Nuclear Politics

Spain / Foro Nuclear President Renews Call For Reduction In ‘Suffocating’ Fiscal Pressure

By David Dalton
21 May 2021

Industry group says solutions needed to reduce excessive tax burden on reactor operators
Foro Nuclear President Renews Call For Reduction In ‘Suffocating’ Fiscal Pressure
Ignacio Araluce: Access to funding is more complex for nuclear than other energy sources. Courtesy Foro Nuclear.
The head of Spain’s nuclear industry group Foro Nuclear has renewed his call for federal government to reduce the “suffocating” fiscal pressure on the country’s fleet of seven commercial nuclear power reactors.

Ignacio Araluce said in Foro Nuclear’s annual report for 2020 that solutions are needed to reduce the excessive tax burden on the fleet, which generated 22.18% of the country’s electricity last year, making nuclear the primary source of production.

Mr Araluce said earlier this year that commercial nuclear power is being penalised with access to funding sources more complicated than for other clean energy sources.

Speaking at a webinar organised by the Madrid-based group, Mr Araluce said “we need to ensure that [nuclear energy’s] contribution to the fight against climate change is valued in accessing better financing conditions and reducing the tax burden it bears”.

Foro Nuclear has argued that a combination of low market prices and increased taxes means that for the first time, Spain’s nuclear fleet of seven commercial reactors is operating with a negative operating cash flow because market prices failed to cover its operating costs, taxes and levies.

Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the average price of electricity in the wholesale market fell in 2020. At the same time, taxes applied to electricity production from nuclear sources increased, with a new tax in Catalonia and the extension to all nuclear power plants of a tax that finances response services provided by state security forces.

The rate of contributions to national radioactive waste management company Enresa has also increased, from €6.69/MWh to €7.98/MWh, Foro Nuclear said. This is for the management of irradiated fuel and other radioactive waste products and for the future decommissioning of nuclear power plants.

In March, it was confirmed that Spain’s nuclear regulator had approved an extension of the single-unit Cofrentes station’s operational lifetime until November 2030, paving the way for the 1,064-MW boiling water reactor unit to potentially operate for a total of 45 years.

The renewal meant the Valencia-based plant, owned and operated by Iberdrola, makes it the fourth of seven plants to extend its licence since the announcement of a nuclear phaseout plan in 2019.

The Cofrentes renewal followed renewals in March 2020 of the licences for the two units at the Almaraz nuclear station, which is 53% owned by Iberdrola and operated by Centrales Nucleares de Almaraz-Trillo (CNAT).

The 1,011-MW Almaraz-1 was authorised to operate until 1 November 2027 and the 1,006-MW Almarez-2 until 31 October 2028, after which they are both scheduled for permanent closure. Both are pressurised water reactor units.

In June 2020, the 1,045-MW Vandellos-2 PWR near Tarragona was granted a full 10-year renewal of the operating licence which will take it through to July 2030. Vandellos-2, owned by Endesa and Iberdrola, is scheduled for permanent closure in 2034.

Two more licence renewals are due this year for the two units at Endesa’s Asco nuclear station, both before September.

The final renewal is due in March 2023 for the 1,003-MW Trillo PWR, which is scheduled to close in 2035. Trillo is part-owned by Iberdrola and operated by CNAT.

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