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Electric Worlds / Mondes électriques

Creations, Circulations, Tensions, Transitions (19th–21st C.)

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Edited By Alain Beltran, Léonard Laborie, Pierre Lanthier and Stéphanie Le Gallic

What interpretation(s) do today’s historians make of electrification? Electrification is a process which began almost a hundred and fifty years ago but which more than one billion men and women still do not have access to. This book displays the social diversity of the electric worlds and of the approaches to their history. It updates the historical knowledge and shows the renewal of the historiography in both its themes and its approaches. Four questions about the passage to the electrical age are raised: which innovations or combination of innovations made this passage a reality? According to which networks and appropriation? Evolving thanks to which tensions and alliances? And resulting in which transition and accumulation?

Quel(s) regard(s) les historiens d’aujourd’hui portent-ils sur l’électrification, processus engagé il y a près de cent cinquante ans mais auquel plus d’un milliard d’hommes et de femmes restent encore étrangers ? Le présent volume rend compte de la diversité des mondes sociaux électriques et des manières d’enquêter sur leur histoire. Il actualise les connaissances et témoigne du renouvellement de l’historiographie, dans ses objets et ses approches. Quatre points d’interrogation sur le basculement des sociétés dans l’âge électrique jalonnent le volume : moyennant quelles créations ou combinaisons créatrices ? En vertu de quelles circulations et appropriations ? Selon quelles tensions et alliances ? Et produisant quelles transitions et accumulations ?

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Le frère cadet. France’s Contributions to Spanish Nuclear Development, c. 1960s-1980s

← 220 | 221 →

Le frère cadet

France’s Contributions to Spanish Nuclear Development, c. 1960s-1980s*

Esther M. SÁNCHEZ SÁNCHEZ

Abstract

The use of nuclear means to generate electricity attracted soon the attention from Spanish government and companies, who embarked on the construction of nuclear reactors and power plants just a few years after the world’s leading powers had done so. Although since the 1950s the United States remained the main foreign partner of Spanish economy and politics, France managed to position itself advantageously, and even overcome the USA, in some outstanding chapters of the Spanish industry. The aim of this paper is to analyze the assistance of France to the development of Spanish nuclear industry between the 1950s and 1980s, based on published sources and, above all, unpublished files from public and private archives.

The French-Spanish nuclear cooperation rooted in electrical agreements signed in the immediate postwar period, which regulated the mutual exchange of electrical energy (mostly hydro) and the technical and financial assistance from EDF and the French government to the main Spanish power companies, both private and state-owned. The first agreement between the Commissariat de l’Énergie Atomique (CEA) and its Spanish counterpart the Junta de Energía Nuclear (JEN) dates from 1956, just a year after the first nuclear agreement between Spain and the USA was signed. Since then, regular meetings between representatives of the CEA, JEN and businesses on both sides of the Pyrenees followed; as well as the sending of physicists, engineers, technicians and other French experts to Spain; the training of Spanish specialists in France; and numerous arrangements in specific fields, especially in the reprocessing of irradiated fuel and the safety of nuclear plants.

Of all the nuclear reactors planned (over 40) and finally connected to the grid (10) in Spain, only one was French: Vandellòs I (in Catalonia), using French natural uranium-graphite-gas (UNGG) technology type. All studies showed that French technology costs were significantly higher than those of its American rivals using enriched uranium (in its two variants PWR and BWR). Why then was French technology chosen? Which were the advantages deduced by French ← 221 | 222 → and Spanish? Why Vandellòs I constituted the ultimate realization of UNGG technology and its first and only export? This case study shows that in nuclear matters many decisions were beyond the strictly scientific and technological, and even overlooked minimum criteria of economic rationality.

Keywords: France, Spain, nuclear energy, trans-Pyrenean electricity interconnections, Vandellòs I nuclear power plant

Résumé

La production d’électricité par voie nucléaire a rapidement attiré l’attention du gouvernement et des entreprises espagnols, qui se sont tôt engagés dans la construction de réacteurs et de centrales, quelques années à peine après les grandes puissances mondiales. Bien que, depuis les années 1950, les États-Unis fussent devenus le principal partenaire politique et économique de l’Espagne, la France a pu avancer et même dépasser le leader mondial dans quelques secteurs fondamentaux de l’industrie espagnole. Le but de cet article est d’analyser l’aide de la France au développement de l’industrie nucléaire espagnole des années 1950 aux années 1980, à partir de sources publiées et, surtout, de fonds inédits d’archives publiques et privées.

La coopération franco-espagnole dans le domaine nucléaire est enracinée dans les accords électriques du lendemain de la Seconde Guerre mondiale, qui réglaient l’échange réciproque de l’énergie électrique (principalement hydroélectrique) et l’assistance technique et financière d’EDF et du gouvernement français aux grandes entreprises électriques espagnoles, étatiques autant que privées. Le premier accord entre le Commissariat à l’Énergie Atomique (CEA) et son équivalent espagnol, la Junta de Energía Nuclear (JEN), date de 1956, soit juste un an après la signature du premier accord nucléaire entre l’Espagne et les États-Unis. Depuis lors, les représentants du CEA, de la JEN et des entreprises se sont périodiquement réunis de part et d’autre des Pyrénées. Ont suivi l’envoi de physiciens, ingénieurs, techniciens et autres experts français en Espagne ; la réalisation de séjours en France de spécialistes espagnols ; et de nombreux accords dans des domaines spécifiques, tels le traitement de combustibles irradiés et la sûreté nucléaire.

De toutes les centrales nucléaires projetées (environ 40) et finalement connectées au réseau (10) en Espagne, seulement une était française : Vandellòs I (en Catalogne), qui a utilisé la technologie de type uranium naturel-graphite-gaz (UNGG). Toutes les études ont montré que les coûts de la technologie française étaient sensiblement plus élevés que ceux de leurs concurrents nord-américains avec uranium enrichi (sous ses deux variantes, PWR et BWR). Alors, pourquoi a-t-on choisi la technologie française ? Quels avantages y ont tirés les Espagnols et les Français ? Pourquoi Vandellòs I a-t-elle constitué la dernière réalisation de la technologie UNGG et sa première et seule exportation ? Cette étude de cas montre que, dans le domaine nucléaire, de nombreuses décisions sont allées au-delà du domaine strictement scientifique et technologique, en faisant même abstraction du minimum des critères de rationalité économique. ← 222 | 223 →

Mots clés : France, Espagne, énergie nucléaire, connexions électriques transpyrénéennes, centrale nucléaire de Vandellòs I

*

“À l’heure actuelle, l’on ne peut prétendre l’une des solutions ‘meilleure’ que les autres […] En matière nucléaire, ce qui est clair c’est que la France doit cesser d’être le frère cadet, toujours à la remorque de son aîné les États-Unis.”

Ambassador R. De Boisseson, 1965.

Introduction

Modern Spain’s economic growth has always been closely linked to foreign aid, particularly from France, the USA, Germany and Great Britain. The model for the nuclear sector in Spain was American. However, as it happened in other areas of the Spanish economy, France was able to wrest a number of major projects from the superpower. The aim of this chapter is to examine French contributions to Spain’s nuclear development during the second half of the 20th Century. It will investigate the roots of the bilateral cooperation, identify the leading actors involved in the process, and analyse the main results. Special attention will be paid to the largest nuclear operation ever undertaken between Spain and France: the construction of the Vandellòs I nuclear power plant in Catalonia. Thus, we are attempting to contribute to the historiographical debate about the spillovers of foreign investment on host economies,1 the role either complementary or obstructionist of state-owned enterprises,2 and the importance of the political, or politico-military, factor in economic and technological decisions, particularly those related to the nuclear sector.3 ← 223 | 224 →

The paper is organised into four sections. The first gives a brief overview of the beginnings of cooperation between France and Spain in the area of electricity. The second examines the origins of the nuclear sector in Spain, with particular attention being paid to French participation. The third explores the reasons which led both France and Spain to adopt the French nuclear technology ‘UNGG’ over its American counterparts ‘BWR’ and ‘PWR’, which were much more competitive in economic terms. In the fourth section, we look at the turning points in the process of building and commercial operation of the French-Spanish nuclear power plant Vandellòs I.

