The importance of nuclear energy in the current context of energy transition, the strategy of continuity of the Spanish nuclear reactors operation and the current and the future situation of the nuclear sector were the main topics of the presentation “Nuclear results of 2017 and future outlook ” organized by the Forum of the Spanish Nuclear Industry.
In 2017, nuclear energy was the source that generated most electricity, specifically 21.17%. This percentage of electricity was generated with only 7% of the installed power in Spain, which has 7 nuclear reactors in its territory. According to Ignacio Araluce, president of the Forum of the Spanish Nuclear Industry, “it is undeniable that nuclear energy is justified from a technical point of view”.
Another of the great arguments in favour of nuclear energy is that its technology is free of CO2, which makes it viable to comply with international commitments regarding the environment. As a result, nuclear power plants in Spain prevent the emission of some 40 million tons of CO2 per year. Also, 39.32% of the electricity free of polluting emissions generated in Spain was originated from nuclear electricity production.
In 2017, the production of electricity of nuclear origin accounted for 11% of the electricity consumed throughout the world.
The “problem” of electricity generation through nuclear energy is the management of irradiated fuel. In our country, nuclear power plants store irradiated fuel in pools built for this purpose. When these are completed, the nuclear waste is transferred to the Individualized Temporary Warehouses (ATIs), which are located at the plant sites. The optimal management of this waste should be carried out in the so-called Centralized Temporary Warehouses (ATCs), industrial facilities designed to store in a single place the spent fuel and radioactive waste of medium and high activity that are produced in Spain. The construction of an ATC in Villa de Cañas (Cuenca) “is being delayed” according to Ignacio Araluce, “which results in the construction of additional ATIs and, therefore, higher costs“. As of December 31, 2017, the number of irradiated fuel elements stored temporarily in the Spanish nuclear power plants was 15,362, of which 13,897 are in pools and 1,465 in Individualized Temporary Stores.
According to the Nuclear Forum, the energy transition to be addressed in Spain requires an energy mix that maximizes its respect for the environment, while guaranteeing the electricity supply without significant adverse effects on electricity prices or in the electricity market competition. As Ignacio Araluce explained during the presentation “Nuclear results of 2017 and future outlook”, uranium has a very open market, it is a source of energy with stock to meet the demand of future generations and its price does not suffer drastic changes. That makes nuclear energy an important energy source at a strategic level. These are the reasons why Foro Nuclear considers that “nuclear energy is a key element in the energy transition beyond the year 2030”
Current and future situation of nuclear energy
In 2017, the production of electricity of nuclear origin accounted for 11% of the electricity consumed throughout the world. There are 448 nuclear reactors authorized to operate in 31 countries and 58 additional plants under construction. Of these 448 nuclear reactors, in the European Union there are 126 in operation in 14 of the 28 member states, which produced 27% of the total electricity consumed in the EU.
The nuclear sector is the center of activity of a large number of Spanish companies, which have created a competitive industry with extensive experience that covers national and international market demands. With skilled and trained workers, world-renowned nuclear power plants and cutting-edge technological development, Spanish nuclear companies currently operate projects in more than 40 countries.
This is why, for Ignacio Araluce “it is necessary to disseminate and value the Spanish nuclear industry reality comprised of technological companies, trained professionals, with international recognition and prestige and generating wealth and employment.”