March 22, 2019 / 3:43 PM / 5 months ago

Power firms agree on route to close Spain's oldest nuclear plant

MADRID, March 22 (Reuters) - Spain’s main electricity providers have reached an agreement to renew the life of the country’s oldest nuclear plant until its planned closure, the company that operates the site said on Friday.

The Almaraz plant in Western Spain is the first nuclear reactor slated for closure in a calendar which foresees all seven in the country going offline between 2027 and 2035.

Phasing out nuclear power, which provides around a fifth of Spain’s electricity, is part of a package of energy market proposals that was one of the last gambits of the Socialist government before parliament was dissolved ahead of a general election next month.

A disagreement between Almaraz’s owners, Iberdrola, Endesa and Naturgy, over how much to invest to keep the plant running rumbled on close to a March 31 licence renewal deadline, putting the plant at risk of an earlier closure.

The firms will now apply to keep the site’s two reactors running until 2027 and 2028 respectively, on condition they will spend no more than 600 million euros on them, three sources with knowledge of the talks said.

Endesa had resisted adding any spending limits to a protocol signed last week setting out the closure dates, but a spokesman for the company said it was pleased with the deal.

“We are very satisfied with the agreement because it fulfils the protocol signed last week which allows the plants to keep operating,” the spokesman said.

The spokesman added that the agreement also applied to two other nuclear power stations in which it holds majority stakes, whose licences likewise need renewing.

Iberdrola and Naturgy declined to comment.

Shares in Endesa led gainers on a broadly negative Spanish blue-chip index on Friday, albeit up only a slim 0.6 percent on the day by 1440 GMT. Iberdrola stock was down 0.6 percent and Naturgy shed 0.2 percent.

Endesa, which owns 36 percent of the plant, suggested this week that the other two firms transfer their stakes to it free of charge, one of the sources with knowledge of the talks said.

Asked by reporters about this offer on Thursday, Endesa Chief Executive Jose Bogas said he did not think it was the right course of action but added, “All possibilities are open.” (Reporting by Isla Binnie; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

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