Spain appears to be edging towards finally phasing out nuclear power by 2035, an extension of seven years on the existing timetable. At a late-night meeting last week the big power generation companies who jointly operate much of the country's nuclear capacity agreed on a proposed exit timetable.
The government will now be asked to approve the companies' plan to wind down the five plants with seven reactors still remaining and their investment plan for handling nuclear waste in the meantime.
In 2017, over a fifth of Spain's power came from nuclear energy, the second source of power after renewable energy, which accounts for a third, and just ahead of coal. Successive governments have maintained a freeze on new nuclear plants for many years, citing the risk to the environment, and all plants were expected to close by 2028.
Improved technology has meant nuclear power production has increased in existing plants and operating companies and government have been looking to agree how long the plants can really go on for. The facilities provide significant employment in rural areas, and political parties are sensitive to the impact of closure on local voters.
In the agreement last week, Iberdrola, Endesa and Naturgy, that jointly operate the Almaraz nuclear power station in Extremadura, agreed to extend the life of that plant until 2028 when the current operating licence expires in 202 1. Currently the last plant set to close is Trillo, in central Spain, in 2028 and under this new pact, it would go on until 2035. Companies also want the government to agree a spending cap on handling nuclear waste in the extension period to make it viable.