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Village bets future on nuclear waste dump.

The hamlet of Villar de Canas has a remedy for its conomic woes: a nuclear waste dump in its backyard.

The village in the central Spanish region of Castille-La Mancha that's steeped in tales of Don Quixote is trying to claw out of the country's worst slump in more than half a century. The village and many of its 400 residents are looking to the 900 million-euro ($949 million) storage facility planned by the government to bring jobs and stop the exodus of young people.

"I can die a happy man knowing that the site is going to bring prosperity to this village," Mayor Jose Maria Saiz said in an interview

Far from being a threat to the village, the construction of the 32-hectare facility to store all of Spain's nuclear waste is a guarantee of the community's survival, said Saiz.

Villagers are waiting for the Spanish nuclear security council, known as CSN, to make a final recommendation on the suitability of the Villar de Canas site. The council's report, due to be published by May, is set to recommend that the site, first decided in 2011, is appropriate, said two people familiar with the information, who asked not to be identified

Before Villar de Canas pledged its future to nuclear waste storage, it was a typical Spanish village that took pride in its 16th-century church with a distinctive organ and local cuisine including a stew eaten during Easter Week and locally-cured ham.

In common with many Spanish villages, its population has been in long decline, dropping to about 442 in 2009 from 1,567 in 1960, according to Spain's National Statistics Institute.

All that changed in 2011 when Enresa, the state-owned company responsible for Spain's nuclear facilities, chose the village to house the country's first-ever temporary storage facility for highly radioactive waste. As well as storing all the spent fuel produced by Spain, it will also take in residues of fuel from the Vandellos I plant reprocessed in France and from dismantled components of other nuclear power stations.

The facility will be able to keep up to 12,816 cubic meters of radioactive waste at a single location for up to 60 years, according to Enresa.

The plant will create as many as 300 jobs. It will also save Spain the money it pays France to store highly-radioactive waste from Vandellos I, which used to amount to 60,000 euros a day before the terms were renegotiated in 2012, Enresa said.

Currently, Spain stores low to medium-grade waste at a facility at El Cabril in Cordoba province, Enresa said. Seven of Spain's eight nuclear power plants are operational and supply 20 percent of its power. Villar de Canas had to beat off competition from eight other communities that bid to house the nuclear dump, Enresa said.

The promise of jobs at the project is attracting young people to the village for the first time in decades. Within two days of the nuclear dump contract being announced, Santiago Escobedo, a 28-year-old architect, came to the village where he set up an engineering company.

Environmentalist groups accuse the dump's supporters of putting money before safety. The Platform Against the Nuclear Disposal Site, which groups 49 environmentalist, civil and political groups including Greenpeace, continues to lobby against it and wants the project to be shelved.

The project was also hit by the unexpected departure of Enresa president Francisco Gil-Ortega in February citing "personal reasons". His resignation followed a safety review by Spain's National Nuclear Council that will determine the future of the dump, which could be put on hold and eventually rejected if the report detects serious inadequacies.

Source: Maria Tadeo, Bloomberg Business
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Title Annotation:SPAIN
Author:Tadeo, Maria
Publication:Nuclear Waste News
Geographic Code:4EUSP
Date:Mar 20, 2015
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