Origins of French-Spanish cooperation in the area of electricity

The nuclear cooperation between France and Spain is rooted in their cooperation in the field of conventional electrical energy, which forged the relations among the companies and entrepreneurs who would later hold the reins of the nuclear adventure. The first contacts between Électricité de France (EDF) and the main electricity producers in Spain (for the most part private although subject to stringent state control)4 date from the late 1940s. France, like most European countries, needed to import energy during winter, when its hydroelectric reserves ran low because the waterways were frozen, and found an outlet for its surplus power in summer, during the thaw, which was precisely the time when Spain experienced drought.

From 1950 onwards, outside the clearing arrangements that then regulated French-Spanish trade, about ten agreements were concluded on the bilateral exchange of electricity (see Table 1). They ensured that France would always receive energy in winter, whilst Spain, in exchange, would receive energy during summer, but also foreign currency to be used ← 224 | 225 → to buy equipment from French electrical manufacturers.5 Thereby, Spain would increase its scant reserves of foreign currency, whilst France would widen the slender export margin stipulated in the bilateral agreements. The energy generated by each country would be transmitted to the other through high-voltage lines.6

The effect of this series of agreements was a noticeable increase in exchanges of electricity between Spain and France. From 1956 onwards, the balance of exports between the two, although irregular, was invariably in Spain’s favour, and in the 1960s, Spain actually became France’s largest foreign provider of electrical energy. In 1966, for example, France imported a total of 4,900 Mwh. Of those, over 2,400 were provided by Spain (as compared to 1,870 from Switzerland, 300 from West Germany, 250 from Italy, 40 from Andorra, 30 from Belgium and 10 from Great Britain).7 Spain’s exports of electricity to France during those years reached such a level that the Spanish Ambassador in Paris, José M. de Areilza, made the following prediction: “The electricity exports generated through these agreements will reach a value as high as our current sales of oranges in France.”8 In a context of international isolation and censure,9 these agreements also helped the Francoist regime to make some move toward Spain’s international rehabilitation and western integration. ← 225 | 226 →

Table 1. Electricity trade agreements between France (EDF) and Spain, 1950-1964

DateSpanish parties involvedPurpose
15/9/1950Iberduero and Unidad Eléctrica S.A. (UNESA).Exchange of electrical energy, from Spain to France between 1 November and 15 April and from France to Spain between 1 June and 30 September.10
12/4/1954Iberduero, UNESA and Energía e Industrias Aragonesas.As above (extension of the agreement for Iberduero and UNESA, and inclusion of E.I. Aragonesas).
9/4/1954Fuerzas Eléctricas del Noroeste (FENOSA) and Saltos del Sil.Exchange of electrical energy, from Spain to France between 1 November and 15 April and from France to Spain between 1 June and 30 September.
1/7/1955Sociedad Productora de Fuerzas Motrices S.A.Supply of electricity, by Spanish companies to EDF during the winter (15 November-15 March), in exchange for energy in summer (1 July-30 September) and foreign currency. Building of a power line connecting France to Spain, running from Val de Lac d’Oô to Val d’Aran.
3/11/1955Grupo HISPANELEC (formed of Iberduero, FENOSA and Saltos del Sil).Supply of electricity, by Spanish companies to EDF during the winter (15 November-15 April), in exchange for energy in summer (1 June-30 September) and foreign currency.
1954-55UNESA.Supply of ‘emergency power’ to UNESA by EDF, and credit for the debt.
4/7/1955Hidroeléctrica Moncabril.Supply of electricity, by Moncabril to EDF during the winter (15 November-15 April), in exchange for energy in summer (1 July-30 September) and foreign currency.
1956-57Fuerzas Eléctricas de Cataluña S.A. (FECSA).Supply of ‘emergency power’ to FECSA by EDF, paid for in kind (electrical energy and coal). ← 226 | 227 →
1957Sociedad Productora de Fuerzas Motrices S.A.Regulation of water in the Garonne River to facilitate the exchange of electrical energy.
17/9/1959Empresa Nacional Hidroeléctrica del Ribagorzana (ENHER), E. N. de Electricidad S.A. (ENDESA), E.N. Calvo Sotelo (ENCASO), Hidroeléctrica Moncabril and Hidroeléctrica de Galicia.Postponement of the date of receipt and storage in France of the portion of energy corresponding to Spain.
4/9/1961ENHER, with help from ENDESA.Supply of energy to EDF throughout the year, in exchange for foreign currency.

Cession to Italy by EDF of a percentage of the energy bought from Spain.

Shared building of the Rubí-Ruyères line.
1964HISPANELEC, ENHER, ENDESA, FECSA and Moncabril.Supply of energy to EDF during winter, in exchange for energy in summer and foreign currency.

Source: Own elaboration based on AMAE-F, AN-CAC and Centre des Archives Économiques et Financières-France.

Spain enters the nuclear era

In the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, nuclear technology remained subject to the strictest military secrecy. It was after Eisenhower’s ‘Atoms for Peace’ speech and the Korean War that the atmosphere of international mistrust gave way to a new climate of cooperation between nations, tending to promote civilian use of this new type of energy. In 1955, the first world conference on peaceful uses for atomic energy was held in Geneva, attended by over 1,200 delegates from 72 countries, including Spain and the Soviet Bloc countries. It was followed by other international conferences and by the first projects of bilateral and multilateral cooperation, projects whose technical and financial dimensions necessitated the intervention of the states.

Spain underwent nuclear research only a few years later the major world powers did. In 1951, after some minor forerunners, the Junta de Energía Nuclear (JEN) was founded, in order to investigate peaceful applications for atomic energy and promote the development and control of nuclear activities. Since its inception, the JEN maintained extensive foreign contacts, for the most part spearheaded by its President from ← 227 | 228 → 1958 to 1974 the military engineer José M. Otero Navascués. Among his closest colleagues there were prestigious foreign scientists: such as the French Bertrand Goldschmidt, director of International Relations for the Commissariat à l’Énergie Atomique (CEA) and former assistant to Marie Curie; and the American Samuel K. Allison, professor at the University of Chicago, director of the Enrico Fermi Institute for Nuclear Studies and a former member of the Manhattan Project.11

The Francoist leaders’ major interest in nuclear matters facilitated the development of the sector, which therefore lacked neither funding nor privileges. In 1958, the JEN opened the ‘Juan Vigón’ National Nuclear Energy Centre in Madrid, specialising in the theoretical and practical study of nuclear reactions. At the start of the 1960s, Spain already had three research reactors: the JEN-1 (a ‘pool’-type reactor) and the so-called Argos and Arbi (‘argonaut’-type reactors).12 All three had been manufactured with American aid, and installed, respectively, in the Juan Vigón Centre and in the Industrial Engineering Schools of Barcelona and Bilbao.13 On 25 April 1964, the Spanish government passed a Nuclear Energy Law, which compiled, updated and adapted the existing regulations to the international context, as well as dividing nuclear responsibilities ← 228 | 229 → between the JEN and the Ministry of Industry.14 In addition, Spain gained admittance to some of the main international organisations working on the atom, first as an associate member and later as a fully-fledged member: the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) within the UN; the European Nuclear Energy Agency (ENEA, now the NEA), established in 1957 under the auspices of the OEEC-OECD; the European Company for the Chemical Processing of Irradiated Fuels (Eurochemic), a subsidiary of the ENEA; the European Atomic Forum (Foratom), set up in 1960 by the six member states of the EEC; and the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), founded in 1953 as part of UNESCO.15

In these early advances, foreign aid proved to be crucially important, particularly aid from the USA and France. Spain signed its first bilateral agreement on nuclear cooperation with the USA in 1955: the US Atomic Energy Commission guaranteed the JEN access to research-grade nuclear material, in exchange for permission to inspect all nuclear activities carried out in Spain, in order to ensure that the materials and knowledge provided were not being diverted into armament programmes. The next year, the JEN and its French counterpart, the CEA, signed an agreement for scientific and technical exchange, which set up a programme of annual meetings between the representatives of both organisations, regulated the sending of physicists, engineers, technicians, businesspeople and other French experts to Spain, and facilitated stays in France for Spanish specialists interested in learning modern techniques and broadening the network of contacts. In the following years, Spain signed new international agreements in specific fields (such as nuclear waste treatment and safety at nuclear plants), while also bringing in increasing numbers of personnel and receiving more technical training.

