Aug 11, 2020
What is Tecnatom
Q. How big is Tecnatom
A. Around 900 people and we are present in 10 countries, and we work in 23-25 countries every
year. We work mostly in nuclear but also expanding to other sectors like aeronautics. We grew
up on nuclear and it is appreciated in other branches of industry where complex technology and
safety are essential. The culture we apply in nuclear can be used by other industry.
Javier’s studies and entering the industry
Q. You studied maritime engineering not nuclear, was it hard to enter the industry?
A. I studied on a speciality of propulsion, so it was related to nuclear. A good thing in this
industry in my opinion is that it’s not so important which sector you study, but how you
specialize in something you like, how you develop your skills. In nuclear we are good at
teaching people to do their job.
Lines of action of Tecnatom
Q. Is Tecnatom hiring rather talented people not necessarily specialized with nuclear and train
them or you prefer your employees to have the nuclear education?
A. Tecnatom has 3-4 directions for the employees. First is related to the operation of the power
plants taking around 9 months for everybody, for the instructors for operators, taking additional
2 years of training, the engineers, and employees working with materials or aeronautics. We
have to make sure that each engineer understands what he’s doing and the risk associated with
it. Tecnatom is delivering whole control rooms, e.g. 8 Chinese power plants recently
commissioned are working with our design. We also design and sell equipment to other
companies. Now we also start to move in SMR field.
Q. For a part of your career you worked in in-service inspection. Can you tell us something
A. Its aim is to ensure a structural integrity of all the components both in operation and accident
conditions. We ensure that the component will resist the accidents and work without fault in
normal conditions so we make sure to know about problems and repair the component in
advance. All the pipes, heat exchangers (SG, condenser etc.) undergo such inspection. E.g. a
steam generator has around 200km of tubes inside of the component, all this has to be
inspected. However, the material science also develops fantastically, we have much improved
SGs in comparison to what they were in the past and the methods of detecting are much better.
Long Term Operation
Q. Right now a 40 year old plant is not the same installation as it was decades ago, because the
replaced components work much more efficient than the original ones
A. Many people skeptic about nuclear use the argument that after 40y the plant is old, But the
reality is that many components, apart from a Reactor Pressure Vessel, are replaced, from
Steam Generators to even piping and cables. This way, taking into account better efficiency and
materials of the modern designs of components, you end up with a safer and better plant. The
knowledge and the better components and all the investments that were made during the live of
the power plant arrive to the situation when after 40 years you have a better power plant than
what you have at the moment zero. As for the necessary updates, most PWRs replace Steam
Generators, a lot of power plants replace condensers and heat exchangers even before reaching 40y, for efficiency. Beyond 40y a power plant has to demonstrate that the installation is in good condition with additional inspections. Furthermore, cabling, control room and instrumentation undergo some revitalization. Arriving to the 60y is pretty well established. The best investment to maintain the low-carbon capacity is to maintain a NPP.
Nuclear as cheap, low-carbon energy
Q. It was demonstrated by MIT that in Spain the cheapest addition of low-carbon energy it is
keeping the NPPs in Long Term Operation.
A. Renewables have good conditions in Spain, but they need storage capacity. Beyond 40% of
share of electricity renewables become very expensive, including the charges on electric grid.
For this reason it is sad what happened to the Fessenheim power plant in France, it has
decided to close it, while keeping it open would be a low cost solution.
Q. Can you tell me more about Spanish fleet?
A. We have 7 reactors in operation, and between 2027 and 2035 an average of one reactor per
year will be closed. The ideal would be keeping the plants till 60y, because we would be able to
collect more funds for decommissioning, which we need. The decision of closing the plans will
need a revision.
Spanish Nuclear Society
Q. You’re a president of Spanish Nuclear Society. Is SNE working on this, trying to convince the
decision makers or the public about this?
