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Almaraz nuclear report whitewash will keep EU happy

nuclearPortugal’s Environment Agency considers it "appropriate and safe" to build a nuclear fuel dump at the creaking Almaraz nuclear power plant in Spain.

The president of the Portuguese Environment Agency admitted that trans-boundary impacts were not even considered when looking at the planned fuel dump, nor did the agency consider the effects on Portugal should there be a severe accident at the Almaraz power station which stands just 100 kilometres from the Portuguese border.

These politically necessary opinions are contained in the report from the technical working group that was meant to look at the fuel dump’s chronic safety record and the potential impact on Portugal, should the Almaraz power station have a serious accident. It has done neither.

The agency’s president, Nuno Lacasta, who coordinated the working group, said the fuel dump is an "appropriate solution" and that it is deemed safe under international standards.

The working group recommends, among other measures, that Portugal 'keeps an eye on progress' during subsequent phases of the project.

The Portuguese Environment Agency, the Directorate-General for Health and the Presidente of the Order of Engineers, among others, are part of the working group commissioned by the government to produce this whitewash on the say-so of the President of the European Union who already had come down hard on Portugal for its decision formally to object to Spain's planned fuel waste dump.

In preparing the technical report, "the working group considered environmental and nuclear safety information provided by the Spanish Government, as well as input from environmental movements and organisations," - which have been ignored.

In February this year, environmental organisation ZERO commented that the real issue is ‘why build a new fuel dump to extend the life of the Almaraz plant when it is scheduled to close in 2020 in accordance with the provisions of the plant’s license?’

The environmental organisation also stated that “the fight against the nuclear plant will only end when Spain gives up on extending the life of the Almaraz plant, which unfortunately is very far from happening.”

NGO comments this evening ranged from disbelief to sullen acceptance that the report is a deliberate whitewash promoted by Brussels.

Environmentalists say the report is "surreal and unacceptable."

"We are not surprised by the decision taken, but we consider it to be at least surreal. After all that the Government has said about the project, to accept the absence of studies of trans-boundary impacts and to consider that everything is well and everything is appropriate - this frankly, is unacceptable," said Carla Graça from ZERO who also pointed out that the extension of the life of the plant is not even mentioned in the report, and that this "must be on the table" at the forthcoming Iberian summit.
Quercus is equally disparaging, "while respecting the position conveyed and the work carried out, Quercus disagrees with all the conclusions of the working group set up by the Government," and challenges the Portuguese government to defend the national interest in rather more robust way.

According to Nuno Sequeira, from Quercus, "there are still very serious risks in the construction of nuclear waste storage near the Almaraz plant" and that the proposed construction "is just a pretext for the Spanish Government to be able to extend the Almaraz license after 2020.".

"The efforts of the Government should be totally to disagree with this game and to defend the interests of Portugal by stating very clearly that Almaraz should end in 2020," said the environmentalist.

António Eloy of the Iberian Antinuclear Movement, said the Portuguese Environment Agency, "did not pay the slightest attention to the opinions of non-governmental organisations during this process."

"We were not expecting a position of total submission, to wash the feet of the Spanish Government in relation to the various illegalities that were being committed," the environmentalist stressed.

"It was a complete submission of the Portuguese Government and we think it has to do with the impositions that have been established by the European Union and the financial compensation for the trans-European networks."

The acceptance of the absence of a cross-border impact study for the construction of the warehouse, one of the arguments that Portugal put forward in its original complaint to the European Commission, and the lack of attention to the opinions of non-governmental organisations during the Public consultation, also were criticized.