The Cofrentes nuclear power plant will continue to operate until 2030: renewables break records, but nuclear energy continues to make an essential contribution
The operation of the last active Spanish nuclear power plant will cease in 2035. And that last surviving facility will be Trillo, in the province of Guadalajara. This is what the protocol of the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge (MITECO) establishes for the moment, so that the Spanish nuclear blackout will begin in 2027 with the closure of the Almaraz nuclear power plant.
The planned shutdown of Spanish nuclear energy invites us to conclude that its contribution to total national energy production is losing relevance, but the official figures show that this is not so. At least not yet. And the decision made last Thursday by MITECO also points in this same direction.
The Cofrentes nuclear power plant began its commercial exploitation in 1985, and it is the only Spanish nuclear installation that uses a boiling water reactor
And it is that the ministry that is responsible for the administration of the Spanish nuclear power plants has decided extend commercial exploitation from the Cofrentes nuclear power plant to on November 30, 2030. This facility is located in the province of Valencia, and is the only operating Spanish nuclear power plant that uses a boiling water reactor (BWR) and not a pressurized water unit (PWR).
The commercial exploitation of the Cofrentes nuclear power plant started at the end of 1984, which is why this facility has been in operation for more than 35 years. Unlike other Spanish nuclear power plants, which belong to various electricity companies, the ownership of this facility is solely Iberdrola, and its annual average energy production capacity is about 8.9 billion kWh, a sufficient figure to supply all the homes in the Valencian Community.
Renewables have broken records in 2020, but nuclear power remains crucial
During the past year, the production of energy from renewable sources reached its historical maximum. According Red Eléctrica de España 43.6% of the energy produced in our country in 2020 came from renewable sources, which clearly reflects the promising development that renewables as a whole are experiencing, and solar photovoltaic energy in particular.
In 2020, the production of CO2-free energy in Spain reached 66.9% of the total
And it is that this latest technology went from a contribution of 3.5% to the total Spanish electricity mix in 2019 to 6.1% in 2020. However, solar energy was not the only one of renewable origin that increased its presence during the past year. Wind energy grew by 0.9% compared to 2019, and hydro by 1.4%. The total contribution of renewables to the Spanish electricity mix is very solid, and there is no doubt that this trend added to the increasingly smaller coal contribution, which contributed 2% of the total and will continue to decline, is great news.
However, if we analyze the contribution that each energy source has made to the electricity mix during 2020 independently and, therefore, without grouping renewables, nuclear energy continues to lead national production with 22.2% of the total. A short distance away, wind power rises with 21.7%, and the combined cycle awaits a little further behind, with 17.8% of the total.
In any case, what is really relevant is that by 2020 the production of energy free of carbon dioxide emissions in Spain reached 66.9% of the total. If renewables continue to develop at the rate at which they are, it is likely that the National Integrated Energy and Climate Plan (PNIEC), which has set a goal for 74% of all Spanish electricity production to be of renewable origin by 2030, to come to fruition.
Cover image | Nuclear Forum
More information | MITECO