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Ministers to meet in Madrid over controversial Almaraz nuclear fuel dump

nuclearfuelrodsThe governments of Portugal and Spain have announced that ministers will meet on Thursday, January 12th, in Madrid after Lisbon received assurances from Spain that the decision to build a nuclear waste dump at Almaraz "had not been finalised."

This assurance has enabled Environment Minister, João Pedro Matos Fernandes, to make the trip to Madrid to meet with the Spanish ministers of the Environment and Energy.

An official source from Spain's 'Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Food and Environment' in Madrid confirmed that the meeting was now on.

At issue is the decision by the Spanish Government to build a nuclear waste dump at Almaraz, about 100 kilometers from the Portuguese border, without consultation with Portugal.

The already highly polluted river Tejo, on which Almaraz is sited, runs through Portuguese territory and the concern is that the Spanish cannot be trusted to maintain this ageing nuclear power station, let alone one with a new nuclear waste dump, and fears radioactive materials will leak into the river to add to the poisonous cocktail that already exists due to uncontrolled and illegal industrial effluent outflows.

Spain at first said it had made the decision about the nuclear waste dump, thus snubbing Portuguese Minister João Pedro Matos Fernandes who refused to participate in the meeting if this was the case.

Matos Fernandes said that the two countries now intend to discuss "the temporary landfill project for nuclear waste in Almaraz" and "start a conversation about the revision of the Albufeira Convention," which governs how international rivers are managed between Spain and Portugal.

The Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis, now has said that Portuguese government representatives will attend the meeting in Madrid and was confident that the matter will be settled between the two governments.

Portugal considers that Spain "failed to comply with a Community directive when it authorised development at its Almaraz nuclear power plant, without first checking the cross-border impact of this initiative," Portuguese Foreign Minister, Augusto Santos Silva, said last week.

Last Friday, Portuguese MPs unanimously approved a vote condemning the building of a nuclear waste storage facility in Almaraz as this has "clear cross-border impacts and risks, while ignoring the Government and the Portuguese population."

ZERO, the Association for a Sustainable Terrestrial System, is a member of the Iberian Antinuclear Movement, which has called for “strong support” for a demonstration taking place this Thursday at 6:00 pm in front of the Spanish Consulate in Lisbon on the Avenida da Liberdade.

By the time the demonstration starts, news may have been announced from Madrid that the dispute is settled, or at least that there is a way forward that incorporates Portugal’s wishes.

Portugal’s opposition PSD party accused the government and the environment minister of having ignored warnings about the Almaraz power station.

The deputy chairman of the Social Democrats, Berta Cabral, said "the government did nothing when the Assembly of the Republic unanimously adopted Resolution No. 107/2016 in April last year recommending the Executive intervened with the Spanish Government and the European Institutions to close the Almaraz nuclear power plant, which should have already been shut down."

"It was only very late that the Minister for the Environment decided to carry out measures which proved to be fruitless and disregarded by the Spanish government," said Cabral, adding that "the PSD warned and confronted the Minister of the Environment, expressing great concern in light of the incidents reported by the Spanish Nuclear Safety Council. Member of the executive went so far as to say that ‘he was not worried’ about the matter."