NotiEn - A Newsletter on Energy Policy Issues in Latin America
July 15, 2010
Vol 1, Issue 7

Latin America Endeavors on Geothermal and Nuclear Power

A NOTE FROM THE EDITOR

Nuclear power accounts for a miniscule share (about 2%) of the electrical energy generated in Latin America, but two of the largest economies in the region, Brazil and Argentina, see it as a viable source to meet their electricity needs. 

 

Brazil has been especially aggressive in promoting nuclear-power projects over during the past decade.  At present the country relies on nuclear power for 3% of its energy needs, which is obtained from the Angra dos Reis and Angra II reactors in Rio de Janeiro state.  A third reactor, which is under construction at the Angra plant, is expected to start commercial production at the end of 2014.

 

Even though Brazil sees nuclear power as a cornerstone of its future development, environmental groups and other local groups have formed coalitions to oppose constructing two additional nuclear-power plants the Brazilian government plans to build in the northeast.  Social and environmental organizations believe that the region, which has the greatest inequality in the country, cannot afford this project. Read more... 


Carlos Navarro - Editor

 

Congressional Committee to Investigate Nuclear Power Plant in Mexico - May 09, 2001   
Facing strong opposition from the Mexican Congress, President Vicente Fox Quesada withdrew the nominations of four corporate executives to the governing board of the state-run oil company PEMEX and replaced them with four government officials.  While this was a setback for Fox, the president won a battle to implement daylight-saving time nationwide when Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador dropped his opposition to the time change.

In the meantime, Fox must deal with a new congressional commission, formed to investigate allegations of continued safety and environmental violations at the Laguna Verde nuclear power plant in Veracruz state.

 

Fox withdraws nomination of corporate leaders to PEMEX board

President Fox, responding to the wishes of Congress, has withdrawn the nomination of four corporate leaders for the PEMEX governing board and replaced them with four government officials.  Read more...  


In This Issue...
A Note From the Editor
Congressional Committee to Investigate Nuclear Power Plant in Mexico
Concern Growing About Impact of Electrical Utilities on the Environment
Brazil Stands Firm on Inspections, IAEA Backs Down
Brazilian Society on Offense Against Nuclear Plans of President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva
Clean But Not Green: Geothermal Developers in Costa Rica at Odds with Environmentalists
Debacle in the Desert: Accident Highlights Chile's Energy Problems
Brazil: Government Moves Forward on New Nuclear Plants Despite Opposition
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Concern Growing About Impact of Electrical Utilities on the Environment- July 24, 2002  

Concern is growing in Mexico about the impact of electrical utilities on the environment, ranging from production and disposal of hazardous wastes to the potential for a leak at Laguna Verde, the country's only nuclear-power plant.  Among those raising questions of environmental safety related to power plants is the Montreal-based Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), an agency created under the auspices of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

 

In a report published in early July, the CEC said thermoelectric plants in Mexico, the US, and Canada discharged 450,000 tons of contaminants into water, land, and air.  The report said power plants are responsible for a large share of air emissions of dangerous substances like nitrogen oxides, mercury, sulfur dioxides, and carbon dioxides.

 

The CEC report warned the problem is going to worsen because demand for electricity is expected to grow significantly in all three countries during the next seven years.  The agency projected increases in the demand for power of 66% in Mexico, 21% in the US, and 14% in Canada between 2002 and 2009.

Read more...

Brazil Stands Firm on Inspections, IAEA Backs Down - October 29, 2004   
IAEA

Brazil appears to have won a months-long stare-down with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regarding full access to its nuclear-energy program.  IAEA inspectors arrived at a Brazilian nuclear-development site on Oct. 19 with the understanding that they would be permitted to see less than they had been bargaining for. Putting a best face on the limitation, an agency spokesperson in Vienna said the inspectors would not need total access.

 

The IAEA, in backing down, is treading a fine political line in giving Brazil some slack on much the same issue it is pressing Iran on.  Brazil took the opportunity to emphasize its persuasive powers with official comments that the agency had become "more flexible".  Seeking to offset the statement, IAEA spokesperson Melissa Fleming said, "We will not compromise on our fundamental technical requirements that will allow us to ensure there is no diversion of nuclear materials out of that plant".

 

Brazil's argument for resisting has been that it cannot allow the inspectors to see the hulls of centrifuges where uranium is purified because it has developed technology that is 30% more efficient and 25% more cost effective than that used in US enrichment plants. The issue is the risk that the Brazilian technology might be stolen. At the heart of the new technology is an electromagnetic technique that reduces friction. Read more... 


