Óscar Larrosa
Featured voices - May 16, 2024

Óscar Larrosa

Director of IDOM Nuclear Department

“I am deeply concerned about abandoning nuclear power”

Óscar Larrosa is an industrial engineer with a Master's degree in Industrial and Electric Engineering from the University of Zaragoza. He has worked at the nuclear division of IDOM, a Spanish consulting and engineering company, for 17 years. Two years ago he took up the position of Director of the Nuclear Department. In this interview with Foro Nuclear, Larrosa explains that nuclear power and technologies are indispensable for developed societies.

What kind of services does IDOM provide globally, and how many offices and employees does it have?

There are currently over 5,00o professionals at IDOM across 45 offices in over 20 countries. Our main headquarters are in Bilbao, and we also have offices throughout the national territory. Beyond our borders, we have a strong presence in South and North America, Europe, the Middle East and India. IDOM was founded in 1957, and since then we have completed over 30,000 projects for over 10,000 clients.

"Since IDOM was founded in 1957 we have completed 30,000 projects for more than 10,000 clients"

We mainly focus on professional engineering services; we also provide project and procurement management, constructi0n support, start up and operational services, among others. Our core values are customer service, the professional and personal development of our employees and our independence. Let's not forget that 960 of us are partners in the company.

"Our core values are customer service, the professional and personal development of our employees and our independence"

What are some projects and work you would highlight within the nuclear division you lead?

IDOM Nuclear is currently carrying out projects in over eleven countries, tackling crucial issues for the future such as managing the long-term life and operation of the Spanish nuclear reactor fleet, dismantling and waste management at the national level, as well as our ongoing collaboration for the past 15 years with the ITER nuclear fusion project.

Óscar Larrosa

What services and technology do you export abroad?

At the Nuclear Department we export engineering services for conceptual, basic and detail stages for fusion initiatives such as ITER, UKAEA and other fusion technologies. We also undertake small nuclear reactor (SMR) initiatives in the United Kingdom, Canada and Norway, as well as detailed engineering for the completion of the electromechanical design of the Angra III nuclear power plant in Brazil. We are also actively involved in the engineering development of the Pallas reactor in the Netherlands.

Additionally, since 2015 we have completed turnkey projects at the Krško nuclear plant in Slovenia. We are now on our third major project, following the completion of the emergency control room and the alternative cooling source.

How many countries trust IDOM with the construction or maintenance of their nuclear power plants?

We have references in all Spanish nuclear power plants at the maintenance and long-term operation levels, supplying engineering services for design modifications or new installations and also for their long-term operation. As to new plant construction, we have worked in Flamanvile (France) and Taishan (China), and indirectly in the construction of Hinkle Point C (United Kingdom).

Why do you think these countries trust the vanguard Spanish technology?

Spain is in the top 10 of the world's countries in electricity generation through nuclear means. Additionally, the nuclear sector employs over 22,000 highly qualified professionals. Spanish engineering, service, equipment manufacturing companies, etc., are referential worldwide and are actively involved in designing the new reactors of the future. Added to this is the fact that the performance indicators of the national fleet are excellent and internationally recognized

At the nuclear level, Spain is in the top 10

Our experts actively participate in working groups of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) collaborating on missions, generating methodologies, conducting operational audits, etc., always with very positive feedback in all the areas where we are involved.

What kind of work do you do in Spanish nuclear power plants?

The work of IDOM's nuclear department began with the construction of the Ascó nuclear power plant. We continued with the EJ project at the Vandellós II nuclear power plant in the mid-2000s, where over 200 people participated in the turnkey project for the alternative cooling focus of the plant.

Since then we have continuously worked for the national nuclear fleet providing engineering services aimed at designing new systems and installations, maintaining existing ones, analyzing operational experience, dismantling and waste management, adapting to new regulations and standards, operational improvements, long-term life and operation management, radiological and neutron protection, safety analysis, thermo-hydraulics, etc.

Currently we are suppliers, approved by GES, the nuclear plant owner group, for the provision of engineering services, project management and turnkey projects.

