View from Spain

Upgrade Spain's nuclear plants to meet Kyoto Protocol targets, says its environment minister

Published: Friday 15 January 1999

SPAINISH environment minister Isabel Tocino has said that increasing nuclear power output might become a part of Spain's climate change policy. In a paper presented to parliament, the minister said that upgrading nuclear resources was one way Spain could meet its Kyoto Protocol commitments.

Spain is the first European Union ( eu ) member state to consider nuclear power as a tool in its climate change policy, said a spokesperson of the eu . No country, except Finland, has plans to build new nuclear power stations. Germany and Switzerland have already decided to phase out nuclear energy.

Environmental groups have accused Tocino of being a "mouthpiece" for the nuclear lobby. Around 30 per cent of Spanish electricity consumption comes from nuclear power. By upgrading existing plants, the country could produce 1,000 mw of extra energy by the year 2002, which is equivalent to an additional plant. Spain's per capita greenhouse gas emissions are well below the eu average. Under the protocol, it has committed to limit the growth in emissions by 15 per cent above 1990 levels by the period 2008-2012. However, recent figures show that emissions have already risen by that amount.

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

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