Spain insists on energy saving, not nuclear plants

MADRID Wed Jan 21, 2009 12:09pm EST

MADRID Jan 21(Reuters) - Spain on Wednesday reaffirmed its policy of not commissioning new nuclear power plants a day after its biggest utility unveiled plans to build them in Britain, while repeating pledges to boost renewables and save energy.

"There will be no new nuclear plants," Industry Minister Miguel Sebastian told journalists when asked to comment on Iberdrola's (IBE.MC) joint venture with Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE.L) to build nuclear power stations.

Sebastian noted that Spanish energy consumption per head was 20 percent above the European average.

"Saving 20 percent would be the equivalent of doubling the number of nuclear power plants. It seems easier and cheaper to me," he said.

"Furthermore, it (saving) is immediate, whereas nuclear plants take 15 years. There is no controversy, no waste or security problems, nothing," he added.

Spain's government has said it may extend the working lives of the country's eight ageing nuclear power plants, but has urged operators to invest more in safety after a controversial radioactive leak was discovered last year.

Operating permits for seven of the plants are up for renewal between this year and 2011, or well within the mandate of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's Socialist government.

Spain's nuclear power plants supply about 7,300 megawatts when all are working normally, or enough to meet about 20 percent of demand for power.

Wind farms now have the capacity to generate more than 16,000 MW due to a boom in renewable energy, but in practice provide much less because wind speeds are often slow. (Reporting by Martin Roberts, editing by Anthony Barker)

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