At the same time, the first plans to build nuclear power stations began to take shape. In late 1957, six of the main Spanish electricity providers came together to constitute two large private groups: Centrales Nucleares del Norte de España (NUCLENOR-Nuclear Plants of Northern Spain), formed by Iberduero, Eléctrica del Viesgo and FENOSA; and Centrales Nucleares S.A. (CENUSA-Nuclear Plants Ltd.), formed by Hidroeléctrica Española, Unión Eléctrica Madrileña and Compañía Sevillana de Electricidad. The Instituto Nacional de Industria (INI-National Industry Institute), a holding of state-owned enterprises created in 1941 to spearhead Spanish industrialisation, demonstrated also its interest in the nuclear sector early on. Its actions oscillated between obstructionism and ← 229 | 230 → collaboration with the JEN and private enterprises, but its participation was always minor in relative terms.16

From the very start of the atomic era, the world’s nuclear powers had researched and patented various reactors based on the combination of three types of elements: fuels (natural uranium or various grades of enriched uranium), moderators to slow down the neutrons from fission (graphite, heavy water or light water), and fluids to lower the temperature of the reactor (carbonic gas, heavy water, light water, helium or sodium). Only two technologies achieved sufficient levels of development for large-scale production of nuclear electricity. The first, American-engineered, was based on the use of enriched uranium as fuel and light water as a moderating and cooling agent, in both its variants pressurised water reactor (PWR) and boiling water reactor (BWR). The second, developed in France and Great Britain, was the ‘uranium naturel-graphite-gaz’ (UNGG-Natural Uranium, Graphite, Gas) type, which used natural uranium as fuel, graphite as a moderator and carbonic gas as a cooling fluid.17 It is worth noting that, until the 1970s, the process of uranium enrichment remained under a duopoly on the part of the USA and the USSR, who exported the end product to their respective allies at very high prices and under strict supervision.

From a purely technical point of view, there were no major differences between the American and European models. However, when we consider their installation costs, the distance between them becomes very apparent. The reason for this is simple: American technology, in which there had been enormous investment, had gained access to the industrial stage and serial production (some 80,000 MW each year), whilst the European technology, which had far lesser military and economic support, was still at the prototype stage (3,000 MW per year).18 Around 1960, Great Britain bowed to American superiority and adopted the enriched uranium system. France, on the other hand, remained very firmly attached to the alternative technology with natural uranium. ← 230 | 231 →

In order to demonstrate the maturity of their technology, lend credibility to their power plants and win over their American competitors, the French needed access to the international market. They soon fixed on Spain: a nearby well-known country with great potential for growth. Furthermore, Spanish pro-French decisions would facilitate further agreements with Portugal, Latin American countries and other regions seeking to “escape from the power exercised by the USA through the supply of enriched uranium.”19 Building a plant in foreign lands would, additionally, represent an extra source of labour for France’s private industry, “which many times has been relegated to a secondary level by the predominance of EDF and the CEA.”20 Another attractive feature of UNGG reactors was their ability to generate large amounts of a residue with high military value (and highly radioactive): plutonium. In fact, the purpose of the first UNGG reactors (installed at the Marcoule nuclear site) was not to obtain electricity, but rather to obtain plutonium to build the A-bomb.21 In 1960, 15 years after the Americans, 11 years after the Soviets and 7 years after the British, the French joined the club of holders of the atomic bomb. In the next few years, De Gaulle’s government continued developing its nuclear strikeforce, and contemplated commissioning other UNGG-type plants, in France or elsewhere, as an additional source of plutonium to contribute to the success of France’s armament programme.22 ← 231 | 232 →

The first two nuclear power plants put into service in Spain used American engineering. The first, a PWR using 3.15% enriched uranium, was built on the banks of the Tagus River, between the villages of Almonacid de Zorita and Zorita de los Canes (Guadalajara). It was owned and operated by the Unión Eléctrica Madrileña, a member of the CENUSA group, which was under licence from Westinghouse. This plant had a net power (minus transmission losses and auxiliary services) of 140 Mw. The second plant, running a BWR with 2.5% enriched uranium, was located in the municipality of Santa María de Garoña (Burgos), on the banks of the Ebro, and delivered a net power of 300 Mw. It was operated by Iberduero and Eléctrica del Viesgo, belonging to the NUCLENOR group, who used licences from General Electric. Both plants were built on a turnkey basis,23 and were financed by a massive amount of credit from the Export-Import Bank.24 The Zorita plant became operational in June 1968, and the Santa María de Garoña plant in November 1970.25

When both plants were still under construction, the Spanish government approved the opening of a new reactor, this time using French technology: the Vandellòs I nuclear power plant, in Catalonia.26 Why was Vandellòs I the first and only project in Spain to use French instead of ← 232 | 233 → American technology? What took place during the negotiation process that led to the conclusion of this operation?

The reasons behind Spain’s opting for French technology at Vandellòs I

The Vandellòs project started in 1963, seemingly based on an idea from Otero Navascués, put forward during various informal meetings between Areilza and Gaston Palewski, the French Minister for Scientific Research and Atomic and Space Matters. On 2 October 1964, the Spanish and French governments, in a joint communiqué from Madrid, formally announced the future construction, equipping and joint assembly of a nuclear plant with French technology, which would be located in Catalonia, deliver up to 480 Mw useable power and supply electricity to north-eastern Spain and south-western France.27

In the wake of this communiqué, we see the organisation of various events aimed at intensifying contacts and selling the intergovernmental project to businesses: the first ‘Jornadas Nucleares Hispano-Francesas’ (Madrid, 14-24 October),28 the first ‘Exposición de la Técnica Francesa’ (Madrid, 13-25 October)29 and a Financial Protocol (signed in November) lending to Spain 750 million francs, most of which were intended for the nuclear sector.30 France’s keenness to step up nuclear cooperation with Spain was obvious:

[…] In the past few years, the interest shown by France in collaborating and participating in the nuclear industry and nuclear installations in Spain is extraordinary. With this aim, the French have organised in our country a series of lectures, exhibitions, meetings, trips, etc. […] All of this, naturally, is being done with a view to the possible exportation of French machinery, installations and technical expertise to our country.31 ← 233 | 234 →

In January 1965, a bilateral working group was formed, including the JEN, the CEA, EDF and the three main electricity producers in Catalonia: the Empresa Nacional Hidroeléctrica del Ribagorzana (ENHER, a subsidiary of the INI), Hidroeléctrica de Cataluña S.A. (HECSA, private), and Fuerzas Eléctricas de Cataluña S.A. (FECSA, private). The purpose of that working group was to address the practical aspects of the Vandellòs project: location (‘Comisión de Zonas’), costs (‘Comisión de Financiación’), fuel provision and energy distribution (‘Comisión de Energía’), and legal and administrative issues (‘Comisión de Coordinación’). The Spanish government’s instructions to the working group were fairly unequivocal: to examine whether the plant could be built in minimal conditions of competition with national thermal power plants and foreign nuclear plants, and to ensure that domestic industry, both public and private, obtain a high degree of participation in the construction works.32 After a year and a half of meetings, the group produced a report with a series of prerequisites that both parties had to accept before the contract was signed.

