Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Venezuela, Chile nuclear plans in limbo

The crisis over Japan's Daiichi Fukushima power station has led to numerous countries around the world questioning nuclear power and their own reactors. Only three countries in Latin America- Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina- have functioning nuclear plants though plans for a fourth country may have to wait a little longer than anticipated.

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez announced on Tuesday that his country would suspend plans for the development of nuclear power. He explained that the decision to freeze plans for a “peaceful nuclear program” came as result of the problems with Japan’s nuclear power program after Friday’s earthquake and tsunami. “I do not have the least doubt that this (the potential for a nuclear catastrophe in Japan) is going to alter in a very strong way the plans to develop nuclear energy in the world,” said Chavez.

Chavez originally penned a deal last year with Russian officials for the development of nuclear power in Venezuela. For the time being those plans are frozen.

Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos praised Chavez’ decision as “an opportune precaution” against developing nuclear power in Venezuela.

The Japanese nuclear situation may also affect the Chilean government’s aspirations to develop nuclear power. Opposition legislators have expressed doubts over a planned U.S.-Chile nuclear energy pact that includes building a nuclear reactor in Chile within the next ten years. Nonetheless, Chilean president Sebastián Piñera said that the agreement would be signed on Friday, two days before President Barack Obama’s visit to the Southern Cone nation.

According to Fox News Latino, numerous analysts are worried over the safety of the six existing Latin American nuclear power plants such as in Argentina:
"The gravest thing happening in Argentina, and this is a notable difference than in Japan, where the population is prepared for not only natural disasters but are technologically advanced...there is no preparation," said Raúl Montenegro, president of biology at the Foundation of the Defense of the Atmosphere.
Japan’s nuclear crisis has also hit the Brazilian stock market and national currency very hard this week.

Despite freezing Venezuela’s nuclear plans, Chavez noted a silver lining for the major oil exporting country: he predicted that demand for petroleum would increase due to global concerns over nuclear energy.

Image – AP via ABC News (“In this photo taken Friday Feb. 18, 2011, people look down at nuclear reactor RECH-1, located in the pool of water, at the Nuclear Study Center in Santiago, Chile.”)
Online Sources- Fox News Latino, Bloomberg, Reuters, El Tiempo, La Tercera,, MSNBC

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