January 19, 2011 / 4:52 PM / in 7 years

Spain nuclear watchdog mulls plant permit renewal

* Current permit expires March 20

* Analysts expect renewal

MADRID, Jan 19 (Reuters) - Spain’s nuclear regulator said on Wednesday it was studying a request to renew the operating permit for the 1,000-megawatt Cofrentes plant.

Although Spain’s government has ruled out building new nuclear plants and has ordered the ageing Garona plant to close in 2013, analysts say they expect Spain’s other seven nuclear power stations -- including Cofrentes -- to run for decades. [ID:nLDE63R2B7]

The Nuclear Safety Council (CSN) said in a statement it had drawn up a technical report on the renewal request, which it would study over the coming weeks.

The CSN will then issue a ruling, which is only binding should it decide the plant is not safe to continue running. The final decision is up to the industry ministry.

Cofrentes’ current permit expires on March 20 and may be renewed for 10 years without exceeding the current 40-year limit for operating nuclear plants in Spain.

Two Spanish nuclear plants had their permits renewed last year, and four plants are up for renewal in 2011. In all, Spain’s nuclear power stations meet about 20 percent of the country’s electricity needs.

Cofrentes is located in southeastern Spain and is wholly owned by Iberdrola (IBE.MC), Spain’s biggest power utility. (Reporting by Martin Roberts; editing by Keiron Henderson)

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