DE RUEHSG #0089 0172006
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 172006Z JAN 07
FM AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0734
INFO RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 0044
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0192
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 1237
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 0228
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0203
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RUEHUNV/USMISSION UNVIE VIENNA 0025
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0300”
C O N F I D E N T I A L SANTIAGO 000089
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/16/2017
TAGS: ECON, ENRG, KNNP, PARM, UNSC, CI
SUBJECT: RECONSIDERING NUCLEAR ENERGY IN CHILE
Classified By: DCM Emi Yamauchi for reasons 1.5 (b and d).
1. (C) Summary: Chile’s increasing reliance on foreign regarding the viability of nuclear power and the long term prospects for the construction of a nuclear power plant (NPP). End summary.
2. (C) President Michelle Bachelet has publicly and privately maintained that Chile will “”not go nuclear”” during her administration, a point Chilean Energy Minister Karen Poniachik reiterated to the Ambassador during a dinner in December 2006. Beyond political and social considerations, there remains fear of accidents caused by lack of maintenance standards over the long term, as well as the potential impact of earthquakes on a NPP. Despite Bachelet’s stance, the Chilean Nuclear Energy Commission (CCHEN) has increased lobbying efforts to have the issue reconsidered, with some CCHEN officials seeking to overcome Bachelet’s opposition by demonstrating that nuclear power is environmentally sound.
3. (C) CCHEN officials have privately commented that Bachelet has softened her position on nuclear energy, as a result of a gas crisis with Argentina and internal domestic pressure to seek energy independence for Chile’s national security. Furthermore, the President’s office has been more responsive to CCHEN requests for funding research and other activites, signaling that Bachelet may be contemplating the issue more positively.
4. (C) According to a contact within the CCHEN, the CCHEN has received unspecified funding from the office of the Presidency to begin a three year study on a NPP. Details of the study are not for public consumption, given Bachelet’s reluctance to contradict her campaign promise of “”no nuclear power””. CCHEN officials indicate the study will provide a cost-benefit analysis of constructing an NPP and an assessment of its environmental impact.
5. (C) One of the more contentious issues the NPP study will address is how to handle radioactive waste and where to store it in Chile. CCHEN officials were examining whether the radioactive waste could be sold to another country for disposal. Despite CCHEN’s interest in moving forward with an NPP, CCHEN officials admit they lack qualified personnel to complete the study. The CCHEN plans to hire consultants from Brazil and Argentina to assist with a NPP feasibility study and waste management options. The NPP study will focus heavily on private sector cooperation and private sector financing for the project. A senior CCHEN official commented that private sector investment will likely force the government’s hand in deciding how to proceed with nuclear power.
6. (C) CCHEN officials do not expect Bachelet to reverse her position on nuclear power during her presidency. However, they believe the NPP study will sensitize the Bachelet administration and her successor to the need to reevaluate nuclear energy in the near term. Absent diversification of energy sources, Chile will continue to depend on its neighbors for its energy, potentially adversely affecting Chile’s ability to compete economically, CCHEN officials note that numerous Russian, Argentine, French and South Korean companies have already been in contact with Chilean authorities, seeking to sell their nuclear technology. The U.S. can compete by emphasizing it will transfer – not sell – nuclear technology to Chile, which other countries will not do.