Six days after Chile's government announced a committee to investigate the feasibility of nuclear power, Mining and Energy Minister Karen Poniachik said this week that no nuclear program would start during President Michelle Bachelet's term. The committee's study, costing 200.000 US dollars, will however go ahead.
Representatives from six environmental organizations met with Poniachik on Tuesday to express their concern that Bachelet was not keeping her promises to maintain Chile free from nuclear plants. Bachelet committed to a nuclear-free Chile when she signed the Acuerdo de Chagual in Nov. 2005 and reiterated this pledge during her 2006 presidential campaign. Point No. 7 in the Acuerdo de Chagual states specifically "Not to include the option of nuclear power in national energy policy." Poniachik promised that Bachelet would keep to her promises and said that the nuclear committee would only be "analyzing" the feasibility of nuclear power. In any case, it takes 15 years to build and make operable a nuclear plant. Bachelet will be long out of office well before Chile experiences any benefits, or negative effects, from a nuclear program. While the environmentalists criticized the government for spending public money on researching an option they had promised not to implement, Poniachik stressed the ruling Concertación coalition's commitment to renewable energy. "The government has put aside a budget of 3,000 million pesos (5.5 million US dollars) towards renewable energy studies," she said. Chile is rapidly facing an energy crunch and is keen to secure reliable energy sources. The country currently imports 72% of its energy in the form of petroleum, gas and carbon. "This dependency puts the country in a vulnerable position given the volatility of international prices and supply interruptions," said a PSE report released last August by the National Energy Commission. Chile currently produces 7,500 megawatts of electricity a year, but studies show that the country's growing economy will need an additional 5,000 megawatts within ten years to cover the needs of both households and the nation's burgeoning mining sector. As well as securing new sources of energy, Chile's government launched Monday a campaign to get Chileans to turn off their light bulbs and invest in energy efficient appliances in a bid to cut energy waste. SOURCE: LA TERCERA, LA NACIÓN By Beatrice Karol Burks (firstname.lastname@example.org)