Sunday, October 30, 2005

Chávez' Nuclear Energy Plan Makes US Wary

My NoteOf course it should.  Think of nuke weapons as a martial art.  The smaller kid is forbidden by the bully with the threat of a pre-emptive strike if he even tries to learn karate and be able to fight back.  The bully must maintain the status quo.  Otherwise, a lot of other smaller kids might get the same idea and then the bully couldn't control them through fear anymore.
Plus, Chavez is smart and knows what will happen to the South American public opinion and world opinion if he is officially invaded by US forces.  That is why he's currently being treated much like SYRIA is right now: fighting off many military "incursions" into his country's borders by US forces.
--- Kevin

President Hugo Chávez is approaching his wary South American neighbors about developing a nuclear energy program, raising questions in Washington about his atomic ambitions.

Chávez, a self-described socialist revolutionary fiercely opposed to the U.S. administration, says he wants to cooperate with Argentina, Brazil and possibly Iran to develop nuclear energy as part of his drive for regional integration.

But energy experts estimate it will take his government at least five years of studies, training and investment to develop a sustainable nuclear energy project in Venezuela, the world’s No. 5 oil exporter.

“Nuclear energy is for peaceful purposes. We are not the ones developing atomic bombs, it’s others who do that. We are not the ones who launch atomic bombs,” Chávez told a Brazilian newspaper this week, dismissing fears over his proposal. Venezuela’s open support for Tehran in its clash with the United States and Europe over its own nuclear program has left Washington wondering about the motives behind Chávez’ quest for atomic energy.
Ties between Venezuela and its main oil client the United States are already tense. The blunt-speaking ex-army officer has rattled Washington by allying himself with Cuba’s Fidel Castro and promoting his leftist ideas overseas.
Venezuela has signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty limiting use of nuclear material and would have to follow safeguards from U.N. watchdog the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) before any transfers of technology. “We expect all countries including Iran, Argentina and Venezuela to adhere to nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty obligations,” Jan Edmonson, a U.S. State Department spokesperson said.
Flush with cash from oil revenues, Chávez has pushed to counter U.S. influence with energy deals with South American and Caribbean countries and strengthened ties with Iran, Russia and India to reduce reliance on the United States. Iran is also interested in oil and aluminum deals with Caracas and Venezuela was the only country that voted last month against an IAEA resolution requiring Tehran to be reported to the Security Council over its nuclear program.
Chávez’ initial announcement about acquiring nuclear technology with help from Iran met with wary reactions from Latin American neighbors worried about how the United States might view such cooperation. Brazil and Argentina have the most advanced nuclear programs in South America. But while Brazil said it was uneasy about involving Iran, Argentina appears more willing to help Venezuela and already has experience exporting technology.
Venezuelan officials have given mixed signals about what they want, and initially suggested they could use nuclear energy to power oil operations. But Energy and Petroleum Minister Rafael Ramírez said the program is still in its infancy. “We don’t have any plans to buy a nuclear reactor. We are just evaluating where we could put one,” he told reporters this week. “We would use it for electricity generation.”
Ramírez said Venezuela had signed a deal with Argentina to supply cobalt for cancer treatment. Nuclear energy experts reckon it could take five to ten years before Venezuela manages to development a nuclear program that will require heavy investment in technology and also training and infrastructure to maintain the project.
“There is a big difference from going from chalk board academy to industrial practice, they will be very dependent on outside contractors.” said Paul Turinsky, professor of nuclear engineering at N. Carolina State University.
Venezuela had a small research RV1 reactor but that was closed more than 10 years ago and is now used for food processing irradiation, medical sterilization and research. Scientists said a Canadian CANDU reactor, used by Argentina was the most feasible for Venezuela as it would require no complex fuel enrichment and uses only natural uranium. Reuters


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