With global eyes fixed on the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, the Obama administration last week signed an accord with Chile to help the South American country develop a nuclear energy program. The accord focuses on training nuclear engineers, calling for cooperation in the areas of “operation and utilization of nuclear research reactors,” safety, radioactive waste management and scientific exchange. Chile’s Foreign Minister Alfredo Moreno and US Ambassador Alejandro Wolff signed the accord March 14 days ahead of President Obama’s one-day visit to Chile.
Chile’s mining and energy minister, Laurence Golborne, signed a similar accord with France last month. But Golborne said March 15 that the government needs to carefully study the situation in Japan before committing to a nuclear program. “We may decide we don’t want this type of energy and we will have to analyze other sources of energy,” he said. (NYT, March 18)
Ironically, Foreign Minister Moreno on March 16 advised Chileans in Japan to either evacuate to the southern regions of the Asian nation or leave the country altogether. (Dow Jones, March 16)
The Chilean indigenous rights website Mapuexpress sent an open letter to Chilean President Sebastián Piñera protesting the accord. The statement noted the irony that it was signed weeks before the quarter-century anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster: “25 years it has later not been possible to clarify if it was due to technical or human fault, or the two reasons. The radioactivity surpassed (depending on regional rains) 100 to 400 times the atomic bomb of Hiroshima. The wind carried to the atomic cloud and contaminated Scandinavia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Germany, and finally, the northern hemisphere… [W]ithout enumerating the thousands of human victims, more than 60 towns and cities in Belarus, the Ukraine and Russia were abandoned, destroyed and buried.” (Adital, March 18)
The accord also comes one year after Chile experienced a devastating earthquake.
See our last post on the nuclear threat.