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Mexico’s Nuclear Plans May Come to a Halt

By Cas Biekmann | Wed, 06/23/2021 - 10:07

Head of Mexico’s state-owned utility CFE, Manuel Bartlett appeared to shelve its plans to expand nuclear capacity near its Laguna Verde power plant. The potential of small, modular nuclear reactors had been part of the options examined by CFE and Energy Ministry SENER. These expansion plans are now less likely to take off, nevertheless, they could still be exploited in the future.

Minister of Energy Rocío Nahle had discussed plans to construct modular nuclear reactors on the site of Laguna Verde plant in Veracruz. The nuclear power plant boasts a capacity of 1,600M through two reactors. After the evaluation from various international nuclear authorities, Laguna Verde’s performance was deemed “strong”.

Bartlett stated that based on this experience, nuclear power can be deemed a “specialty” of Mexico. Nevertheless, Bartlett pointed out that constructing new nuclear capacity would take a very long time. In that regard, Mexico would need to evaluate what electricity types it needs more urgently, he argued. “A detailed analysis was made; the engineering and the entire technical topic is ready. Then, it would be a matter of analyzing if starting these projects is convenient or not,” Bartlett said. While no absolute certainty can be derived from Bartlett’s statements, it appears that more nuclear energy in Mexico could be put on hold for the moment.

In a recent MBN interview, Salvador Portillo, General Manager Mexico of globally experienced nuclear energy services company Tecnatom, agreed that nuclear energy development often proves too difficult to continue. “Tracking the nuclear sector worldwide, the canceled Horizon Nuclear Power program in Gloucester, UK, stands out. An issue of finite resources was one of the main reasons for the cancellation. It would have been a massive power plant but it was abandoned because of its costs,” he explained.

Going smaller is therefore the way forward: “Nuclear energy is, therefore, moving toward the development of small, modular reactors, which allow you to add more reactors depending on the power needed and the budget available,” Portillo continued. For states such as Baja California, such an approach could indeed prove to be beneficial, Portillo stresses. Nevertheless, political will remains crucial for any modular nuclear projects. “To make this a success, the government needs to be convinced that this is a solid technology that can produce sufficient energy. People around the world tend to be afraid of nuclear energy because of past events like those in Fukushima and Chernobyl. However, the nuclear energy environment has not been sitting still and has created better procedures and regulations to implement projects and produce power,” Portillo concluded.

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Cas Biekmann Cas Biekmann Journalist and Industry Analyst