The Comisión de Zonas set the location in the municipality of Vandellòs (province of Tarragona), which offered the best conditions in terms of meteorology, geology, hydrography, seismology and demography. The nearest population centre, Hospitalet de l’Infant, with some 400 inhabitants, was 5.5 km away, and the cities of Tarragona and Barcelona respectively 40 and 130 km away.33 To determine the costs of construction and operation of the plant, the Comisión de Financiación carried out a comparative study between Vandellòs and Santa María de Garoña. The conclusion of this study revealed that, for equal levels of power, the costs of the French technology would be considerably higher than those of its American rival: 13,546 pts. as opposed to 9,698 pts. per kw installed. The price of natural uranium (10.6 ctms. pts./Kwh) was lower than that of enriched uranium (13.7 ctms. pts./Kwh), but this advantage did not compensate for the higher installation and generation costs that the French technology would entail (see Table 2). ← 234 | 235 →

Table 2. Results of the comparative study between the French and American technological models

DataFrench modelAmerican model
Useable power generated480 Mw 300 Mw
Supposed hours of yearly operation6,500 5,800
Installation cost (without fuel load)5,570 mill. pts.3,570 mill. pts.
Cost per Kw installed 15,200 pts. 12,000 pts.
Cost of fuel 10.6 ctms. pts./Kwh13.7 ctms. pts./Kwh
Initial projection of credits4,250 mill. pts.1,950 mill. pts.
Resulting cost per Kw/h37 ctms. pts.37 ctms. pts.

Source: AEDF.

The working group agreed that this unfavourable position of the French technology, which was also known about in the international circles, would be offset by: (a) the scale factor, increasing the power and operating hours of the plant, and (b) the favourable credits granted by the French government. So as not to run unnecessary risks, it was agreed that the Catalan plant should be a copy, with the necessary adaptations, of the French Saint-Laurent-des-Eaux (SLDE I) plant, and that the project should be awarded to a single building contractor on a turnkey basis: the building contractor would provide the main personnel and material resources, and would subcontract out to other producers of goods and services, national or foreign, to complete the work.34 Finally, a ‘collection of guarantees’ (or ‘set of conditions’) was drawn up, dealing with questions relating to the quality of materials and staff, availability of fuel and energy, and conformity to the set deadlines, with serious economic penalties should either side contravene the stipulations.35

All the documentation generated by the working group was sent to the French and Spanish governments. Upon receiving it, the French authorities did not simply await the response from the Spaniards; instead they made huge efforts to convince them: “[…] We should quickly and unreservedly agree to all the conditions, given the political and economic benefit this operation would bring […] It is crucial that we act quickly, as our Spanish contacts may be subject to pressure from more tempting American offers.”36 ← 235 | 236 →

What were the arguments put forward by the French government?

Firstly, American technology would involve importing enriched uranium from the USA, which would mean increasing Spain’s dependence on the world leader and spending foreign currency to the detriment of other imports. The French technology, based on the combustion of natural uranium, meant that Spain’s own reserves of that mineral could be used; those reserves were, at the time, estimated at some 10,000 tonnes (2.8% of the world’s resources), and that amount was likely to increase in subsequent years.37 In the (somewhat unlikely)38 case that the Americans agreed to enrich Spanish uranium, Spain would continue to pay large sums of money for the enrichment process, a problem not posed by the French technology.

Secondly, to compensate for the higher costs of the French technology, the French government agreed to grant exceptional funding conditions.39 They agreed to defray, by low-interest loans, the total cost of installation of the plant, estimated at 455 million francs – i.e. nearly 20% of the 2,500 million francs set aside in the French V Plan (1966-70) for the export of equipment. This funding would be structured into three parts: 350 million francs, repayable over 15 years at 3% interest, to cover the purchase of materials, personnel and services from France; the countervalue in pesetas of 60 million francs, at 5.5% interest over 15 years, to cover the costs of in situ assembly of the plant; and 45 million francs, at 4% interest over 10 years, to finance the first load of fuel for the reactor, which would be made in France by transforming Spain’s natural uranium – the next fuel loads would be produced directly in Spain with French technical assistance.40

Thirdly, the Americans had only left a small margin for Spanish industry to participate in the construction works at Zorita and Santa María de Garoña. France guaranteed a higher percentage – at least 50%. This opportunity was viable because, on the one hand, Vandellòs I would be an almost exact replica of SLDE I, so that its construction would be ← 236 | 237 → relatively simple, well suited to Spanish industry; and on the other, in the UNGG plants, the civil engineering part, where Spanish companies could make the greatest contribution, was relatively more significant. In any case, EDF would send technicians to ensure the work on site was going well and that the equipment was correctly assembled and was functioning properly.

Finally, the French government appealed to the excellent bilateral relations established over more than a decade in the field of electricity. Nuclear energy would facilitate the extension of the agreements between EDF and the Spanish companies, to guarantee that Spain had electricity supply during dry periods or in case of breakdowns, and to pay off the trans-Pyrenean connecting lines.

The pressure from American technology, together with the growing opposition of French manufacturers to the UNGG option, led the French government (supported by the CEA but less and less by EDF) to assume new risks. To compensate for the oversizing of the Catalan plant, French authorities made a commitment, for a period of nine years, to buy all of the surplus energy produced that could not be absorbed by the Spanish market. In addition, they agreed that any deficits or interrupted power at Vandellòs I would be covered by energy from EDF, in exchange for aid from the Spanish providers in case of a breakdown at SLDE I. If both plants were unavailable at the same time, only EDF would sustain its assistance.41

How did the Spanish government view the benefits offered by France? The financial conditions held no great interest, as they simply placed the French plant on a par with the American plants. The other factors held more weight, such as the self-sufficiency and independence offered by the use of natural uranium, and the promise of major participation of Spanish companies in the building works on the plant. Yet what ultimately tipped the balance of the Spanish government’s preference in favour of the French technology was another two elements closely linked to Spain’s foreign policy during that period. The first was the necessity of counting on French support for entry into the European Economic Community (EEC), which Spain had been aspiring to since 1962. On this point, Gregorio López Bravo, Spanish Minister of Industry, admitted to Alain Peyrefitte, the new French Minister for Scientific Research and Atomic and Space Matters: “[…] the Spanish government’s decision will be a political decision, in the context of Spain’s policy of rapprochement to ← 237 | 238 → the EEC […].”42 The second determining factor was the ability of UNGG reactors to generate plutonium, to be used for civil (fast-breeder reactors) o military (atomic bombs) purposes: “[…] Weighing in favour of the French-type plant, there are a variety of technical and political factors, which may hold more or less weight depending on how much value is attached to the applications of plutonium, both in the area of peaceful uses and that of military uses thereof.”43

Numerous indicators show the Spanish government and military’s interest in the plutonium generated in Vandellòs I.44 The military figures in the Franco regime – especially Luis Carrero Blanco – had repeatedly demonstrated their eagerness to access nuclear weapons in order to strengthen Spain’s international position: “In the present world context, an army which does not have nuclear weapons at its disposal is of no value on the international stage.”45 For the production of atomic bombs, the weak or moderately-enriched uranium supplied by the USA was not sufficient; nor was the paltry amount of plutonium harvested from the residue from Zorita and Santa María de Garoña. Besides, both processes were subject to strict controls by the USA and the IAEA. Hence, the UNGG reactors appeared to comprise an excellent alternative: plutonium in large quantities, equally distributed between Spain and France, and outside of international control.46 According to the Spanish newspaper El País, Areilza admitted in an interview that during the negotiations over Vandellòs I, a senior official from the French state had eventually told him plainly: “I am offering you the formula to manufacture plutonium, with everything which is implied.” El País also states that a former technician at the JEN told to the newspaper that the French reactor was not chosen because of its technical capabilities (“it was already obsolete in 1964”), but instead because of the military possibilities it offered.47 The intention ← 238 | 239 → to manufacture atomic bombs would account for France and Spain’s decisions, in spite of persistent pressure from the USA, not to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1968.

