17 Jul (NucNet): Nuclenor, operator of the Santa Maria de Garoña nuclear power station in Spain, has been fined 18.4 million euros (EUR) (25 million US dollars) by the Spanish National Commission on Financial Markets and Competition (CNMC) in relation to its decision to shut down the station before its operating licence expired, the commission has said in a statement.
Nuclenor, which is jointly owned by Spanish utilities Endesa and Iberdrola, shut down the single unit station in December 2012, six months before its operational licence was due to expire.
The CNMC said it considered this “a very serious violation” because electricity production was reduced without proper authorisation and without any technical or safety reason behind the decision as required under Spanish law governing the electricity sector.
Garoña’s operational licence was due to expire on 6 July 2013, but Nuclenor decided to shut down the station on 16 December 2012, saying measures needed to be taken related to the final removal of spent nuclear fuel from the reactor and its storage in the fuel pool.
Nuclenor said its original decision to shut the station was the result of a tax on energy production and spent nuclear fuel that would have made Garoña’s operation economically unviable.
Nuclenor said in a statement today that “unforeseen causes” was a valid argument for the shutdown because the establishment of a new tax can be considered both unpredictable and unexpected and was sufficient to justify the decision.
Nuclenor said the decision was the only way of complying with the new law without risking insolvency.
The fine of EUR 18.4 million is the maximum penalty allowed for such a case under Spanish law, which says the amount cannot exceed 10 percent of net annual turnover. Nuclenor’s net annual turnover in 2011 – the last full operational year before cessation of activity – was EUR 184 million.
Garoña is a 446-megawatt boiling water reactor unit, which began commercial operation in May 1971.
In May 2014, Nuclenor submitted a request to renew the operating licence for Garoña after a change in national law allowing nuclear power stations that have shut down for reasons not related to safety to restart.
If the licence is approved, the station will be allowed to operate until 2 March 2031.