Piñera talks out of both sides of his mouth on nuclear power

Oh Chile…what have you elected? Surely this is not what you had in mind?

While the debate on the use of nuclear energy grows around the world, Chilean president Sebastián Piñera confirmed that he will be signing an accord on Friday with the United States, which is looking to explore the possibility of using this type of energy in Chile.

“This convention, which aims precisely at the investigation, the training of human resources, also aims at achieving greater standards of security, when it comes to disposing of the radioactive wastes of the two experimental reactors which we have in Chile,” said the president, who also announced that it was an agreement which is “pro-security, in favor of life, and the protection of the health of Chileans.”


Piñera’s declarations come on the heels of a visit to Wataru Hayashi, the Japanese ambassador in Santiago, along with the Minister of Exterior relations, Alfredo Moreno, in solidarity with the earthquake victims of Japan.

Translation mine.

Unbelievable. Like Japan (and New Zealand), Chile has been shaken recently and hard by catastrophic earthquakes. And like both of those countries, it is at best an extremely dicey place to put any kind of nuclear reactor. If you doubt me, just look at any topographical map of Chile. It’s a long, narrow string of a country, literally caught between a rock (the Andes) and a hard place (the Pacific Ring of Fire). The earthquakes in Japan, Chile and New Zealand share a common denominator: The entire Pacific rim is one large subduction zone, and the mountain ranges surrounding it–particularly the active volcanoes of Japan and Chile–testify to its high degree of seismic activity.

And as we have seen from Fukushima, it’s not a very good place to put a nuclear reactor of any kind. Especially not the US-made reactors that are located in the disaster zone.

One doesn’t have to be a scientist to understand any of this. One has only to be sane, sensible and humanistic. And the only sane, sensible and humanistic conclusion one can draw it that Chile should not tread in Japan’s footsteps on this matter, unless it wants to risk a similar disaster. The odds are very high that they’d get one.

And yet Sebastián Piñera still thinks it’s worth signing an agreement with the United States of Amnesia to develop nuclear energy in Chile.

Obviously, the man is no scientist, no geologist and certainly no nuclear engineer. He’s a businessman, and he wants to squeeze profit out of the proposition at all costs. But he has to sell the proposition–which is highly undesirable–to his fellow Chileans. Hence the doubletalk.

Meanwhile, in Venezuela, which is far less geologically active than Chile, the government has suspended its nuclear energy project following the tragedy of Japan, pending further investigation of seismic safety concerns. And this is the same Venezuelan government that Piñera was already criticizing and carping about before he was even inaugurated!

I don’t know about you, but I’d want to live in a place where the leader is smart enough to act appropriately given the possibility of a national disaster. And also one where said leader is smart enough to learn from others, and not forge full-radioactive-steam-ahead into a catastrophe of his own.

Chile isn’t it. Sorry, Chile.

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