The Nuclear Safety Council (CSN) has begun to publish the inspection records of the nuclear power plants it supervises after two years of news blackout.
Between Wednesday 5 and Thursday 6 May, the public body that assesses, inspects and regulates nuclear safety and radiological protection in Spain has published a total of nineteen inspection reports that until now it had not released despite being obliged to do so. by its statute.
The documents published now include the summary of visits made by the agency’s inspectors between April 2019 and February 2020 to the Cofrentes (Valencia), Vandellòs II (Tarragona) and Almaraz (Cáceres) nuclear power plants; the medium and low activity waste warehouse of the public company Enresa in El Cabril (Córdoba); and the nuclear fuel factory of the state Enusa in Juzbado (Salamanca).
The huge documentation (more than 500 pages) that the agency had suddenly published until late Thursday afternoon on its website includes, among others, the minutes to monitor compliance with the technical instructions imposed after the Fukushima disaster ( Japan) to Almaraz; a “reactive” investigation inspection after an event classified as level 1 (without risk to people or the environment) that forced the Vandellós II plant to stop in April 2019; the presence of radon gas in El Cabril or the application of the Juzbado Quality Assurance Program.
The CSN has released this information after last week elDiario.es reported this delay, unprecedented since the supervisor began to publish this information more than ten years ago. The CSN attributed it last Thursday to “incidents” in its workforce of more than 400 people.
Article 15 of the CSN Statute establishes the publicity of its actions, which includes disseminating the minutes of the Plenary and those of inspection. The latter, of high technical complexity, often serve the Plenary to warn or sanction the head offices of the centrals for breaches of the regulations.
CSN sources explain that, “aware of the delay, extraordinary contingency actions are being carried out that allow the pending inspection reports to be published on the website within a reasonable period of time.”
The Inspection Unit of the agency hopes that, once the process has started, “it will develop more quickly and be able to publish a greater number of files per day.”
Although “it is difficult to specify a period of time”, the intention is “to do it before the end of the summer, although it is not considered prudent to establish a fixed date”.
The CSN is going to implement a record format that facilitates the elimination of protected information to speed up the process. Each document must be thoroughly reviewed beforehand to avoid exposing personal data (something that is prohibited by the Personal Data Protection Act) or confidential information relating to components subject to patent rights, for example.
“This work in some minutes can be done very quickly and in others it takes a long time,” explain CSN sources. Some of the minutes that the agency has published this week contain non-anonymized information.
The delay in the publication of this information has caused discomfort in a sector of the Plenary of the organism. Internal sources qualify it as “unacceptable” and point the general secretary, Manuel Rodríguez Martí, appointed in 2017, as responsible, and on whom the Inspection area depends.
The same sources recall that the minutes stopped being published coinciding with the arrival of four new members to the Plenary in 2019, in a renewal process that shelved the controversial stage of Fernando Martí, first Secretary of State for Energy of the Government of Mariano Rajoy , whose cessation as head of the nuclear regulator came to ask the Congress with the PP in power for its refusal to render accounts to that Chamber.
The Annual Work Plan approved in October by the Plenary of the body already envisaged “publishing on the CSN website continuously the inspection records” among the activities planned for before the end of 2021 and complying with the 2020-2025 Strategic Plan.
He points out that “transparency and proactive communication are key to achieving trust and leadership and to achieving good relations with stakeholders and with society in general.”
This information blackout has occurred at a key moment for the sector, embarked on a process of renewal of reactor licenses to comply with the staggered closure schedule agreed by the Government and electricity companies two years ago.
In February, the Plenary gave a favorable report in favor of renewing the Cofrentes license until 2030, which will celebrate 40 years of operation in 2024. Last June it did the same with that of Vandellòs II. In both cases, it published the proposals for technical opinions on which the Plenary based its decision, two reports of about 400 pages each.
Nuclear plants, called to play a key role in supporting renewables in the next decade, have protested in recent months against the taxes they bear. Especially when last year the drop in electricity consumption due to the pandemic sank prices in the wholesale market.
A situation that has been reversed in recent weeks. After February with prices at minimum, the pool reached record levels in April due to the rise in gas prices and the high cost of C02 emission rights. Currently around 73 euros, well above the 45-50 euros per megawatt hour that, according to the sector, reactors need to avoid operating at a loss.