Building and operation of Vandellòs I

The Vandellòs plan soon became a reality. In March and May 1966, the French and Spanish governments approved the reports of the working group. On 16 November of that year, in Barcelona, the company in charge of overseeing the construction of the plant was set up: the Hispano-Francesa de Energía Nuclear S.A. (HIFRENSA). The Catalan industrialist Pedro Durán Farell was appointed President, and the Deputy Director General of EDF Pierre Ailleret Vice-President. The company capital was divided equally between EDF and the Spanish firms FECSA, HECSA and ENHER.48 Shortly after its establishment, HIFRENSA launched a public competition to award the turnkey project for the plant. The only entry came from a group of 25 French constructors specialising in mechanical, electrical and electronic equipment,49 presenting their application under the umbrella name of ‘Société pour l’Industrie Atomique’ (SOCIA).

On 28 June 1967, in Paris, HIFRENSA and SOCIA signed the contracts for the building of the plant and the provision of the first load of fuel, in accordance with the conditions previously settled on by both governments. The works commenced in late 1967 and continued for over four years, with several months’ delay in relation to the initial schedule.50 ← 239 | 240 → SOCIA blamed this situation on the devaluation of the peseta in November 1967 and the strikes that took place in France in May 1968. EDF, for its part, complained of the existence of more direct problems: the administrative difficulties with the importation of French material, the deficiencies in terms both of quantity and quality of the Spanish supplies,51 and the “mistrust and hostility” manifested by the Spanish private companies toward the JEN and, above all, the INI.52 Vandellòs I was also affected by a number of accidents that occurred in the French plant upon which it was modelled, SLDE I, which led to the introduction of new products and procedures (in theory, safer) at the Catalan reactor.53

The building of Vandellòs I involved companies belonging to a wide range of sectors: mining, engineering, public work, electronics, and a great many others. Of particular note amongst these were the 25 members of SOCIA, who, between 1967 and 1971, subcontracted to other companies from France, Spain and third countries (in that order). Ultimately, the percentage of participation on the part of Spanish companies was 40.8%, with the greatest “degree of nationalisation” – in the words of the Spanish government – corresponding to the civil engineering (auxiliary infrastructures for the employees) and the manufacture of equipment similar to that used in conventional hydraulic and thermal plants (turbines, alternators, cables, valves and pipes).54 In spite of France’s promises, local industry played a lesser part in Vandellòs I than in the American plants, which reached greater “degrees of nationalisation”: 41.1% at Zorita and 43.2% at Santa María de Garoña.55 Therefore, there was a clear imbalance between EDF’s participation as a shareholder in HIFRENSA (minority) and the participation of French industry in the construction of the plant (majority). In addition, nearly all the specialist engineers and technicians were recruited from France, or otherwise were subject to a strict training process at French nuclear sites. Nonetheless, from the very start, the responsible positions were left in Spanish hands, as the result of the requirements of the Franco government’s economic policy and of the French desire not to wound the susceptibility of their interlocutors: “our role ought to be effective ← 240 | 241 → but obscure, so we leave the glory of the operation to the Spaniards.”56 In any case, the Vandellòs I plant represented an important source of employment and income for Hospitalet de l’Infant, which, between 1967 and 1975, experienced population growth of 3.7% per year, and between 1975 and 1986 a 20% increase in the economic growth index.57 The high flow of workers destined for the plant even led to the building of a new population nucleus to house them: the Poblat d’Hifrensa.58

In October 1969, when the work at Vandellòs was already fairly well advanced, the French government officially announced its decision to abandon the UNGG technology in favour of the American procedures with enriched uranium. The reactors already approved would continue to function, but from that point on, no others would be built. Numerous studies and a single argument (at least, a single official argument) were offered in justification of that decision: “the French procedure is a wonderful technological feat, but it is more costly than its competitors […] 20% more in the best of cases.”59 This news was not unexpected, in view of the French authorities’ recent actions: they had signed the Euratom-USA agreement to regulate the supply of enriched uranium to Europe, had green-lit the installation in France of an isotopic-separation plant for the enrichment of uranium (Pierrelatte), and had participated in the building of a Franco-Swiss plant (Kaiseraugst) and two Franco-Belgian plants (Chooz and Tihange) which used American technology. In parallel, Spanish authorities had decided that “for financial reasons (cheaper per Kw/h produced),” American technology would be used in the Lemoniz (Vizcaya) and Castrejón (Toledo) power plants.60

Seemingly, the French government had not taken the decision to abandon its national technology earlier because of the strong opposition of the CEA, which even went so far as to hide or falsify EDF’s reports extolling the advantages of enriched uranium.61 The event which settled the polemic was a public tender process for a new French plant using UNGG technology (Fessenheim). It produced a negative response from construction contractors, who were unwilling to embark once more ← 241 | 242 → on unprofitable projects. France thus definitively renounced its filière nationale, and therefore the international choice was reduced to the PWR-BWR binomial. It must be noted that, in that month of October 1969, Pompidou had already replaced De Gaulle, initiating a fuller rapprochement to the USA and partially abandoning his predecessor’s dreams of Grandeur. Furthermore, France’s armament programme had managed to create a new weapon of mass destruction: the H-bomb, which used barely any plutonium.

In spite of the official abandonment of UNGG technology, work on the Vandellòs I plant continued, to a large extent because the construction was by then too far advanced. The plant operated from 26 July 1972 until 19 October 1989 (only 17 years out of the intended 40), at the agreed power output of 480 Mw. On 19 October 1989, a fire broke out in the turbine area, affecting various pieces of electronic equipment and safety systems. This was the most serious incident ever to occur in a Spanish nuclear plant.62 The high cost of the measures prescribed by the Consejo de Seguridad Nuclear (Nuclear Safety Council) to repair the destruction wrought by the fire and to correct other irregularities, led to the decision by HIFRENSA, the proprietor of the plant, to close it definitively in 1990. The next year, HIFRENSA and the Empresa Nacional de Residuos Radiactivos S.A. (ENRESA-National Radioactive Waste Company) began the processes of dismantling the industrial plant and treating the radioactive waste. Since then, Spain has paid France many millions of euros for storing, in Marcoule and La Hague, the highly-radioactive materials produced by Vandellòs I.63 These payments, which the state and electricity providers collect from ordinary citizens in their electricity bills, will continue until Spain has built the controversial Centralised Temporary Storage Facility, which has been planned for construction in the township of Villar de Cañas (Cuenca).64

The sale of the Vandellòs I plant, the rise in oil prices and the prominent position of nuclear energy in Spain’s electrical power plans65 encouraged ← 242 | 243 → France to intensify its efforts to participate in the development of nuclear industry in the neighbouring country. During Spain’s political transition, the French and Spanish were working together on various bilateral and multilateral projects relating to the nuclear sector, for instance the prospecting and exploitation of natural uranium in Niger; the shareholding in the European uranium-enrichment company EURODIF, which ended the USA’s monopoly on the western supply of enriched uranium; and the association of the Société Franco-Américaine de Constructions Atomiques (FRAMATOME) with various Spanish groups, including Equipos Nucleares, Empresarios Agrupados and the Ibérico Bank.66 However, major projects such as the building of the Vandellòs II, Vandellòs III, Escatrón and Trillo plants had eluded French industry, and others such as the construction of fast-breeder reactors or irradiated-fuel treatment plants had been suspended, in view of the cutbacks in Spain’s revised energy plans and of competition from other foreign powers, in particular the USA and Germany. Moreover, the Franco militarists’ nuclear dream had perished with the dictatorship: in 1981, Spain submitted all its nuclear installations, including the Vandellòs I reactor, to inspection by the IAEA; and in 1987 it signed the NPT, becoming signatory number 133.

