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By Miguel Jara
Despite the widespread rejection of the population, the discourse in favor of nuclear energy has been rekindled due to the increasingly palpable threat of climate change. Public relations companies, think tanks such as the Foundation for Analysis and Social Studies (FAES) -chaired by José María Aznar-, opinion leaders among which are from politicians to a certain part of mythical characters from the environmental movement and various lobbies they are trying to improve the damaged image of these energy sources.
They will already know. On World Environment Day, the worst omens were fulfilled and the Nuclear Safety Council (CSN), the highest institution in terms of atomic energy in Spain, has unanimously decided to extend the life of the Garoña nuclear power plant (Burgos). There will be Garoña for another ten years despite the plant's old age and its ever-present security problems. Among the five directors who have made the decision is Antonio Colino, former director of advanced reactors at Endesa and former president of the National Radioactive Waste Company (ENRESA). This represents a conflict of interest.
But it is not the only one, rather it is the norm. As some of us have been denouncing in recent years, many experts think that the CSN has become the first lobby in favor of whom, by law, they should monitor: the nuclear industry. The institution in charge of ensuring the security and control of nuclear facilities has maintained such close ties with the main companies in the sector in Spain and has made decisions so suspiciously surprising that it has caused real palace conspiracies against it by technicians and even directors of the entity.
The CSN's decision contravenes the electoral commitment of the Zapatero government, which is the gradual closure of the nuclear power plants. Nor is it the first time that a plant has extended its operating term to satisfy the interests of the nuclear industry. In March 2001, the Cofrentes atomic plant achieved a new operating extension from the Ministry of Economy for ten years, following a favorable report from the CSN. At the end of March 2002, the plant increased its reactor power from 100% nominal to 110%, always with the permission of the Council. To achieve higher performance, some modifications were made to the original design of the plant that required the introduction of uranium fuel of higher energy power, which also led to a series of changes in the emergency cooling and control systems. For all this, the Technical Operating Specifications (ETF) must be updated, something like the basic rules for a correct management of the plant.
The CSN obviated the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that it should have required, as a body with environmental competencies in nuclear matters. In the process, during shutdown and startup tests, the atomic plant suffered an unprecedented number of consecutive events. Nine of these were notified to the CSN in a regulatory manner, but in reality there were three more important events that were not notified. One of them was detected by the Resident Inspection (IR), CSN officials who live in the nuclear complexes to carry out control tasks at the plants. Specifically, the inspectors detected that during recharging the plant operators had inserted cable hoses through valves that connected with the secondary containment of the plant. Had an accident occurred under these conditions, the valves would not have been able to close and the radioactivity would have inevitably escaped to the outside.
This bungling was perhaps explained by the urgency of not stopping the plant's production (and therefore the billing for Iberdrola, which owns half of the plant) for too long. In the end, Cofrentes achieved his spectacular transformation in just 29 days.
There were even more surprises. On March 27, 2002, there was a meeting between the directors of the plant and the two Resident Inspectors (IR) of the CSN that turned into a harsh reprimand. Who? The inspectors. They had drawn up the corresponding minutes after the problems that Cofrentes had suffered. Logic says that behind it should come a sanctioning file. It really seemed that instead of the safety and inspection authority there were two more Iberdrola employees, given the tone of that meeting. What was not the surprise of the two IRs when their bosses not only did not defend them but also supported the thesis and attitude of the Cofrentes management.
Only the knowledge of the facts by Greenpeace managed that months later the CSN sanctioned the leaders of the plant. This attitude of Cofrentes of putting pressure on the IRs of the CSN when they do something that does not suit them is really very worrying, and shows the enormous pressure exerted by the nuclear industry on the control body to safeguard its economic interests, even at the cost of sacrificing the security. And it is especially serious that the senior officials of the CSN compromise favoring the interests of the nuclear power plant instead of making safety prevail, which is their function.
Despite the widespread rejection of the population, the discourse in favor of nuclear energy has been rekindled due to the increasingly palpable threat of climate change. Public relations companies, think tanks such as the Foundation for Analysis and Social Studies (FAES) -chaired by José María Aznar-, opinion leaders among which are from politicians to a certain part of mythical figures of the environmental movement  and various lobbies are trying to improve the damaged image of these energy sources. Thus, a group made up of 22 companies led by Iberdrola, the German RWE Power and the French EDF, went to Brussels in November 2004 to present a joint document in which they affirm that nuclear energy is "a central element in future planning energy of the EU ”. The Spanish companies that have signed the aforementioned document are, in addition to Iberdrola, Nuclenor (manager of the Santa María de Garona atomic plant, owned 50% by Endesa and Iberdrola), and the engineering firms Empresarios Agrupados and Tecnatom . The nuclear bosses want all options to produce energy to be maintained and this, of course, includes nuclear plants.
More info: In the book "Toxic conspiracies" we dedicate two chapters to the pro-nuclear lobby in which we count the subordination of the CSN to the atomic pressure groups and the leak of almost all the municipalities that host a nuclear power plant in Spain by politicians who work or have an indirect relationship with the plant.
 In May 2004, an article by scientist James Lovelock, creator of the Gaia hypothesis (which postulates that the Earth acts as a super organism) appeared on the front page of the British newspaper The Independent. Lovelock berated critics of the nuclear industry using fears of climate change, desertification or overpopulation and deforestation.