Photo: Nuclear energy in Latin America
The massive earthquake and tsunami that caused a nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan last year has rekindled an international debate about the risks of nuclear energy. A new study shows that in Latin America, there is a more or less even divide between countries that have continued embracing nuclear energy in the wake of the Fukushima disaster and those that have abandoned future plans for investment.
Currently, nuclear power plants generate only 2% of Latin America’s total electricity production, which is less than 1% of the region’s total capacity. Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil are the only Latin American countries with active plants. Since the Fukushima disaster, Bolivia, Perú, and Venezuela have abandoned plans for future investments in nuclear energy.
The variation among countries has much to do with geographic location, and whether or not nuclear power plants are located in seismically active regions. Among the countries that already produce nuclear energy, Argentina and Brazil are perhaps the least controversial locations, each located far from seismic zones. And while Brazil’s two nuclear plants are located on the Atlantic Coast, the country will be investing $286 million to update safety standards and emergency practices to prevent any possible disasters from tsunamis.
In Mexico, there is a particularly strong anti-nuclear movement because the country’s two active reactors at the Laguna Verde power plant in Veracruz are located in a seismically active zone along the Gulf coast. However, Mexican president Felipe Calderón insists on expanding the country’s nuclear energy production from currently 2.4% of total electricity production to 10% by 2020.
Chile, which also frequently experiences seismic activity, is still debating whether or not to invest in nuclear energy.