March 13, 2019 / 7:32 PM / 5 months ago

Power firms at odds over how to shut down Spain's oldest nuclear plant

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain’s main electricity providers have signed up to a protocol for phasing out nuclear power, but failed to agree on the country’s oldest plant as a deadline to decide its fate looms.

One of the Socialist government’s last moves before a snap election due in April was to present a climate and energy plan which included closing seven nuclear reactors, which provide around 20 percent of Spain’s power, by 2035.

Iberdrola, Endesa and Naturgy have agreed to limits on the lifetime of each plant, which would see the oldest being shut on Nov. 1 2027 and the newest on May 1 2035, a calendar seen by Reuters shows.

The two oldest reactors, at Almaraz in western Spain, are jointly owned by the three utilities, who must request a renewed license by March 31.

All three owners need to agree on the request to extend the license, meaning if they cannot agree on the terms in time, the plant could theoretically risk closing earlier.

A meeting to agree to those terms ended without agreement on Tuesday, an Endesa spokesman said.

Iberdrola and Naturgy had put forward a plan to request an extension until 2027 on the condition they could retract that request if they were required to put in more money beyond recurring investments and security costs, a source with knowledge of the discussions said.

But Endesa was “in favor of basing requests to extend the lives of the plants on the protocol that has been signed in agreement with the ministry, without any other type of condition”, its spokesman said.

Iberdrola said it was committed to the protocol and would keep working to agree on the license renewal for the Almaraz plant, adding the plant closure program should be carried out bearing in mind the financial viability of nuclear power.

Naturgy declined to comment.

Endesa’s Chief Financial Officer said last month that the plant closure calendar could increase its annual depreciation and amortization costs by between 50 million and 60 million euros ($67.8 million).

($1 = 0.8848 euros)

Reporting by Isla Binnie; Editing by Alexander Smith

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