A. SNE promotes the technology and science among the public, that’s our mission. It’s rather
the job of Foro Nuclear, the nuclear lobby in Spain to influence the decision makers. We are
focused on making people know about nuclear, because knowing means accepting. We’re
doing all kinds of activities open to the society, from very technical to the most accessible. We
also include the young the engineers, we are competing with other sectors, like banks, business
etc. so we are attracting young people to keep them close.
The identity of the employees of nuclear industry
29:20-31:16 (Javier shares his views about the identity of employees of the sector)
Q. The employees of nuclear should think about it as their identity, because they contribute to
producing electricity that is not harming the climate.
A. I think it’s important to explain our employees and the professionals working in nuclear that
what we do is good for the society that we are not making any harm, on the contrary, we are
providing part of the chain of producing electricity for the society, a very basic need of our society, that nuclear is not producing CO2, so we are fighting against climate change and we are champions of this fight. We are helping that our sons and grandsons will have a better world.
Q. We met at COP25, how did you feel as a person from nuclear industry among all the
environmentalists and ecologists?
A. I was surprised, because I was expecting some anti-nuclear actions, while the people
approaching us wanted an explanation and then they would agree with us. Only one person was
against us, mostly due to military applications. People accept our opinions when they enter a
discussion. I was also happy to see young people from all around the world in our delegation of
pro-nuclear associations. COP25 was rather a failure, the arguments were weak and we haven’t
solved any issue. We need to work on the opinions of politicians.
Nuclear industry now and in the past
Q. What are the differences between nuclear industry when you joined it and right now
A. When I joined it was a high-tech industry. Right now, people think, which I don’t agree with,
that nuclear is in its last days. The sector is in transformation now, it will be ore oriented to
services, not only electricity. I think that the nuclear technology is here to stay. We are coming
from the sector where nothing used to change. The current reactors being build are the
technologies from the 80s. In recent years companies accepted that we need to develop. If you
are more innovative, you attract talents and then you become even more innovative. The new
companies , small nuclear start ups are doing things unimaginable for big companies like
Westinghouse, Framatome, Rosatom. These big companies see they need to develop their
features like the start ups do. The other thing is that the administration has to develop –
international regulations are needed. A Boeing plane around the world has the same rules. If it’s
a NPP, it has different regulations in each country. Of course, there are some country-specific
details, but e.g. 90% of rules should be the same. Next very precious quality is an ability to build
fleets. We are not able to repeat the model in France in the UK and Finland, they are all
different machines. Right now nuclear is hiring new people, unlike car industry and is not in crisis like aeronautics. Nuclear is developing. If I was choosing my career now, I would ask myself the same questions:
what do I love and which sector can develop my skills.
Tecnatom and SMR
Q. Can you give me some insight on how Tecnatom contributes to SMR development?
A. We are working with several companies, one of them is NuScale, mainly on control room
design and training for the future operators. We are doing a similar thing with another company,
X-energy. These companies are very innovative, flexible an pushing their design to be approved
Accident Tolerant Fuel
Q. And what about Accident Tolerant Fuel, is it the future of all the reactors or rather a nuance
that is far from deployment
A. ATF is something that will arrive to the market very soon. To achieve the commercil success,
the authorities need to understand that this fuel, by reducing the chance of an accident, reduce
other costs in a NPP and compensate the investment. If this happens, I’m completely sure that
ATF will replace the fuel in standard designs. If not – the speed of replacement will be much
Development of regulatory body
Q. So it’s the regulators who really need to develop
A. The regulator is a very important part of industry. Even if we innovate, but the regulator does
not agree, we will have difficulties to implement the changes. We need to harmonize the
regulations, not make them weaker, just uniform. This kind of development needs decisions
from the political level and at least Europe should have common ruling for all the countries.
Future goals and priorities of Tecnatom
Q. What are the exciting goals and priorities in the future of Tecnatom?
A. We really embarked in the digitalization of our activities for the past three years. We are
moving to the knowledge management of complex knowledge and safety as a key, cooperating
with many US companies, using our digital training tools. The other area is digitalisation of
reactor operation. In the market we are working more and more internationally and expanding in