Anti-nuclear demonstrations held across Spain

Anti-nuclear demonstrations held across Spain
(AFP) – 3/18/2011

MADRID — Hundreds of people took part in protests held across Spain Thursday to demand the closure of the country's six nuclear power stations after Japan's nuclear accident following a massive earthquake.

Demonstrators, many wearing masks or holding signs that read "No nuclear power, neither here nor in Japan", gathered in small groups in more than 30 cities, including Madrid, Barcelona, Seville and Valencia.

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The protests were organised by Greenpeace and Spanish environmental umbrella group Ecologists in Action, who want the government to gradually close the country's six nuclear power plants by 2020.

They are especially concerned over two nuclear plants -- one at Garona in the north and another at Cofrentes in the east -- which use the same boiling water reactor design as the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan that is facing a meltdown.
"What is happening in Japan shows that what is improbable ends up happening," Ecologists in Action spokesman Francisco Castejon said at the protest in Madrid, which drew around 200 people.

Castejon said renewable energy sources like wind and solar power could make up for the loss of the electricity that is currently produced at Spain's six nuclear power plants.

"Around 40 percent of the electricity which we consume comes from renewables, double the energy that comes from nuclear. Since 2004 we have exported electricity to all our neighbours," he said.

The Spanish government said Wednesday it will review security measures at all its nuclear power plants following the massive earthquake and tsunami that devastated northeast Japan and crippled the Fukushima nuclear power station, raising the risk of uncontrolled radiation.

Spain's Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero vowed during general elections in 2004 and 2008 to gradually phase out nuclear power when the lifespan of the country's six nuclear plants expired.
But he has since softened his stance, and in July 2009 the government said it would extend the operating licence for the Garona plant for another two years until July 2013.

The government extended the life of the plant at Cofrentes by a decade on March 10, a day before the massive earthquake hit Japan.

Spain has taken a lead in renewable energy in recent years, becoming one of the world's biggest producers of electricity from wind and solar power, as it seeks to cut its oil dependence and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.