José Luis Navarro has been endorsed by the Government as president of the National Radioactive Waste Company (Enresa) after four years in office, according to the Official Gazette of the Mercantile Registry (BORME). Until he assumed the presidency of the public company, he was part of the government of the Junta de Extremadura, in a first stage as Minister of Industry and Environment, between July 2007 and July 2011; and later as Minister of Economy and Infrastructures from 2015 until joining Enresa.
Before working in the government of Guillermo Fernández Vara, he held positions of responsibility at Endesa, Saltos Extremeños (mini-hydroelectric plants) or Arram Consultores, simultaneously working as an independent business consultant on industry and energy. The appointment, criticized in its day by the Popular Party of Extremadura, came at a decisive moment for nuclear power plants. The PSOE participated in the 2019 general elections with an electoral program in which it included a calendar with dates – which are required maximum – for the gradual closure of thermal and nuclear power plants.
In Spain, the nuclear blackout is scheduled until 2035, as agreed between the companies that own the plants and the Ministry for Ecological Transition. The country has seven operational nuclear reactors. Almaraz I and II (Cáceres), Ascó I and II (Tarragona), Cofrentes (Valencia), Trillo (Guadalajara) and Vandellós II (Tarragona), a nuclear fuel factory in Juzbado (Salamanca) and a radioactive waste storage center in El Cabril (Córdoba). The four large electricity companies that manage nuclear power plants are Iberdrola, Endesa, Naturgy and EDP Spain and they signed their commitment to close them in March 2019. Thus, the seven reactors will stop working in stages between 2027 and 2035.
Once they are all closed, the Spanish nuclear park will work for an average of 46 years. Among all the reactors, they add up to a gross installed power of 7,398 megawatts (MW), which represents close to 6.5% of the total installed electrical power in Spain. They generate each year between 55,000 and 60,000 gigawatt hours (GWh), more than 20% of the electricity consumed in the country.
Seventh waste plan
Navarro will have to overcome in the coming months the approval of the seventh General Radioactive Waste Plan (PGRR), which provides for the construction of seven Decentralized Temporary Storages (ATD) in nuclear power plants for the management of spent fuel and high activity waste, until its transfer to final storage in a Deep Geological Storage (AGP) that would come into operation in 2073. Currently, part of the spent fuel and high activity radioactive waste are managed in Individualized Temporary Storage (ATI) the situation issued from the nuclear power plants and the PGRR proposes the creation or adaptation of these facilities in ATD, always with a prior licensing process that the licensee must request at the appropriate time before the corresponding competent authority, which must be informed by the Nuclear Safety Council ( CSN) in accordance with current regulations.
The CSN issued the mandatory favorable report corresponding to the new plan at the end of last year, requested by the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge, although the affected autonomous communities have yet to pronounce themselves. It must be remembered that the reports are not binding and that the plan still has to be approved by the Council of Ministers (predictably in the summer). Once the plan is approved, according to Efe sources from the Ministry, Enresa, as the person responsible for the management of radioactive waste, must implement the strategies defined in it, to dismantle the facilities and the subsequent management of the waste. This new legal system on nuclear waste will replace that of 2006, expired since 2010, and which the Government is obliged to update so as not to be penalized by the European Commission.
Another of Navarro’s challenges will be to complete the expansion of the El Cabril storage center in Córdoba. The director himself has assured that authorization from the department headed by Teresa Ribera is not expected until 2024. According to Enresa, the new Southeast Platform, for which authorization is requested, will have 27 cells. In a first phase, which is estimated to be operational in 2028, 12 cells will be built, while the remaining 15 will be built according to the needs of the center itself. The expansion will allow the center to continue adapting its capacities to its mission of managing waste from the dismantling of all nuclear power plants, in addition to that originating in hospitals, laboratories and industries, as indicated by the public company.
Enresa’s board of directors also changed the change of a director in January. Specifically, Isabel Arranz has entered to replace Carlos Saura. She is technical deputy general secretary of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation.