The government is receptive to a proposal by the unions to extend operations at the nuclear power plants to protect workers' jobs, a top administration official said Wednesday. Extending the life of certain thermonuclear plants could be part of the give-and-take negotiations between government officials, labor unions and business leaders in an effort to come up with an ambitious social pact that Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero wants to hammer out before the end of the month.
In a radio interview, Industry Minister Miguel Sebastián clarified that the only nuclear plant that will be exempt from any agreement will be the Garoña plant in Burgos, which will close in 2013.
"This is a global pact that is not concentrated in one area, and if the unions ask that we extend operations at the nuclear power plants, then this is something we are going to have to analyze," Sebastián said.
Socialists had pledged to close all nuclear sites by 2021.
Press reports on Wednesday said that Zapatero was willing to open discussions on jobs at these sites as a bargaining chip to reach a social pact. The Socialist government is aiming to seal the accord by January 29, when Congress will begin to debate pension reform. The CCOO and UGT unions have come out against pushing the retirement age back from 65 to 67, which is one of the key points in the reform.
Reaching a pact, which could include tweaking the controversial labor-reform package and making changes in other policies, would help improve Spain's solvency and battered image abroad, analysts say.