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Nuclear Waste Storage in Villar de Cañas, Spain


In 2004, the Spanish Parliament approved the construction of a nuclear waste storage facility.

To take this decision it was argued that 1) storage pools within the nuclear power stations were reaching their maximum capacity, 2) it was easier to unify the management of nuclear waste in one location instead of seven different locations, 3) it was needed to locate the nuclear waste somewhere else before desmantling old power stations, and 4) the nuclear waste from the nuclear power station called Vandellós I will return from France before 2016 and the cost of having the nuclear waste in France is 65,000 €/day.

As it was a delicate decision, the government did not want to decide where the nuclear waste would be located, but opened a call for the Town Councils to propose themselves to store the nuclear waste. 8 Town Councils from different Spanish regions offered themselves to store the nuclear waste facility.

In 2011, the Spanish government decided to locate the nuclear waste storage in Cuenca. This industrial facility would be authorised for 60 years.

Opposition to this project had already started emerging in 2010, when the 8 possibilities were made public. The different groups opposing the nuclear waste storage denounced the opaque process of selection and the lack of democracy:  the Mayor of Villar de Cañas  had not consulted the village inhabitants about his plans of storing nuclear waste and the final decision had been taken due to the political influences and tradeoffs of the Regional government of Castilla la Mancha. These groups were concerned about nuclear risks in storage and transportation and were also extremelly concerned that emptying the storage pools within the active nuclear power stations would mean that the life-span of these nuclear power stations would be extended, generating further nuclear waste. Besides, these groups were assuming that storing nuclear waste in Villar de Cañas would made the area doomed for the rest of its history.

Since the Spanish government decision, these groups have been developing activities to stop the nuclear waste storage in Villar the Cañas, questioning the very need of building such an industrial facility.

In 2011, the decision by the Council of Ministers to choose Villar de Cañas as the ATC (Almacén Temporal Centralizado de combustible nuclear gastado y residuos nucleares de alta actividad) had been taken although this village was fourth in the initial list of candidates. María Dolores de Cospedal, a top politician in the ruling Partido Popular and president of the region of Castilla La Mancha (where Villar de Cañas is located) was influential in this decision, as also in placing Francisco Gil-Ortega as head of ENRESA, the nuclear waste agency. Gil-Ortega resigned in 2015, after ENRESA spent lots of money in buildings and roads in Villar de Cañas that will probably remain useless, and that have been built by firms involved in corruption cases elsewhere with the Partido Popular.   The region of Castilla La Macha has no longer a government of the PP but of the PSOE, less favourable to the ATC. There are also new geological studies due in 2016 that will probably throw doubts on the location of the ATC. A new DIA (Declaración de Impacto Ambiental) is also due from the Ministry of Agriculture and Environment.   

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Nuclear Waste Storage in Villar de Cañas, Spain
State or province:Cuenca
Location of conflict:Villar de Cañas
Accuracy of locationLOW (Country level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Nuclear
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Nuclear waste storage
Specific commodities:Radioactive Waste

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Total nuclear waste material to be storaged: 12,816 m3 of radioactive waste. Storage for 60 years.

Project area:13
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:400-500
Start of the conflict:2004
Company names or state enterprises:Empresa Nacional de Residuos Radiactivos S.A (Enresa) from Spain
Relevant government actors:Spanish governement, Regional government of Castilla y la Mancha, Villar de Cañas Town Council
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Plataforma contra el cementerio nuclear en Cuenca in which there are the following 49 groups: AcampadaCuenca, A.D.I. Záncara, A.VV. Casa Blanca, Asamblea de Jóvenes QNK, A.VV. Pozo de las Nieves (Cuenca), A.VV. San Antón, A.VV. San Fernando, A.VV. Tiradores Altos, Agrupación Naturalista Esparvel, ATTAC-CLM, Area de Juventud de IU, ARMH- Cuenca, ASAJA Cuenca, Asociación de Naturalistas Conquenses, ASTAREL, Ayuntamiento de Alconchel de la Estrella, Ayuntamiento de Belinchón, Ayuntamiento de Belmonte, Ayuntamiento de Cuenca, Ayuntamiento de El Hito, Ayuntamiento de Villar de la Encina, Ayuntamiento de Villarejo de Fuentes, Baladre, Caldero Mágico, CC.OO. (U.P. Cuenca), CGT Cuenca, Ciudadanos por la República de Cuenca, Despensa Natura, Ecologistas en Acción - CLM, Ecologistas en Acción - Cuenca, EQUO, FAVECU, FCPN, La Gavilla Verde, Greenpeace, Grupo Ecologista Universales, IU (Agrupación local de Cuenca), Juventudes Socialistas de CLM, Partido Castellano, PCE de Cuenca, Asociación de consumidores ecológicos Pisto, Plataforma Ciudadana Ambiental de Tarancón, PSOE - Cuenca, Salvemos las Tablas Ya, UGT - Cuenca, Unión de Juventudes Comunistas de España (UJCE), UPA Cuenca, UPA-CLM, Yesca-Cuenca.

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Trade unions
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns


Environmental ImpactsPotential: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Other Environmental impactsRadioactivity-related impacts
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors
Potential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of landscape/sense of place


Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Strengthening of participation
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Development of alternatives:Not to build any nuclear waste storage anywhere. keep the waste in the existing nuclear power stations.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Or rather not yet. The nuclear storage is still planned to be built in Villar de Cañas. However, there is strong opposition at the national level, and also a smell of corruption on the money that has been spent already in Villar de Cañas. By 2016, it seems unlikely that the ATC will be built, also because of the change of government (from PP to PSOE) in the region of Castilla La Mancha.

Sources & Materials

Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Acuerdo europeo sobre transporte internacional de mercancías peligrosas por carretera:

6º Plan General de Residuos Radiactivos (PGRR):

Real Decreto 1349/2003 sobre ordenación de las actividades de la Empresa Nacional de Residuos Radiactivos (Enresa), y su financiación. Texto BOE num. 268 del 8 de Noviembre de 2003:

Real Decreto 208/2005 sobre aparatos eléctricos y electrónicos y la gestión de sus residuos. Texto BOE num.49 del 26 de Febrero de 2005:

para el impulso a la productividad:

Ley 24/2005, de 18 de noviembre, de reformas

Orden ECO/1449/2003 sobre gestión de materiales residuales sólidos con contenido radiactivo generados en las inst radiactivas de 2ª y 3ª cat en las que se manipulen o almacenen isótopos radiactivos no encapsulados. Texto BOE num.134 del 5 de Junio de 2003

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Youtube clip from the Platform:

Youtube clip: massive demonstration against the nuclear waste storage:

El Pais, 15 March 2016, Manuel Planelles. El CSN difundirá los informes que cuestionan el almacén nuclear. Los análisis de los suelos fueron declarados confidenciales por el Consejo de Seguridad Nuclear

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Newspaper article: El TS avala que el almacén nuclear se ubique en Villar de Cañas (Cuenca):

Arguments from the Platform against the nuclear waste storage:

Newspaper article: Méndez, R. (2013, Oct 19) Industria oculta problemas en el terreno donde irá el almacén nuclear:

File from the nuclear waste storage company with information about the project. Almacén Temporal Centralizado. Dossier de Prensa:

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Slideshow of protest pictures against the nuclear waste storage:

Meta information

Contributor:Amaranta Herrero
Last update16/05/2016