Concluding remarks

The nuclear sector attracted keen attention from the Franco government early on, not only because of its usefulness in generating electrical energy, but also because of its connections to the field of national defence. In collaboration with private enterprises, the Spanish authorities invested enormous effort, both diplomatic and financial, in acquiring knowledge, techniques and capital from the main western powers, particularly, in this order, the USA, France and Germany. Thus, Spain was able to achieve a much higher level of nuclear intensity than it would otherwise have had, based on its level of industrialisation.

In the mid-1960s, after more than a decade of scientific and technical relations, Spain and France agreed to collaborate on the building of the Vandellòs I nuclear plant, in Catalonia, with French technology and capital. In order to deal with the competition from the USA, the French government, through the CEA and EDF, offered its Spanish counterpart exceptional incentives: financial (long-term, low-interest loans), industrial (high percentage of involvement for Spanish industry) and ← 243 | 244 → politico-military (exclusively bilateral control and relatively free use of plutonium). The French saw Spain as an excellent option to demonstrate the maturity, prestige and capabilities of their filière nationale. The Spanish, for their part, especially valued the French support in the approach to the EEC and in the military use of plutonium. Vandellòs I, which was the third nuclear power plant to be installed in Spain, above all constituted a unique case: the final realisation of France’s UNGG technology, and its first and last export; it was also the only plant built in Spain with French technology and the first to be dismantled, in the wake of the most serious incident ever to occur at a Spanish nuclear power plant. Led by their respective governments, the French and Spanish embarked upon that project not so much for reasons of economic rationality or technological competitiveness as for politico-military purposes, derived from the shared objective of escaping from the American monopoly and facilitating the development of an own technology for civil and military uses. After Vandellòs I, with the international success of American technologies having been demonstrated, and Spain’s desire to possess atomic bombs having disappeared (or been minimised), France never managed to win any more large-scale nuclear projects on Spanish soil.

The case of the Vandellòs I nuclear plant sheds light on three relevant issues in Spanish historiography: 1) in the nuclear sector, the decisions were highly dependent on the state; nevertheless, the major private electricity providers held much more weight than did the state-owned enterprises of the INI, as was also the case in the thermal and hydroelectric energy sectors; 2) French assistance, in the form of products, capital and technology, encouraged the development of the productive web and local infrastructure, as well as the creation of jobs and training of a qualified workforce, though at the cost of a long period of indebtedness and dependence; and 3) major industrial decisions were taken on the margins of economic, technological and social criteria: in short, Vandellòs I was the price that the Spanish government and electricity companies paid to France in exchange for support to enter the EEC and obtain military-grade plutonium.


* Research for this paper was supported by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (projects HAR2014-53825-R and HAR2015-64769-P).

1 The (mainly favourable) contribution of foreign assistance to Spanish economic modernization has generated an enormous among of literature. Among works regarding France, we can highlight Esther Sánchez, Rumbo al Sur. Francia y la España del desarrollo, 1958-1969 (Madrid: CSIC, 2006); Núria Puig and Rafael Castro, “Patterns of International Investment in Spain, 1850-2005,” Business History Review 83 (2009): 505-537; and Rafael Castro, “Génesis y transformación de un modelo de inversión internacional: El capital francés en España, c. 1850-2006” (Ph.D. diss., Complutense University of Madrid, 2010).

2 The debate about the role of public enterprise in Spain’s economic growth comprises two main different positions, represented, on the one hand, by A. Gómez Mendoza (defending its negative impact) and, on the other hand, by Francisco Comín and Pablo Martín-Aceña (suggesting a more positive perspective). See, among other publications, Antonio Gómez Mendoza (ed.), De mitos y milagros. El Instituto Nacional de Autarquía, 1941-1963 (Barcelona: Fundación Duques de Soria/Universitat de Barcelona, 2000) and Francisco Comín and Pablo Martín-Aceña, INI: 50 años de industrialización en España (Madrid: Espasa-Calpe, 1991).

3 This is the central issue of researches by Gabrielle Hecht, Le Rayonnement de la France. Énergie nucléaire et identité nationale après la Seconde Guerre mondiale (Paris: Éditions La Découverte, 2004); José M. Sánchez Ron, El poder de la ciencia (Barcelona: Crítica, 2007); Ana Romero, “Poder político y poder tecnológico: el desarrollo nuclear español (1955-1985),” CTS. Revista Iberoamericana de Ciencia, Tecnología y Sociedad 7/21 (2012): 141-162.

4 There were numerous private electricity companies in Spain, though the bulk of the activity was concentrated in only a dozen: Iberduero, Hidroeléctrica Española, Fuerzas Eléctricas de Cataluña, Sevillana de Electricidad, Fuerzas Eléctricas del Noroeste, Unión Eléctrica Madrileña, Saltos del Sil, Moncabril, Hidroeléctrica de Cataluña, Hidroeléctrica del Viesgo, Hidroeléctrica del Cantábrico and Energía e Industrias Aragonesas. From 1944 onwards, all these companies gradually merged together, along with the state-owned electricity providers (ENDESA, ENCASO and ENHER), to form Unidad Eléctrica S.A. (UNESA), with the aim of coordinating production and distribution. On the topic of state intervention in the electricity sector in Spain during the Franco era, see Antonio Gómez Mendoza, Carlès Sudrià and Javier Pueyo, Electra y el estado. La intervención pública en la industria eléctrica bajo el franquismo (Madrid: CNE, 2007).

5 Alstom, Schneider and Neyrpic were the French companies which benefitted most from these agreements.

6 In the mid-1960s, the Irun-Hendaye, Hernani-Cantegrit, Sabiñánigo-Pragnères, Benos-Luchon, Adrall-Escaldes and Rubí-La Gaudière lines were operating at full capacity.

7 Santiago Castro, “Intercambios internacionales de energía eléctrica,” Información Comercial Española 408 (1967): 93. More details in Renan Viguié, La traversée électrique des Pyrénées. Histoire de l’interconnexion entre la France et l’Espagne (Bruxelles: P.I.E. Peter Lang, 2014); Red Eléctrica de España (www.ree.es, accessed June 2015).

8 Letter from Areilza to the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, 15/4/1964, Archivo del Ministerio español de Asuntos Exteriores (AMAE-E), R-15288/1.

9 See Pedro A. Martínez Lillo, Una introducción al estudio de las relaciones hispano-francesas, 1945-1951 (Madrid: Fundación Juan March, 1985) and Anne Dulphy, La politique de la France à l’égard de l’Espagne de 1945 à 1955. Entre idéologie et réalisme (Paris: ministère des Affaires étrangères, 2002).

10 The non-annotated months (May and October) had a different sign depending on the climatic characteristics that year, sometimes being months of import and sometimes months of export.

