The second Spanish nuclear power plant: Santa María de Garoña
The Santa María de Garoña nuclear power plant is located the meander formed by the Ebro river in the surroundings of the town that gave its name to the site, in the Tobalina valley in the province of Burgos.
The plant is in the peninsula formed by this meander of the river, in the Tobalina valley in the province of Burgos
This location complies with the necessary requisites for an energy production site, such as being equidistant and near to the consumer centers and to their large networks and substations, the proximity of an abundant water flow for the refrigeration of the site, good meteorological, geological and seismic conditions, and access points that allow for the components to arrive at the site.
How the idea came about
In 1955, at the United Nations International Conference held in Geneva, the technical conditions for the use of nuclear energy in the production of electricity were approved. Among the attendants to this conference were Manuel Gutiérrez Cortines, General Manager of Electra de Viesgo, who contacted Iberduero’s General Manager, D. Ricardo Rubio. Both of them then contacted the presidents of their companies to analyze the possibility of entering this new production of electric energy.
All these factors led to the creation, on March 2nd 1957, of Centrales Nucleares del Norte, S.A. (NUCLENOR), with an initial capital investment of 5 million pesetas, 50% of which was subscribed by Electra de Viesgo (currently Endesa) and Iberduero (currently Iberdrola) respectively. The goal of this new company was the construction of the Santa María de Garoña nuclear power plant.
Initial work centered upon studying and finding the location to build the plant, finally choosing the flow of the Ebro river, between Trespaderne and La Rioja, in the meander formed by the river near the town of Santa María de Garoña, next to the Sobrón reservoir. This location fulfilled all the necessary requisites for the construction of a large energy production site.
The Santa María de Garoña nuclear power plant is in the peninsula formed by this meander of the river, in the Tobalina valley in the province of Burgos. It’s a very moist area since it is covered by the Ebro River and its tributaries, Jerea and Purón, There are also two reservoirs: the Cillaperlata and the Sobrón.
The plant has a Series 3 Boiling Watter Reactor and Mark I type contention, and produces 466 MW of electric power
On March 2nd 1971, Santa María de Garoña was connected to the national electricity grid, achieving full potency 27 days later, with 460,000 gross electric kilowatts, which correspond to 1,381,000 thermal kilowatts, the greatest amount installed in Europe to date.
The nuclear power plant has a Series 3 Boiling Watter Reactor and Mark I type contention, and produces 466 MW of electric power, supplied by the North American firm General Electric Company.
Santa María de Garoña today: Long Term Operation?
In operation since 1971, its commercial exploitation is carried out by Nuclenor S.A., with a 50%/50% participation from Iberdrola and Endesa. For this purpose, Nuclenor has a staff of 330 people and a permanent contractor staff of 230 people.
In the United States, General Electric designed the reactor of the nuclear power plant in a similar way to American reactors such as Dresden 2 and 3, Monticello, Quad Cities 1 and 2 and Pilgrim, which have received or are under study for the concession of long term operation authorizations.
|Nuclear Power Plant||Date of commercial operation||Authorization for Long-term operation|
|Dresden 2||9th June 1970||28th October 2004|
|Dresden 3||18th November 1971||28th October 2004|
|Quad Cities 1||18th February 1973||28th October 2004|
|Quad Cities 2||10th March 1973||28th October 2004|
|Monticello||30th June 1971||8th November 2004|
|Pilgrim||19th June 1972||(*)|
(*) The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has received its application and is currently studying its authorization.
Currently, nuclear power plants in Spain do not, by law, have a limited life. The Law of Sustainable Economy, approved at Congress in March 2011, opens a door for the long term operation of all Spanish nuclear power plants. This means an operation beyond the 40 years that were initially planned (Article 79.3 of the Sustainable Economy Law).
From the start of its operation, nuclear power plants are given functioning authorizations that are periodically renewed – every ten years – according to what was established on the Safety guides from the Nuclear Safety Council (CSN).
On June 5th 2009, CSN issued a favourable report to Santa María de Garoña’s request for a ten year renovation. However, the Ministry of Industry, in the July 6th Ministry Order, decided to renew the functioning permit only until July 6th 2013, thus decreeing the shutdown of all activity at the site on that date.
On September 17th 2009, Nuclenor appealed to the National Court against the aforementioned Ministry Order, as it was understood that it did not comply with its rights. On 24th March 2010, the appeal was formalized at the National Court. On July 14th 2011, the National Court overruled Nuclenor’s appeal, which was supported by other companies and institutions. On July 19th, 2011, Nuclenor’s Administration Council decided to request an abrogation from the Supreme Council. This second appeal was formalized on December 26th 2011.
Last January 19th, CSN informed that it had received a request from the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism (MINETUR) for the conditions, limits, terms and possible impediments for the modification of the Ministry Order from July 2009 that limits the operation of the Santa María de Garoña nuclear power plant until July 2013.
On February 17th, the regulatory commission issued to MINETUR a report that concludes that there is no impediment, from the point of view of nuclear safety and radiological protection, for the modification of the Ministry Order of July 3rd 2009, once the site’s operative experience and its results in CNS’s Integrated Nuclear Power Plant Supervision System have been analyzed.
The report also points out that Nuclenor could request a new operation authorization until 2019, as long as the requisites contained in the authorization from July 2009 are fulfilled.
For further information:
- The first Spanish nuclear power plant: José Cabrera
- The third Spanish nuclear power plant: Vandellós I
- The fourth Spanish nuclear power plant: Almaraz I and II
- The fifth Spanish nuclear power plant: Ascó I and II
- The sixth Spanish nuclear power plant: Cofrentes
- The seventh Spanish nuclear power plant: Trillo I
- The eighth Spanish nuclear power plant: Vandellós II