Brazilian Society on Offense Against Nuclear Plans of President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva - Nov 07, 2008

Various sectors of civil society began an offensive against the unexpected announcement by the government of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva that it would resume expansion of its nuclear-energy program. Minister of Mines and Energy Edison Lobao, who made the announcement, said the government plans to construct between 50 and 60 new nuclear plants in Brazil in the next 50 years. Lobao made the announcement Sept. 12 at Angra dos Reis, in the state of Rio de Janeiro, at the site where the Lula administration wants to finish the country's third nuclear plant.

 

The minister said that the Angra 3 plant, which could be ready in five years, will have a 1,405 megawatt capacity. Those in the Lula administration favoring nuclear energy base their arguments for this new strategy on the unreliable supply of natural gas from Bolivia, the need for the country to find new sources of energy to satisfy future demand, and world efforts to fight global warming.

 

"The problems in Bolivia are another reason we need to continue our nuclear program. The president considers the nuclear policy a priority for Brazil and Angra 3 is a personal decision of the president--based on the opinion of the Conselho Nacional de Politica Energetica (CNPE)," said the minister. Lobao said that plans had been made to construct four new nuclear reactors, two in the southeast of the country and two in the northeast. Read more... 


Clean But Not Green: Geothermal Developers in Costa Rica at Odds with Environmentalists - March 12, 2009     

Costa Rica leads Central America in the production of wind and geothermal energy and has been lauded for its progress in renewable power projects while others flounder. A new report prepared for the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), A Blueprint for Green Energy in the Americas 2009, faulted Latin America in general for governmental failure to provide the regulatory frameworks and supportive policies needed to field renewable projects, and for reluctance to take risks in the energy sectors because of the lack of development.

 

Only Costa Rica stood out as an exception on the isthmus and, in the hemisphere, was joined by Chile and Brazil as standouts in the field. But now Costa Rica is running up against another of its trademark values, environmentalism, in its attempt to tap even more ecologically sound power.

 

In January, Ormat Technologies, Inc. announced the signing of a contract with Banco Centroamericano de Integracion Economica (BCIE) "for the supply, supervision, installation, startup, and testing of Las Pailas Geothermal Plant, a new geothermal power plant that is to be constructed in Las Pailas Field, Costa Rica." The press release valued the project for the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE) at US$65 million and projected the time to completion at 18 months. Read more... 


Debacle in the Desert: Accident Highlights Chile's Energy Problems - October 23, 2009     

A high-profile mishap involving an experimental electricity project near one of Chile's top tourist attractions has exposed serious shortcomings in the country's laissez-faire approach to energy production.

 

Last year environmental authorities in Region II, an area of northern Chile that contains the high-plains Atacama desert, gave energy company Geotermica del Norte (GDN) permission to conduct exploratory drilling on what promised to be the country's first geothermal electricity plant. Geothermal facilities harness energy from underground hot springs (steam) to push conventional turbines. Considered a renewable and environmentally friendly energy source, the technique is used in more than 20 countries worldwide but accounts for just a tiny fraction (0.3%) of the planet's total electricity production.

 

Hoping to add Chile to that list, GDN--a public-private consortium involving Italian energy giant Enel (51%), Chile's Empresa Nacional de Petroleo (ENAP) (44%), and the state-run Corporacion Nacional de Cobre de Chile (Codelco) copper company (5%)--began drilling a series of two-km-deep wells on the edge of Atacama's El Tatio geyser field. The company is eventually looking to build a 40-megawatt power station. Chile's current overall generating capacity is roughly 13,000 MW.  Read more... 


Brazil: Government Moves Forward on New Nuclear Plants Despite Opposition -  March 05, 2010    

A large coalition is being formed to oppose two nuclear-power plants that the Brazilian government plans to build in the northeast. At the same time, sectors of some states in the area are competing for the plants in the hope of generating income and jobs. Social and environmental organizations believe that the region, which has the greatest inequality in the country, cannot afford this project.

 

The announced construction of the two nuclear plants has renewed criticism of the Programa Nuclear Brasileiro, which oversaw construction of two nuclear facilities in the city of Angra dos Reis in Rio de Janeiro state. Angra 1 was built by US firm Westinghouse and Angra 2 was built by Siemens-KWE under the Acordo Nuclear Brasil-Alemanha, signed in the 1970s during the 1964-1985 military dictatorship.

 

The Brazil-German agreement envisioned construction of eight nuclear-energy plants in Brazil, but only Angra 2 has been completed. The Angra-3 plant is under construction, with participation of the French group Areva. Read more...  


LA-ENERGAIA
Energy Policy, Regulation and Dialogue in Latin America

 

NotiEn is an original newsletter with breaking news that analyzes and digests relevant and contemporary information in energy, alternative energy and energy policies in Latin America. A complimentary service provided by the University of New Mexico as part of LA-ENERGAIA Project funded by the US TICFIA Program