Skip to main content

Venezuela’s Nuclear Plans

Hugo-Chavez2 File it under “Another Country Considers Nuclear” – but with an asterisk this time:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Monday that his government is carrying out initial studies into starting a nuclear energy program.

Chavez brought up the issue during a news conference, saying the South American country needs an atomic energy program.

And this isn’t necessarily diabolical. For all that Chavez is viewed as a bad actor, Venezuela certainly needs more electricity and while almost totally dependent on renewable energy sources (62% hydro, 38% thermal), these are tapped – like Venezuela, Brazil has also turned to nuclear energy because it cannot further grow its hydro capacity.

Venezuela is largely an urban nation, with 86% of its 26 million people clustered into cities. So a nuclear energy plant could bolster its capacity rapidly – and it needs it; Chavez declared a state of emergency earlier this year after a drought hampered its hydro capabilities. As a result of the drought, it’s band-aid time:

Chavez gave further details of specific infrastructure investments, such as upgrades of various thermoelectric plants around the country by 40-80 megawatts, the modernization of a plant in Carabobo state, incorporating 320 megawatts by the end of March, and adding 175 megawatts to Guayana’s supply. Venezuela’s heavy industries, based in Guayana, have suffered large production decreases due to the lack of energy.

I haven’t seen a response to Chavez’s announcement from its neighbors or the U.S., but this editorial from the Augusta (S.C.) Herald provides a foretaste:

Let's see -- an oil-rich country ruled by a deranged despot is moving forward with a nuclear program that it insists is for solely peaceful purposes -- even though it harbors enough enmity against the rest of the world to presumably construct a nuclear weapon of war within striking distance of its enemies.

The use of nuclear energy as a stalking horse for nuclear weaponry rather underestimates how difficult that would be – uranium and its enrichment is very tightly controlled – but that’s what the country can expect the response to be.

---

Still, there’s this:

Pedro Leonardo Mascheroni, 75, is said to have claimed that he could help Venezuela achieve a nuclear bomb within 10 years.

That’s not good. However, it’s tempered with this:

The US government said that, in reality, Venezuela had not been seeking US secrets, nor had anyone working for it.

Under Mr Mascheroni's alleged plan, Venezuela would have used a secret, underground nuclear reactor to produce and enrich plutonium, and an open reactor above ground to create nuclear energy.

You can read the rest of the story to see what this is about, but this caught my eye:

After being contacted by the undercover FBI agent, Mr Mascheroni was said to have provided a 132-page document entitled "A Deterrence Program for Venezuela", which allegedly contained "restricted data" on nuclear weapons development.

If that’s real, it suggests the U.S. finds Venezuelan intentions suspect or at least has plans to deter suspect intentions should they develop. So Venezuela and nuclear may well lead to fishy eyes cast its way.

Regardless, I’ve read that Russia and France are snooping around, looking for deals, so stay tuned.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Missing the Point about Pennsylvania’s Nuclear Plants

A group that includes oil and gas companies in Pennsylvania released a study on Monday that argues that twenty years ago, planners underestimated the value of nuclear plants in the electricity market. According to the group, that means the state should now let the plants close.

Huh?

The question confronting the state now isn’t what the companies that owned the reactors at the time of de-regulation got or didn’t get. It’s not a question of whether they were profitable in the '80s, '90s and '00s. It’s about now. Business works by looking at the present and making projections about the future.

Is losing the nuclear plants what’s best for the state going forward?

Pennsylvania needs clean air. It needs jobs. And it needs protection against over-reliance on a single fuel source.


What the reactors need is recognition of all the value they provide. The electricity market is depressed, and if electricity is treated as a simple commodity, with no regard for its benefit to clean air o…

How Nanomaterials Can Make Nuclear Reactors Safer and More Efficient

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior communications advisor at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

From the batteries in our cell phones to the clothes on our backs, "nanomaterials" that are designed molecule by molecule are working their way into our economy and our lives. Now there’s some promising work on new materials for nuclear reactors.

Reactors are a tough environment. The sub atomic particles that sustain the chain reaction, neutrons, are great for splitting additional uranium atoms, but not all of them hit a uranium atom; some of them end up in various metal components of the reactor. The metal is usually a crystalline structure, meaning it is as orderly as a ladder or a sheet of graph paper, but the neutrons rearrange the atoms, leaving some infinitesimal voids in the structure and some areas of extra density. The components literally grow, getting longer and thicker. The phenomenon is well understood and designers compensate for it with a …

A Billion Miles Under Nuclear Energy (Updated)

And the winner is…Cassini-Huygens, in triple overtime.

The spaceship conceived in 1982 and launched fifteen years later, will crash into Saturn on September 15, after a mission of 19 years and 355 days, powered by the audacity and technical prowess of scientists and engineers from 17 different countries, and 72 pounds of plutonium.

The mission was so successful that it was extended three times; it was intended to last only until 2008.

Since April, the ship has been continuing to orbit Saturn, swinging through the 1,500-mile gap between the planet and its rings, an area not previously explored. This is a good maneuver for a spaceship nearing the end of its mission, since colliding with a rock could end things early.

Cassini will dive a little deeper and plunge toward Saturn’s surface, where it will transmit data until it burns up in the planet’s atmosphere. The radio signal will arrive here early Friday morning, Eastern time. A NASA video explains.

In the years since Cassini has launc…