Knee-jerk opposition to nuclear power among environmentalists has never made sense, particularly when taken to the point of advocating for the scrapping of existing nuclear facilities. Yet in Spain, the reality that nuclear is an important piece of the energy puzzle is beginning to sink in:

(Reuters) – Spain may join Germany in relaxing a pledge to scrap nuclear power and let plants run on for decades, softening an anti-nuclear stance that was one of the firmest in Europe.Less than a year ago, Spain ordered the aging Garona nuclear plant to close rather than renew a 10-year operating permit, in line with a 2008 electoral pledge to replace nuclear power with its successful renewable energy sector.

Permits for another three of Spain’s eight nuclear plants expire in June and July 2010, and the government is legally entitled to let them close, too.

However it may allow the Alamaraz I, Almaraz II and Vandellos II plants to run for another 10 years.

Undoubtedly, nuclear power has its issues as does every other potential source of energy. But Spain, once the standard bearer for renewable energy, is now cognisant of its enormous cost. With unemployment in the country reportedly at 20%, now is not the time to be scrapping working nuclear power stations.

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