Bolivia ready for nuclear power: Evo Morales

Bolivia’s President Evo Morales said Oct. 28 that his country has achieved the conditions to obtain nuclear power for “pacific ends,” and that Argentina and France would help “with their knowledge.” He made his comments at the opening of a “Hydrocarbon Sovereignty” conference in Tarija. In May, Bolivia and Argentina signed an accord on nuclear cooperation. In an obvious reference to the United States, Morales anticipated political obstacles, saying that “some countries have [nuclear energy] but don’t want to let others.”

Morales also took aim at “ecologist fundamentalism” that stands in the way of development projects. “[S]ome NGOs oppose everything, they will not let us work,  they will not let us explore,  they will not let us industrialize, not even to develop hydroelectric plants.” He emphasized that industrailization of the hydrocarbon sector would advance, with development of petrochemical capacity foreseen. (Los Tiempos, Cochabamba, Oct. 28)

Carlos Villegas, president of state hydrocarbon company YPFB dismissed recent reports that the country could be facing an oil and gas deficit by 2017, unable to meet both internal demand and foreign contracts. He said current known reserves assured expansion until at least 2023, and new reserves would be brought on line. (Los Tiempos, Oct. 29)

The Morales government recently announced the development of uranium reserves in Potosí department, ironically echoing President Obama in promoting “clean nuclear power.” Morales also recently entered into a deal with China to develop a Bolivian space program, which is certain to raise concerns about missiles if nuclear development actually proceeds.

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  1. Bolivia and nuclear alarmism
    Prof. Carwil Bjork-James of Vanderbilt University in Nashville writes to chastise us for alarmism over Bolivia’s nuclear ambitions. He writes that Evo Morales’ speech needs to be balanced by the estimation of Bolivia’s top nuclear scientist, Luis Romero of the Bolivian Institute for Nuclear Science and Technology (IBTEN), that it could take 30 years to reach the power production stage.

    Prof. Bjork-James adds:

    More importantly, on the space program, the Bolivian Space Agency has as its sole mission the operation of the Túpac Katari satellite, which will launch this week. Its two bases stations are in Bolivia, but all launch capability is arranged through China’s space program. Bolivia is pursuing a fellowship-based training program to gradually build its scientific capacity for spaceflight, but that is a very, very long-term proposition. Note that Venezuela’s space program is taking the same course. So no rockets in Bolivia, and hence no prospect of the nuclear capacity and missile capacity overlapping. Hopefully this can head off any fear mongering about Bolivia’s intentions in the USA.

  2. Bolivia announces plan for nuclear research center

    Evo Morales visited the Bolivian city of El Alto on Nov. 26 to announce his plans to build South America's largest nuclear research center there, with Russian aid. The center is seen s step towards the eventual development of nuclear power in Bolivia. (TeleSur, World Nuclear News)

  3. Bolivia signs nuclear cooperation deal with Russia

    Russian state media outlet Sputnik has a piece March 29 crowing about the nuclear cooperation deal Bolivia signed with Moscow this month, calling for construction of a research and technology center in El Alto. The agreement supposedly seeks "peaceful use of nuclear energy"; we aren't told if the facility in El Alto is to include a reactor.