Spain's nuclear safety authority in the dock

Trial opens of individuals charged with responsibility for 1989 fire at Vandellós power station

The trial opened today of those accused of being responsible for Spain's worst nuclear incident, a fire in 1989 at the Vandellós 1 nuclear power station that led to the plant's closure.

Three directors of the station's operating company Hifrensa and two senior officials of the government-appointed Nuclear Safety Council (CSN) face jail sentences and fines or damages of up to euros 324m (SPtas54bn) reflecting the cost to electricity consumers of dismantling the Vandellós 1 plant (ENDS Daily 20 April 1999).

Prosecutors allege that the accident constituted "a serious nuclear risk to human life and health" because the CSN flouted safety recommendations. The defence contends that the accident would have happened even if the measures been carried out at the French-designed, gas-cooled reactor.

The CSN has refused to comment while the trial is in progress. A spokesperson for the Spanish nuclear industry association, Foro Nuclear, said that the trial "while welcome as an exercise in public accountability, is going ahead only under pressure from lawyers representing the anti-nuclear lobby".

Carlos Bravo of Greenpeace Spain described the trial as a demonstration of "the irresponsibility of the nuclear industry and the connivance of the CSN". He also claimed that the Vandellós accident had played a significant role in Spain's 1991 decision to cancel its nuclear building programme.

The opposition Socialist party has promised to shut down Spain's seven remaining nuclear plants over 15 years if it wins the 12 March general elections (ENDS Daily 25 October 1999).

Follow Up:
Foro Nuclear, tel: +34 91 553 6303; Greenpeace Spain, tel: +34 91 444 1400.

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