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After Japan crisis, supporters of nuclear power in Chile lose ground.

Fukushima nuclear explotion

In Chile, the option of integrating nuclear power to the national energy matrix seems to be losing popularity.
The tsunami and nuclear tragedy in Japan has restarted the debate on the safety of nuclear power in Chile.
The earthquake of 8.9 on the Richter scale and devastating tsunami that followed caused serious consequences at all four nuclear power plants located near the epicenter, some of them quite old like the Fukushima nuclear plant.
The Fukushima Daiichi plant was most affected, and the Japanese government issued a nuclear alert as a precaution.
The powerful earthquake, reminiscent of what happened in Chile on February 27, 2010, also brought up the question of whether Chile should consider nuclear energy a future option.
As the public is painfully aware of, Chile’s active tectonic plates make that nation highly vulnerable to seismic disasters.
Chilean experts point to a significant technological gap between Japan and Chile in terms of nuclear know how. So, as Japan struggles with a nuclear meltdown, it is possible that an earthquake in Chile would have a much worse effect on any nuclear plant there.
Chile has registered some of the strongest earthquakes in history, like the 9.5 degree earthquake and tsunami of Valdivia 1960.
The President Pinera and his cabinet are strong enthusiasts of nuclear power as a solution for the increasing energy needs in Chile. Energy Minister Laurence Golborne in particular is an outspoken supporter of nuclear energy. These positions in favor of nuclear power are mainly driven by economic concerns.
Some experts affirm that any nuclear installation in Chile must be similar, or even better, than those in Japan, with designs resistant to earthquakes all the way to the top of the Richter scale.  Even if that were technologically feasible, the cost of building such a plant could be astronomical.
Politicians are already participating in the debate.  “Alzheimer radiation-induced instant money,” was the diagnosis of Senator Alejandro Navarro, against government attempts to install nuclear power plants in Chile, “despite the example of Japan” .
For Navarro, ” as Japan, our country Chile is also in the line of fire in the Pacific.  We can not close our eyes to this example”, said the senator.
For Navarro, “intentions to build nuclear plants in Chile are due only to intense lobbying by international corporations who want to install in Chile.
Nuclear plants will only provide power 20 years after being installed, and it is not the solution for Chile to develop energy production in the short or medium term. The only justification for (nuclear)installation is money, lobbying firms and the U.S. government.”
In this context, Mining and Energy Minister Laurence Golborne responded through his Twitter account to a number of comments from his supporters who are against nuclear energy. “Calm down. Do not exaggerate or talk without valid information. I suggest learning from experience and then drawing conclusions,” he said.
Meanwhile, the executive director of the Chilean Nuclear Energy Commission (CCHEN), Jaime Salas, reiterated that Chile has not ruled out nuclear energy and added that we must wait to see how the facts evolve, and how the Japanese government reacts to the emergency.
Although the possibility of a highly dangerous radioactive release is very real in Japan, Electrical Engineering professor Hugh Rudnick at Chile’s Catholic University said that Chilean government studies on nuclear energy production must continue because “we assume that technologies will evolve to solve these situations.“