Óscar Larrosa

As a nuclear professional, are you concerned about the closure of Spanish reactors starting in 2027?

The closure of the Spanish nuclear fleet is a topic that must be approached calmly and with pragmatism, avoiding political issues as much as possible and centering the debate on the suitability of this decision from a technical and economic standpoint. We are in an energy transition process where we aim to achieve a goal of zero CO2 emissions by 2050, and we cannot disregard any energy source of that is free from carbon emissions.

The challenge we face is profound, because we not only need to decarbonize electricity generation but also industry, transportation, residential sectors, agriculture... in short, the entire economy! I am deeply concerned that we are prematurely dismissing a source of energy that can contribute to this transition, and that this rejection is solely based on short-term ideological or political reasons

"We cannot afford to forgo nuclear energy in our country"

Do you think our country will be able to function without all its nuclear power plants by 2035?

Sincerely speaking, I don't think we can afford it. Climate change is a problem with many facets, many more than we realize, and some of them we can only sense for now. Perhaps we have already crossed the point of no return, and this may not have a viable solution, forcing us to adapt to an irreversible scenario.

"Energy generation systems must be based on a combination of renewables and nuclear energy"

Concerning the energy challenge, the solution, as seen in COP28, is within our reach: energy generation systems must be based on renewables and nuclear energy, which entails doubling the contribution of the latter by 2050 and tripling its installed capacity. It's not just me saying this, it's what leaders of many of the world's major economies are saying.

On your website, you state that you are committed to "achieving a future with reliable, sustainable, and safe energy." Do you believe these values are increasingly shared by citizens?

Without a doubt. Society, with good reason, is moving towards a state of social awareness where it is important for energy generation to align with the sustainability criteria proposed by the United Nations. Nuclear power partially fulfills these criteria, but we must not become complacent. We must continue to work diligently on addressing the challenges of high-level radioactive waste and spent fuel, to close the nuclear energy cycle and thereby showcase its true potential to society.

Why do you think that there has been a significant interest in small modular reactors (SMRs) in countries like Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, China or France in recent years?

SMR technology represents a paradigm shift in nuclear energy as we know it. SMRs, by definition, leverage best practices from other industries; this enables them to reduce costs and complexity, making nuclear energy accessible to a wider range of potential consumers such as factories, mining companies, isolated communities, desalination plants, offshore platforms, etc. The spectrum of potential SMR users is much more diverse since it is possible to design reactors specifically for a particular application.

"SMR technology is a paradigm shift in nuclear energy as we know it"

The countries you mentioned, which also have a history of success in deploying their own reactors within and beyond their borders, do not want to miss the opportunity to replicate a business model that has yielded good results for them in the past, both economically and in terms of strategic influence.

Do you think this type of small reactors will coexist with the larger ones?

Undoubtedly. SMRs offer much greater flexibility than large reactors. This translates into superior adaptability when addressing specific energy needs a combination of several (heat, electricity, cooling, storage, hydrogen production, etc.). Their reduced cost and adaptive design also allow them to expand into energy issues where traditional nuclear energy would not be a good fit due to design, costs or other considerations.

DOM has also been involved in fusion projects for decades. What reflections could you share regarding this technology?

Nuclear fusion is the future. In a world where energy consumption is constantly increasing, we need a massive source of production, and the answer is nuclear fusion. Renewable energies, nuclear fission, oil, natural gas, etc., are all transitional energy sources until nuclear fusion can be developed on a commercial scale. In fully electrified economies, the only reasonable solution for supply security, reliability, capacity, waste generation, etc., is nuclear fusion. Thus, we must push its development with all our resources.

However, until the time of massive and commercial deployment worldwide arrives, we cannot rule out the use of nuclear fission energy and all those energy sources that contribute to decarbonizing power generation. Nuclear fusion is where we should be heading in the second half of the 21st century; the challenge is significant, but it is critical that we all succeed together.

"In a world where energy consumption is continuously increasing, the answer is nuclear fusion."

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