Tocino creates a stir over nuclear power

Spanish environment minister looks to increased nuclear output to meet Kyoto targets

Spanish environment minister Isabel Tocino has made political waves by announcing that increasing nuclear power output might become part of Spain's climate change policy. In a paper presented to the parliament on Wednesday, the minister said upgrading nuclear resources was one way Spain could meet its Kyoto protocol commitments.

Spain is the first EU member state to consider nuclear power as a climate change policy tool, a spokesperson for the EU nuclear industry association Foratom told ENDS Daily. Germany and Switzerland both recently firmed up plans to phase out nuclear energy and no country has plans to build new nuclear power stations, with the possible exception of Finland.

Ms Tocino's suggestion provoked outrage among environmental groups, who accused her of being a "mouthpiece" for the nuclear lobby. Around 30% of Spanish electricity consumption comes from nuclear power, and a programme to upgrade existing plants could achieve 1,000MW of extra capacity by 2002, which is equivalent to an additional plant.

Spain's per capita greenhouse gas emissions are well below the EU average, and under Kyoto it has committed only to limit the growth in emissions to 15% above 1990 levels by the period 2008-2012. However, recent figures show that emissions have already risen by about this amount since 1990, effectively leaving the government a challenge to prevent any further growth over the next decade.

The paper presented by Ms Tocino lists a range of policy options without any ranking or indication of the government's preferences. Alongside nuclear power, they include increasing energy efficiency, decreasing coal use, increasing natural gas use, developing renewable energy sources, and improving public transport.

The paper was developed by the national climate change council, which is coordinated by the environment ministry with participation from other government agencies (ENDS Daily 9 February). It was described by Ms Tocino as the "next step" towards a national climate change strategy.

Follow Up:
Spanish environment ministry, tel: +34 91 597 6710.

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