Spanish 1,000 MW nuclear plant reconnected to grid

Thursday, November 13, 2008

MADRID, Nov 13 (Reuters) - Spain's 1,000-megawatt Vandellos II nuclear power station was reconnected to the national grid on Thursday afternoon, the plant's operators said in a statement.

The plant near to the northeastern port of Tarragona had been disconnected since early on Wednesday after a control rod had fallen into the reactor core on Saturday.

Apart from Vandellos II, five of Spain's eight nuclear plants are working normally.

Data from national grid operator REE showed nuclear plants were generating 4,377 MW by 1320 GMT, or 12.3 percent of demand, down from about 7,300 MW when all are working normally.

The 1,000 MW Asco II plant halted on Oct. 24 for refuelling while the 1,000 MW Cofrentes reactor has been off line since the same date to check the wiring on a safety valve.

Greater availability of nuclear electricity tends to hold down prompt power prices

Spain's second-largest utility, Endesa, owns 72 percent of Vandellos II, while top power firm Iberdrola has the other 28 percent.

The plant was recently halted for more than two months after one of its generators caught fire on Oct. 24.

That was part of a spate of unscheduled halts over the summer which prompted the watchdog to tell operators they would need to tighten safety procedures to have their permits renewed.

Permits for seven of Spain's ageing plants are due for renewal between 2009/11, or within the mandate of the Socialist government, which has vowed to phase them out amidst a boom in renewable energy.

The government has not ruled out extending the plants' working lives, however, although Industry Minister Miguel Sebastian has said he expects operators to invest more in safety.

The government is currently mulling sanctions against the operators of the Asco I plant for what the Nuclear Safety Council (CSN) ruled was improper handling of a radioactive leak that required the screening of more than 2,700 people.

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