11 Otero Navascués had studied in Switzerland, Germany and Great Britain, specialising in the field of Optics. He spoke several languages and enjoyed a great deal of both scientific and personal prestige in the circles of foreign researchers. On his life and works, we refer to Leonardo Villena, “José María Otero, un científico internacional,” Arbor 450 (1983): 95-108; Juan Ramón de Andrés, José María Otero de Navascués Enríquez de la Sota, marqués de Hermosillo. La baza nuclear y científica del mundo hispánico durante la Guerra Fría (Madrid: Plaza & Valdés, 2005); Carlos Pérez, José María Otero Navascués. Ciencia y Armada en la España del siglo XX (Madrid: CSIC, 2012).

12 “Pool-type” because the reactor core was submerged in a pool of natural water, and “argonaut-type” because the design was patented by the Argonne National Laboratory, in the USA, as part of the project “Argonne Nuclear Assembly for University Training”.

13 In terms of reactors, the JEN’s ultimate objective – which was never realised – was to build a prototype entirely of Spain’s own design and manufacture: the DON. About Spain’s first efforts in the nuclear field, see Xavier de Lorenzo, “L’Espagne et l’atome,” Thèmes espagnols 437 (1964): 7-34; Rafael Caro et al., Historia nuclear de España (Madrid: SNE, 1995); Javier Ordóñez and José M. Sánchez Ron, “Nuclear energy in Spain: from Hiroshima to the Sixties,” in National Military Establishments and the Advancement of Science and Technology, eds. Paul Forman and José M. Sánchez Ron (Boston: Kluwer Academica, 1996): 185-213; Ana Romero and José M. Sánchez Ron, De la JEN al CIEMAT. La energía nuclear en España (Madrid: CIEMAT, 2001); Albert Presas, "Science on the periphery. The Spanish reception of nuclear energy: An attempt at modernity?," Minerva 43/2 (2005): 197-218; Francesc X. Barca, “Secrecy of discretion: the transfer of nuclear technology in Spain during the Franco period,” History of technology 30 (2010): 179-196; and Néstor Herran and Xavier Roqué (eds.), La física en la dictadura. Físicos, cultura y poder en España (Bellaterra: UAB, 2012).

14 Law 25/1964 in BOE, 4/5/1964. A critical analysis in Alfonso de los Santos, Problemas jurídicos de la energía nuclear (Madrid: JEN, 1964).

15 Spain was a member of the CERN from 1962 to 1968. It left mainly because of a disagreement with the rest of the members over finance, and re-joined in 1983.

16 Gómez Mendoza, Sudrià and Pueyo, Electra y el estado, 520-1 and 526; and Caro, Historia nuclear, 185.

17 On the origins and development of UNGG technology and its distinguishing features in comparison to America’s models, see Jacques Leclercq, L’ère nucléaire (Paris: Hachette, 1986); Georges Lamiral, Chronique de trente années d’équipement nucléaire à Électricité de France (Paris: AHEF, 1988); Rémy Carle, L’électricité nucléaire (Paris: PUF, 1993); and Hecht, Le rayonnement.

18 See Brian W. Arthur, “Competing Technologies, Increasing Returns and Lock-In by Historical Events,” The Economic Journal 394 (1989): 116-131; Renaud Bellais, “Defense R&D and Information Technology in a long term perspective” (University of Dunkerque, Working paper 28, 1999).

19 Note from the Direction des Affaires Politiques, Service des Affaires Atomiques, 27/10/1964. Documents Diplomatiques Français, tome 2 (Paris: Imprimerie nationale, 2002), 157.

20 Note from the French Minister of Industry Raymond Marcellin, 8/2/1966, Archives d’Électricité de France (AEDF), Direction de l’Équipement, box 283.

21 The A-bomb required either highly-enriched uranium (U235), available in the USA and the USSR, or plutonium (Pu239), generously irradiated in UNGG reactors (0.8 kg of plutonium for each kg of natural uranium burned). More information about the uses of plutonium in Walter C. Patterson, The Plutonium Business and the Spread of the Bomb (London: Paladin, 1984); and Jacques Villain, Le Livre noir du nucléaire militaire (Paris: Fayard, 2014).

22 Maurice Vaïsse, La Grandeur. Politique étrangère du général De Gaulle (Paris: Fayard, 1998), 47. An ample body of literature has been produced on the subject of France’s nuclear policy. Of the most recent works, we can cite the following (far from exhaustive) list: André Bendjebbar, Histoire secrète de la bombe atomique française (Paris: Cherche-Midi, 2000); Laurent Giovachini, L’Armement français au XXe siècle, une politique à l’épreuve de l’histoire (Paris: Ellipses, 2000); Maurice Vaïsse (ed.), Armement et Ve République (Paris: CNRS, 2000); Dominique Lorentz, Affaires atomiques (Paris: Arènes, 2001); Sten Rynning, Changing Military Doctrine. Presidents and Military Power in Fifth Republic France, 1958-2000 (London: Praeger, 2002); Dominique Pestre (ed.), Deux siècles d’histoire de l’armement en France: De Gribeauval à la force de frappe (Paris: CNRS, 2005); Paul Reuss, L’épopée de l’énergie nucléaire: une histoire scientifique et industrielle (Les Ulis: EDP Sciences, 2007); Roger Faligot and Jean Guisnel, Histoire secrète de la Ve République (Paris: La Découverte, 2007); Boris Dänzel-Kantof and Félix Torres, L’Énergie de la France: de Zoé aux EPR. Une histoire du programme nucléaire français (Paris: F. Bourin, 2013).

23 The building contractors deliver the plant to the proprietor in completely finished condition, ready for immediate entry into service.

24 General Electric, Westinghouse and the Eximbank accounted for around 80% of reactors in the world. See Joseba de la Torre and Mar Rubio in this volume, and La financiación exterior del desarrollo industrial español a través del IEME (Madrid, Banco de España, 2015), chapter 5.

25 Thus, nuclear energy began to form part of Spanish electrical production and consumption, though at percentage levels much lower than those of conventional hydroelectric and thermal energy: 9% of production and 2% of consumption in 1975, according to figures from the Ministerio de Industria y Energía. Carlès Sudrià, “Un factor determinante: la energía,” in La economía española en el siglo XX. Una perspectiva histórica, ed. Jordi Nadal, Albert Carreras and Carlès Sudrià (Barcelona: Ariel, 1987), 313-364; “La industria eléctrica y el desarrollo económico de España,” in Electricidad y desarrollo económico: perspectiva histórica de un siglo, ed. José L. García Delgado (Oviedo: Hidroeléctrica del Cantábrico, 1990), 147-184; “La restricción energética al desarrollo económico de España,” Papeles de Economía Española 73 (1997): 165-188.

26 These first three plants would form the “first generation” group. Almaraz, Ascó, Lemóniz and Cofrentes would integrate the “second generation,” and Valdecaballeros, Sayago, Vandellòs II, Trillo and Regodola the “third generation”. There were many other planned power plants in the pipeline, but the projects were suspended with the “nuclear moratorium” introduced by the first socialist government (1982-86). Of all the nuclear power plants planned (over 40) or actually constructed in Spain (10), only one was French, using UNGG technology. The rest, which were either American or German, used PWR and BWR technologies.

27 The communiqué was published by the main media in both countries. See the press cuttings kept in the Archivo General de la Administración (AGA), box 17.999. Years later, Palewski, writing his memoirs, stressed the great deal of importance that he had personally attached to this project. Gaston Palewski, Mémoires d’action, 1924-1974 (Paris: Plon, 1988), 281.

28 For further details on this event, see Energía Nuclear 29 (1964) and Forum Atómico Español 7 and 9 (1963).

29 See M. Viriot, “La Exposición Industrial Francesa de Madrid,” Información Comercial Española 375 (1964): 129-133, reports published in Moniteur Officiel du Commerce International, 383 and 387, and Amitié franco-espagnole, 106.

