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IAEA Concludes Long Term Operational Safety Review of Spain’s Ascó Nuclear Power Plant

Ascó, Spain

During the nine-day mission, the SALTO team focused on aspects essential to the safe Long Term Operation (LTO) of both units. (Photo: J. M. Biarnés/ANAV)

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts today completed a review of long term operational safety at the Ascó nuclear power plant in Spain.

The SALTO (Safety Aspects of Long Term Operation) review mission was requested by the plant’s operator ANAV (Asociación Nuclear Ascó-Vandellós II).

The Ascó nuclear power plant is one of Spain’s five operational nuclear power plants. Located in the country’s north-east, Ascó has two pressurized-water reactor units with an installed power of approximately 1030 MWe each. Unit 1 went into commercial operation in 1984 and Unit 2 in 1986. ANAV plans to extend the operation of both units beyond the initial lifetime. ANAV has applied for license renewal for the two units and plans to keep its commitment in generating safe and reliable electricity in the long term.

During the nine-day mission, the SALTO team focused on aspects essential to the safe Long Term Operation (LTO) of both units. The team reviewed implementation of recommendations made during a Pre-SALTO review mission in January 2019 as well as the operator’s preparedness for LTO by assessing the programmes, procedures and practices implemented at the plant. SALTO reviews are based on IAEA safety standards.

“Staff at the plant are implementing preparations for safe LTO in a timely manner and are professional, open and receptive to the SALTO team’s recommendations and suggestions for improvement,” said team leader and IAEA Senior Nuclear Safety Officer Robert Krivanek. “Most of the ageing management and LTO activities are already in line with IAEA safety standards, and the SALTO team encourages the plant management to implement all remaining activities for safe LTO.”

The 11-member review team – comprising experts from Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, France, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Sweden, as well as two IAEA staff members – identified good practices and performances to be shared with the global nuclear industry, including:

  • The management of a living design basis document to ensure comprehensive configuration management.
  • The innovative and integrated usage of ageing management programme data regarding soil movement under safety related buildings for LTO analysis.
  • Effectivity assessment of safety-related organizational changes one year after their approval.

The team also provided recommendations to further enhance preparations before entering into LTO:

  • The plant should implement a consistent strategy for the use of ageing management and LTO safety standards.
  • The plant should ensure a comprehensive identification and labelling of structures and components within the scope of safe ageing management and LTO.
  • The plant should develop and implement a comprehensive equipment qualification programme to preserve fulfillment of safety functions during LTO.

“Our main goal is to obtain an objective and independent assessment of the Ascó plant’s preparedness for LTO. The SALTO team’s evaluation of our activities against IAEA safety standards gives us the best opportunity to achieve this,” said Jose Antonio Gago, ANAV Chief Executive Officer. “We are committed to operate our plants to the highest level of safety and reliability until the very last day they are authorized to operate.”

The plant management expressed a determination to address the areas identified for further improvement and to continue cooperation with the IAEA in preparation for safe LTO. They indicated an intention to invite a SALTO follow-up mission to the Ascó plant in the third quarter of 2023.

The team provided the draft report of the SALTO mission to ANAV and to the Nuclear Safety Council (CSN), Spain’s nuclear regulatory authority, at the end of the mission. ANAV and CSN will have an opportunity to make factual comments on the draft. A final report will be submitted to ANAV, CSN and the Spanish Government within three months.


A SALTO peer review is a comprehensive safety review addressing strategy and key elements for the safe long term operation of nuclear power plants. They complement OSART missions, which are designed as a review of programmes and activities essential to operational safety. Neither SALTO nor OSART reviews are regulatory inspections, nor are they design reviews or substitutes for an exhaustive assessment of a plant's overall safety status.

LTO of nuclear power plants is defined as operation beyond an established time frame determined by the license term, the original plant design, relevant standards, or national regulations. As stated in IAEA safety standards, to maintain a plant’s fitness for service, consideration should be given to life limiting processes and features of systems, structures, and components (SSC), as well as to reasonably practicable safety upgrades to enhance the safety of the plant to a level approaching that of modern plants.

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