The Venezuelan revolution dreams of doing something nuclear

October 21, 2010

As The Minister of Transport was asking people not to use Caracas’ subway because it is overloaded, Chavez’ 500 MW nuclear plant plan was suddenly escalated into a 4,000 MW plan that would be accomplished in ten years, as announced by once-considered-serious Minister of Electricity Ali Rodriguez.

I guess that after working for the  revolution for eleven years you lose sight of reality or join your boss into using the same BS. After all, it was Rodriguez that fired PDVSA’s 20,000 workers, including its research and development center, in another irresponsible act of ignorance and cockiness, that the Nation is still paying for.

But one thing Chavez, Rodriguez and their combo have learned is that nobody follows up on promises, kids go hungry in the streets after ten years, crime and corruption are rampant and have tripled and grown by orders of magnitude respectively, eight employment plans have been forgotten, five housing plans have been ignored and why not, even Rodriguez’ electric plans announced in April of this year have been forgotten. After all, the revolution/robolution has done nothing concrete but managed to stay in power. So why bother?

Going nuclear in Venezuela is best represented by the cartoon above: How do Ali and Hugo plan to build these things if they can’t even keep the subway and the electricity running? You need people, trained people at that, not reinvented sargents with no abilities like most Ministers.

But the word “nuclear” has always made the Venezuelan military’s eyes tinkle with the thought that they could somehow rise above their own mediocrity. In 1956 Venezuela bought its first and only reactor, a 3 MW research unit made by General Electric. The reactor went critical for the first time near 1960, but except for generating some neutrons for some now forgotten and irrelevant physics experiments and backing the little expertise that there exists in radioactive protection, it was an expensive toy which never had the right human resources to take advantage of it.

Not that the Government did not try. Many were financed to study abroad, some came back, gave up or emigrated, but in the end the whole thing was scrapped in 1994. Expertise is now much more limited than it was then. There is no training program in place or understanding that you need it, as exemplified by Rodriguez’ firing of the whole oil research center. You need qualified people to do something like that. Yes, even a subway, a railroad and even a nuclear reactor need experts to get things done.

So, unless they import some 10,000 Russians to build the reactor and a few hundred to run it or them, don’t expect much to be built. It is all smoke and mirrors now on steroids by the the bombastic and silly announcement by Ali Rodriguez.  Just think, a Government that has not been able to complete a few hundred Kilometers of railroad in ten years, now plans to build eight Nuclear power pants in the same time.

But ask yourself: With what money?

Because PDVSA and the Government are simply short of cash, have been trying to raise money and you would think that PDVSA’s expansion projects are more significant than going nuclear. Because a 1,000 MW plant costs around US$ 2 billion ad takes 7-12 years to build in countries with expertise. So we are talking some US$ 8 billion (sans commissions and graft) and a country with a broken down…management capability.

As we say in Spanish: Cuentame una de vaqueros (Tell me a story about cowboys now)

Unless Chavez sells out the country and pays Russians or Chinese to build and run these plants, it will never get done.


These are not F-16, that you can learn to fly and crash in a Microsoft simulator. These are complex and expensive toys that require hundreds of highly trained people. We just don’t have them…nor the money.

So, store your Geiger counters. forget about irradiating your mangoes to kill the bugs and/or irradiating your food to preserve it.

Not one nano watt of nuclear power will be in place in Venezuela in ten years, unless someone discovers simple  cold fusion with tap water and an ipod charger. Please, don’t make it more complicated than that, the revolution could not handle it.

But Chavez and the revolution still dream of going nuclear, but they can’t even build 12,000 imported prefabricated houses.

Really, cuentame una de vaqueros.

27 Responses to “The Venezuelan revolution dreams of doing something nuclear”

  1. That’s true island canuck; this is all about Chávez’s ego. He seeks to reassert his power and radical positions after the results from the election. That nuclear plant is an expensive project that will not solve the urgent energy difficulties in Venezuela caused by his socialist policies.

  2. island canuck Says:

    Chavez has announced that he will not permit any oversight from outside Venezuela for his Nuclear Center.

    This is all grandstanding & bluff. He just wants the attention which has been missing lately except for his election defeat. His narcissist personality is in high gear right now.

    This nuclear plant will never be built.