30 Sánchez, Rumbo al Sur, 303-311.

31 Letter from the Dirección Técnica (Technical Dept.) to Gerencia (Directors), 5/5/1966, Archivo Histórico del Instituto Nacional de Industria (AHINI), file 906.

32 “Informe de la central nuclear hispano-francesa en Cataluña,” December 1965, AHINI, file 906.

33 Debates about the site for the plant can be found in “Posibles emplazamientos de la central nuclear hispano-francesa,” 6/4/1965, AEDF, Direction de l’Équipement, box 283, and Central nuclear de Vandellós,1 (1968).

34 “Rapport du Groupe de Travail,” 18/1/1966, AEDF, Direction de l’Équipement, box 283.

35 “Cahier de garanties pour une centrale nucléaire,” November 1965, AEDF, Direction de l’Équipement, box 283.

36 Note from Marcellin, 8/2/1966, AEDF, 283.

37 This was not a vain prediction, as at that time over half the territory in Spain likely to contain uranium still remained to be prospected.

38 Letter from Spain’s Ambassador in Washington, Marquis Merry del Val, to the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, 26/05/1964, AMAE-E, R-12044/8.

39 Initially, the option of financing Vandellòs through the 1963 Financial Protocol was considered. However, the French public and private banks, which sustained 80% of that Protocol, showed numerous reservations toward that idea, owing to its lack of confidence in an uncertain future technology. Note to the French Minister of Industry, undated, Archives Nationales (Pierrefitte), 19890566/72.

40 The money was deposited in the Instituto de Crédito a Medio y Largo Plazo, and administrated, on the French side, by Crédit National, and on the Spanish side, by the Banco de Crédito Industrial. Full text of agreements in AEDF, box 283, and http://www.doc.diplomatie.gouv.fr/pacte, accessed December 2014.

41 “Centrale nucléaire de Vandellós. Historique de la négociation et charges acceptées par l’EDF,” 14/9/1967, AEDF, Direction de l’Équipement, box 283.

42 Letter from Peyrefitte to the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 6/6/1966, Archives du Ministère Français des Affaires Étrangères (AMAE-F), Cabinet du Ministre, Maurice Couve de Murville, 1958-67, Vol. 76.

43 “Informe de la central…,” December 1965, AHINI, file 906.

44 See the compendium of news items (mainly press articles) in Santiago Vilanova, La bomba atómica de Franco (Barcelona: La Tempestad, 2011).

45 Report of the Military Attaché to the Spanish Embassy in France, 30/8/1967, Archivo Histórico del Ejército del Aire (AHEA), A-13248. In the same terms, a letter from the Ministry of the Presidency Luis Carrero Blanco to Ambassador Areilza, 25/5/1964, AMAE-E, R-15288/1.

46 “Nota para el Excmo. Sr. Capitán General [Agustín Muñoz Grandes] sobre la posibilidad de fabricar plutonio (bombas de plutonio) en España,” Centro Documental de la Memoria Histórica/Archivo de la Fundación Francisco Franco, MF R-7276, file 4226.

47 Reports published in El País, 1/2/1987 and 18/1/2008, based on CIA reports declassified in 2008.

48 Each company had a number of executive officers and a fraction of energy proportional to the capital disbursed: 25% of the capital = 3 out of 12 executive officers and 120 out of 480 Mw of power. In 1967, the Catalan family business Fuerzas Eléctricas del Segre applied to join HIFRENSA. FECSA, HECSA and ENHER agreed to each cede 2% of their respective shares, so the capital of HIFRENSA, and the energy produced in Vandellòs I, were finally distributed as follows: 25% for EDF, 23% for FECSA, HECSA and ENHER and 6% for Fuerzas Eléctricas del Segre, which did not, however, have any representatives on the Administration Council. Actas del Consejo de Administración de HIFRENSA in AHINI, box 4640.

49 Alsthom, Campenon-Bernard, Indatom, Groupement Atomique Alsacienne-Atlantique, Ateliers et Forges de la Loire, Compagnie Electro-Mécanique, Babcok & Wilcox, Châtillon-Commentry et Neuves-Maisons, Compagnie Générale d’Électricité, Compagnie Générale de Télégraphie Sans Fil, Neyrpic, Péchiney, Saint Gobain Techniques Nouvelles, Forges et Ateliers du Creusot, Société d’Etudes Nucléaires et de Techniques Avancées, Jeumont-Schneider, Kuhlmann, Delattre-Levivier, Compagnie d’Etudes et de Réalisations Cybernétiques Industrielles, Compagnie d’Entreprises Électriques Mécaniques et de Travaux Publics, Société Parisienne pour l’Industrie Électrique, Merlin et Gérin, Framatome, Compagnie Industrielle de Travaux and Société d’Électronique et d’Automatisme. Central nuclear de Vandellós 2 (1968).

50 The work in progress, illustrated with technical details and graphic reports, can be followed in AEDF, various boxes, and the monthly bulletin of HIFRENSA, Central nuclear de Vandellós, 1-13 (1968-1969).

51 The Minutes of HIFRENSA’s Board of Directors report the various litigations with Spanish companies whose supplies did not meet with the required technical conditions, e.g. Entrecanales y Tavora S.A. in regard to a drawer for the water samples.

52 Unsigned and undated report. AEDF, Direction de l’Équipement, box 230.

53 Energía nuclear 64 and 67 (1970).

54 List of Spanish participating companies in Esther Sánchez, “La connexió hispano-francesa: intercanvis d’energia elèctrica i cooperació nuclear, c. 1950-1990,” Recerques 61 (2010): 128.

55 Forum Atómico Español 47 (1973): 5.

56 Letter from Lamiral to the Deputy Director of EDF’s Direction de l’Équipement Jean-Pierre Roux, AEDF, Direction de l’Équipement, box 283.

57 Figures provided by HIFRENSA. HIFRENSA, Vandellós 1. Historia de la primera central nuclear catalana (Barcelona: HIFRENSA, 1997), 22-23 and 25.

58 Juan Fernando Ródenas and Elisenda Pla, Antonio Bonet Castellana. Poblat d’Hifrensa, l’Hospitalet de l’Infant (Barcelona: Col·legi d’Arquitectes de Catalunya, 2008).

59 “La bataille des filières atomiques,” Entreprise 738 (1969): 186.

60 Energía nuclear 56 (1968).

61 On this battle between the CEA, which favoured UNGG technology for politico-ideological considerations, and EDF, which preferred enriched uranium for reasons of economic viability, see Hecht, Le rayonnement; Arthur, “Competing Technologies”.

62 The incident was rated 3 on the IAEA-International Nuclear Event Scale” (which ranges from 0 to 7), which means that radioactivity was released into the environment, albeit in fairly minimal doses.

63 However, a report from the World Information Service on Energy, written in collaboration with the Centro de Investigaciones para la Paz, warns that at the start of the 1990s, the Vandellòs I plant still contained enough plutonium to make 110 atomic bombs (http://www10.antenna.nl/wise/345/3455.html, accessed June 2015).

64 So far, no decision has yet been reached on the construction work or the relevant permissions. Ecologist parties and movements have requested that the process be suspended, in view of the doubts over the suitability of the territories.

65 The National Energy Plan of 1975 projected 23,000 MW of nuclear power for 1985, which represents 56% of total electricity production. The 1978 Plan reduced the predictions to 10500 MW. Miguel Cuerdo “Evaluación de los Planes Energéticos Nacionales en España (1975-85),” Revista de Historia Industrial 15 (1999): 161-178.

66 “Coopération nucléaire avec l’Espagne,” note from the Direction Générale des Relations Culturelles, Scientifiques et Techniques, Service des Affaires Scientifiques, 28/1/1976, AMAE-F, Europe, Espagne 1971-76, Vol. 421.