Spain watchdog OKs safety studies for planned uranium mine - source

MADRID, Jan 10 (Reuters) - Spain’s nuclear watchdog has endorsed two studies by Australian company Berkeley for a project to build Europe’s only open-cast uranium mine near Salamanca, a source with knowledge of the matter said, a preliminary step in the approval process.

Following the endorsement of the nuclear safety studies, Berkeley still needs a broader go-ahead from the watchdog, CSN, as well as further approvals by the local, regional and national governments before it can begin work.

“The CSN has approved the two studies,” the source said, adding that a formal announcement was expected next week.

The CSN and Berkeley declined to comment.

“We do not comment on anonymous rumours or comments,” a spokesman for the company said, adding that Berkeley would make an announcement once the CSN report was published.

The studies looked at the prevention of radiation effects on water and the general environment, among other safety concerns.

The local government of Retortillo, where the mine would be located, declined in late December to issue an urban planning permit for the mine.

In October, Reuters reported that the national government planned to refuse permits necessary to open the mine.

Local authorities, in a report from July, said the permit Berkeley was requesting did not meet legal requirements and that they lacked key technical information.

Berkeley Energia, whose sole business is the planned uranium mine, lists its shares in Spain, Britain and Australia.

The shares are extremely volatile and, in Spain, have fallen to around 0.2 euro apiece from a high of 2.5 euros in August.

In Australia, the shares have risen about 44 percent since the start of the year, prompting the Australian stock exchange regulator to ask the company on Jan. 7 whether it knew why. Berkeley said it did not know the reason for the gains. (Reporting by Belen Carreno Writing by Paul Day Editing by Ingrid Melander and Dale Hudson)