Nuclear Energy: A Future for Spain

Tom Fawcett
March 11, 2016

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2016


France, Hungary, Slovakia, Sweden, Finland, Ukraine, and more countries are known for their investment into nuclear energy. These countries are leaders in nuclear energy use, and have invested a great amount of their money and energy towards nuclear energy for their future. Spain, on the other hand, is not necessarily known for its reliance on nuclear power, but on renewable resources. In fact, in 2013, Spain became the first country to have a majority of its energy come from wind energy for an entire year. However, with costs of renewables increasing, nuclear energy is becoming an intriguing option for the country's future.


Currently, Spain generates around a fifth of its energy from 7 nuclear reactors. The country began using nuclear energy back in 1968, and has had some reliance on it since. In 2013, the gross production of electricity production was 285 billion kWh. Of that 285 billion, just under 10% of this came from nuclear power, 57.1 TWh from gas, 41.6 TWh from coal, 55.8 TWh from wind, 41.1 TWh from hydro, 13.1 TWh from solar, and 5.9 TWh from biofuel and wastes. [1] However, this allocation of resources may need to change moving forward, since costs of renewables are increasing. Nuclear energy could be a place to allocate funds and time, so that Spain's future has reliable sources of energy. [2]

Comparing the costs of all energy sources reveals why nuclear energy is such an advantage. On a dollar per KW- hr basis, nuclear energy is the cheapest option, other than geothermal. Nuclear energy is approximated at $0.10 cents per KW-hr. Although the costs of creating nuclear plants are extremely high, investing in them now would ensure a better future for Spain's energy sectors. It is hard to give a definite number to the cost of making a nuclear reactor, but it can be anywhere between $2-9 billion. However, these costs pay off over years and years of use. Other forms of energy, such as wind, which is a large part of Spain's current allocation of energy, costs up to $0.20 cents per KW-hr. [3]

Right now 85% of the energy in the world comes from fossil based fuels. It is unclear how long it will be, but these resources will not last forever, as they are not renewable. That is another reason why it makes sense for Spain to make this transition to more reliance on nuclear energy now. Nuclear energy is cleaner for the environment, and can be a long-term source, with no foreseeable issues. Although the process of building nuclear reactors creates waste that is harmful for the environment, once it is operating, the reactor is much a much cleaner option. [2]


Whether it is for cost, or environmental reasons, nuclear energy is a smart investment for Spain's future. It may incur some large costs in the beginning, and have some environmental issues when building the reactors, but once it is operating, nuclear energy is the best option. It is cheaper and cleaner and will allow for a more reliable future of energy in Spain.

© Tom Fawcett. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] "BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2015," British Petroleum, June 2015.

[2] I. M. de A. Mancisidor et al., "European Union's Renewable Energy Sources and Energy Efficiency Policy Review: The Spanish Perspective," Renew. Sust. Energy Rev. 13, 100 (2009).

[3] D. Bodansky, Nuclear Energy: Principles, Practices, and Prospects, 2nd Ed. (Springer, 2008).