have lost their lives.

A Russian medical agency, however, claims the figure is much higher with 200,000 dying as a result of the disaster.

Relaxed security

Greenpeace believes security has been the first victim of cost-cutting measures among Spain’s nuclear power station owners – leaving them open to terrorist attack.

Spokesman Carlos Bravo said: “The culture of security has been relaxed to save money. It is much cheaper to pay fines [for poor security] than implement tighter controls.”

Greenpeace alleges there have been 47 breaches of security at power stations in Spain this year alone.
A spokesman for the CSN refused to comment on this figure.

To draw attention to the poor levels of security, the group organised a protest outside the Almaraz power plant in Extremadura last month.

One activist was arrested as he parachuted into the security perimeter of the station.

A statement issued by the CSN after the protest said security at the country’s nuclear power plants was “adequate.”

Circuits and materials at many of Spain’s nuclear power stations are in a state of “degradation” due to rust and wear and tear, the report also claims.

There are nine nuclear power stations currently in service in Spain, all with an average age of 25 years.

The oldest working station is the Santa María de Garoña station in northern Spain, which was opened in 1971.

Its 36 years of service far exceeds the 25-year limit many experts claim a nuclear power plant should be in operation.

Chief of Greenpeace Campaigns in Spain, Mario Rodríguez, added: “Our security and wellbeing are at risk because of our nuclear centres.”

The publication of report coincided with the temporary two-day suspension in service of the Ascó-II station in Tarragona due to “a serious design fault.”

A spokesman for the station confirmed a vapour generator was to blame.

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