Image credits: Johannes Plenio
News Article

Laguna Verde Could Point To Furthering Nuclear Power

By Kristelle Gutiérrez | Wed, 06/29/2022 - 08:10

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has completed a review of the long-term operational safety at the Laguna Verde power plant in Veracruz, the only nuclear power plant in Mexico. Meanwhile, energy experts continue to debate whether increasing nuclear power generation could help transition to renewable sources of energy.

Laguna Verde consists of two units with a combined generation capacity of 4,634MW and is being currently operated by the state-owned electric utility CFE. Unit 1 started commercial operations in 1990 and Unit 2 in 1995, both equipped with a boiling water reactor (BWR) subject to review by the IAEA’s team of experts.

As the operator of laguna Verde, CFE requested the Safety Aspects of Long-Term Operation (SALTO) assessment as a follow-up to the first mission that IAEA did in Laguna Verde in 2019. This time around, the four-day examination began on June 21, 2022 and focused on reviewing the implementation of recommendations and suggestions made in 2019. Some of the observations that the IAEA submitted during that first assessment were that CFE had a good basis to effectively manage long-term operation and that it already meets many recommendations of the institution’s safety standards.

Martin Marchena, Nuclear Safety Officer, IAEA, said that “the plant has made significant improvements in the area of aging management and has shown continued commitment to prepare for safe long-term operation.” Marchena added that the institution still recommends that CFE fully address some other issues, such as performing periodic reviews to identify potential safety improvements and fully implementing a program to confirm the resistance of electrical components under harsh conditions.

After the review in 2019, CFE submitted a license renewal application to the Mexican nuclear regulator National Commission for Nuclear Safety and Safeguards (CNSNS), in order to extend the operating lifetime of both units from 30 to 60 years. Currently, Unit 1 has already been granted the extension, while the permission for Unit 2 is still underway.

The most recent debate around the possible increase of nuclear energy generation in the country surged in 2019, when Minister of Energy Rocío Nahle said that the ministry was analyzing the potential of further nuclear power generation, which caused some controversy. Nevertheless, Lourdes Melgar, Energy Researcher and Sustainability Consultant, Voz Experta, argued it was imperative to “strengthen the Mexican nuclear sector and the CNSNS, as well as promote transparency, as nuclear power is key to decarbonizing the economy.”

Other analysts see nuclear power as unreliable. For example, the International Energy Agency (IEA) posited that even if nuclear power generation worldwide is increased by three times, it would only result in a reduction of carbon emissions by 6 percent. Additionally, during an Open Parliament held in February 2022, Ricardo Zamora, Operations Director, Ad-Tec Consultores de Construcción, said that in Mexico corruption could hinder the potential of nuclear power. Because nuclear power production would likely require importing Uranium 238, it could also pose challenges to the country’s much-desired energy self-sufficiency.

The data used in this article was sourced from:  
Energía Hoy, IAEA, MBN.
Photo by:   Johannes Plenio
Kristelle Gutiérrez Kristelle Gutiérrez Junior Journalist & Industry Analyst