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About this book

This book analyses the economic history of the nuclear program in Spain, from its inception in the 1950s to the nuclear moratorium in the early 1980s, and investigates the economic, financial and business origins of atomic energy in Spain. The actual dimension of the Spanish nuclear sector, which exceeded the relative economic and political clout of the country at the time, reflects the combination of domestic and foreign interests. Each contribution inserts the Spanish case within the international development of nuclear energy, but also shows how the Spanish nuclear program came about, how it was financed, and who the main architects and beneficiaries at the industrial, financial, commercial and banking levels were; all without losing sight of the energy policy aspects such as energy mix and energy security. The volume provides useful analysis and sources for a variety of core fields across the social sciences including economic history of post-war Europe, industrial and energy policy, international relations and history of technology.

Table of Contents


1. Seeking the Perennial Fountain of the World’s Prosperity

This chapter offers a global overview synthetizing the macro-economic and political developments on which the nuclear programs rooted around the world, from the Golden age and until after the two oil crises. Most nuclear programs started and grew during the Golden Age, but slowed down in the mist of the economic crisis of the 1970s. A technology that aspired to become the perennial fountain of world’s prosperity was adopted by a little more than 30 of the almost 200 nations of the world. And it was a decision taken (or not) well before any major accident took place. May be because the atomic choice had more economic policy implications than just the average pick of an energy technology over another to meet future electricity demands. This background helps to contextualize the Spanish case within these worldwide dynamics, offering the key elements to build a comparative history, and some initial indications about the true dimensions of the Spanish nuclear program.
M. d. Mar Rubio-Varas, Joseba De la Torre

2. Who was Who in the Making of Spanish Nuclear Programme, c.1950–1985

In 1964, the leading Spanish electricity companies began an ambitious project to construct nuclear power plants. Twenty years later, Spain was one of the most nuclear countries in the world. For facilitating quick adoption of one of the most cutting-edge technologies of the post-war world, it was vital to secure government support for private companies and the transfer of US expertise and financial credit, encourage the emergence of a local capital equipment industry and engineering services, and train experts and operators.
Joseba De la Torre

3. The Nuclear Business and the Spanish Electric-Banking Oligopoly: The First Steps

Political and economic factors, both national and international, played a major role in implementing the Spanish nuclear program. Among the elements that the literature of the subject has explained in detail, one can find the US policy for the marketing of nuclear reactors, the financial facilities by the Export–Import Bank and the wishes of the Franco regime to break the international isolation and economic backwardness of Spain. However, in the end the electricity companies built the nuclear power plants privately. Therefore, understanding the Spanish nuclear business requires disentangling the companies and entrepreneurs involved and their logic of action within the Spanish industrial fabric from the 1950s through the 1960s, which is the aim of this chapter. The high fixed capital required by utility companies, coupled with the limitations of the Spanish financial system, demanded the participation of banks, which monitored their investments from their own executive teams. Nuclear investment elevated the long-existing symbiotic relationship between electric utilities and banks to a new level, strengthening the electric-banking oligopoly.
Josean Garrués-Irurzun, Juan A. Rubio-Mondéjar

4. Human Capital and Physics Research for the Spanish Nuclear Program

The decision by the Spanish government in the early 1950s to favour nuclear power as a source of energy had important consequences for Spain at various levels: the economy, industry, international politics, and society. Inevitably, the development of the nuclear energy option also had an enormous impact on scientific disciplines, especially physics in general and various engineering fields. Also inevitably, though, in a country that has not traditionally considered science and knowledge to be the backbone of development and social progress, the development of these disciplines based on the reception of nuclear energy was hazardous, sometimes erratic, and often uncertain. Despite all this, it can be asserted that it was based on this effort regarding nuclear energy that Spain began its path in pursuit of levels of scientific quality and excellence equal to those of neighbouring countries.
Albert Presas i Puig

5. How did Spain Become the Major US Nuclear Client?

How could the electric utilities of an underdeveloped country such as Spain afford the $500 millions or more required for a single nuclear plant? The Spanish government pursued nuclear development doggedly in order to achieve status on the international scenario and push the technological prowess for industrialization. But it could not do it alone. All the Spanish nuclear orders from the US came with an Eximbamk’s financial package offering below market interest rates and facilities to obtain credits from private banks. The dimension of the Spanish nuclear project, which exceeded the relative economic and political clout of the country at the time, responds to the combination of domestic and foreign interests in the economic, political, and security fields. By the mid 1970s, Spain became the largest nuclear client of the US, by at the same time turning into the largest Eximbank nuclear debtor. The financial facilities included, among other things, long maturities for the loans. Eventually, the electricity companies had to reimburse the credits in instalments that become increasingly burdensome from the early 1980s onwards, which contributed to the decision to declare the nuclear moratorium.
M. d. Mar Rubio-Varas, Joseba De la Torre

6. An Alternative Route? France’s Position in the Spanish Nuclear Program, c. 1950s–1980s

This chapter deals with the extent of French assistance to the Spanish nuclear development between the 1950s and the 1980s, based mainly on archival material from France and Spain. After a brief assessment of the French nuclear program, we examine the origins of French-Spanish cooperation in the electricity and nuclear sectors, identifying the key individuals, businesses and institutions. Afterwards, special attention is given to the largest ever French nuclear operation in Spain: the Vandellós 1 power plant, located in the coast of Catalonia. Finally, the text reviews the evolution of bilateral nuclear relations during the years when Spanish moratorium was brewing, and both the United States and West Germany had become strong competitors in the Iberian market. Nuclear collaboration with France was important for Spain both as an end and as a means, since it widely boosted the modernization of local industries and workforce, and also paved the way for other large industrial and political projects.
Esther M. Sánchez-Sánchez

7. The Long Road to the Trillo Nuclear Power Plant: West Germany in the Spanish Nuclear Race

This chapter aims to analyse the role of West Germany in the Spanish nuclear program. Based on published sources and unpublished files, the manuscript identifies the main agents, negotiations, interest, procedures and results, at both governmental and business level. Special attention will be given to the historical origins, development and role of the nuclear industrial system in West Germany and nuclear networking in Spain. The aim is to explain how the bid for a nuclear power plant in Spain was won in 1975. Trillo NPP was the only German-installed plant in a complex nuclear ecosystem based on international technology and finance such as that of Spain.
Gloria Sanz Lafuente

8. Energy Planning, Nuclear Promises and Realities

This final chapter establishes a balance between the objectives of the Spanish nuclear program, the promises made in the years of atomic optimism, and their results. Nuclear energy arose as an answer for the increasing electricity demand, diversifying the energy mix, and for minimizing the high external dependence on imported oil. After examining the earliest forecast about nuclear power in Spain and the energy planning that justified the atomic option, we turn our attention to analysing the compliance of the objectives in the energy field. Among others we scrutinize the impact of nuclear power on energy issues such as the diversification of the energy matrix, external energy dependency and the security of supply. Our review of historical evidence provides some rebuttals to the principal promises that pushed the Spanish nuclear program since its inception. But it also finds some accomplishments with regard to how nuclear power helped to create a new industry and modernize the country.
Beatriz Muñoz-Delgado, M. d. Mar Rubio-Varas


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