Spain's nuclear watchdog reports power surge at nuclear power station

Monday, July 14, 2008

MADRID, Spain: A Spanish nuclear power plant reported an unexpected power surge Sunday, the fourth safety alert there in 12 days, the country's nuclear authority said.

Safety systems prevented any radiation leak at the Cofrentes reactor when power surged by more than 20 percent just before 5 a.m. Sunday (0300 GMT), the Nuclear Security Council said in a statement.

It said the incident at the power plant, operating at 70 percent capacity at the time, "did not put workers, population or environment at risk."

The Cofrentes plant, 90 kilometers (56 miles) inland from the Mediterranean port city of Valencia, has reported 27 alerts to the watchdog during the past three years.

The council said a radioactive leak earlier this month led to all staff at the plant being scanned for radiation traces and the collection of 300 liters (317 quarts) of affected soil.

The environmental pressure group Greenpeace has called for the plant to be shut down.

The boiling water reactor plant, built in 1975 and with a generating capacity of about 1,000 MW, was partially shut down for repairs because of the surge.

Cofrentes is one of seven operational Spanish nuclear plants. It is run by Spain-based energy company Iberdrola, S.A.

The Socialist government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero says it plans to let operators run them until their licenses expire, then decommission them all.

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