  3. Gocha Says:

    Sorry EzAyacucho, Homer Simpson is too busy operating Hugo Chavez’ brain to manage a nuclear power plant.

  4. EzAyacucho Says:

    Could we get Homer Simpson. He knows how to run one.

  5. Antonio Says:

    There was a project in the 1970s to buy some UK second-hand fast breeder reactors to heat the Orinoco tar sands to facilitate heavy oil extraction. I can’t remember why the project never came to anything: that was the time when I went away to study and lost track of what was going on. Could it be that the people who got the new concessions to produce heavy oil in Venezuela are insisting on installed heating technology not involving gas burning as a precondition? Sounds like a good deal: you get the concession to extract the heavy oil, and at the same time get to sell some obsolete reactors at a good price and with a juicy commission. Our Russian and Chinese friends are quite capable of this, but I begin to worry when the Ucranians appear in the picture. Remember Chernobyl? Maybe they still have some of those reactors still kicking around. Keep an eye on Argentinian engineers receiving training in Kiev.

  6. Roberto N Says:

    Worse yet, Corpoelec refuses to give the IDB audited balances, so the IDB will suspend any credit lines. Credit lines that supposedly were going in part to fix infrastructure like power distribution.

    Soon you may need to get solar Ipod chargers

  7. moctavio Says:

    Nope, some turbines are still out, that is one reason the dam is full.

  8. Snake Oil Baron Says:

    m_astera Says:

    October 22, 2010 at 3:39 pm
    “Google US Navy cold fusion.”

    No. Google “tentacle porn” instead.

    Speaking of electrifying, now that the media tells me that the Guri dam refilled completely twice as fast as they thought it would, how are they doing with repairing those turbines? I was under the impression that there were eight to ten turbines and that at the height of the water level crisis a number were offline and another one was shaking badly. Is everything working at 100% now? I would expect that would be a basic necessity if the state wants to convince people that it can maintain a nuclear reactor, even with foreign expertise.

  9. loroferoz Says:

    Let’s abuse Shakespeare: Much ado about nothing.

  10. Ken Price Says:

    There was an old saying in Mexico that I have adapted to Venezuela:

    Pobre Venezuela, tan lejos de Dios, y tan cerca a Cuba.

    Look at La Habana today, and see the future of Caracas.

    Ken Price

  11. island canuck Says:

    I have now hidden all our chargers, for whatever use, to prevent them from being expropriated.

  12. A_Antonio Says:

    Do not talk much about cold fusion, because will Chavez will expropriate ice and refrigerators.

  13. m_astera Says:

    Google US Navy cold fusion.

  14. A_Antonio Says:

    Indian Tradition means that people way of life will be change, forest will be destroyed, Indian peoples will not receive any benefits from mining or nuclear activities.

    Indian People are not naïve, they are simple victims.

  15. A_Antonio Says:

    I think Russia and China will get uranium mineral from Chavez, in exchange Chavez and Venezuela will gets mirrors to celebrate our Colon discovery and our Indian tradition.

  16. concerned Says:

    The only thing missing from Weil’s cartoon is the Blackberry clipped on the belt of the caveman. Buying a Blackberry does not mean you are technologically advanced enough for nuclear generation.

  17. Douglas Says:

    Ja, ja, ja!. How right you are Miguel. I’m still waiting for the grandiose Petrochemical complex to be built in the Llanos from 2-3 years ago and there used to be a tiny bit of expertise in that area….
    Seriously, Venezuelan society can´t get any more stupid. 47% of the vote after 11 years of this is just not defensible….

  18. Kolya Says:

    “Not one nano watt of nuclear power will be in place in Venezuela in ten years, unless someone discovers simple cold fusion with tap water and an ipod charger. Please, don’t make it more complicated than that, the revolution could not handle it.”

    Oh, well, Miguel. Now you gave Chavez and his minions an idea. In a few months they will be announcing the grand opening in Barinas of the Instituto Bolivariano de Fusion Fria headed by the two cold fusion guys who a while back worked in the University of Utah.

  19. An Interested Observer Says:

    Did he specify a country of origin? Because he could also barter oil for the Argentines in exchange for reactors and technicians. This is exactly the kind of thing Cristina would jump at: exporting high-end manufactured goods, looking like a first-world power, and alleviating the energy crunch she is facing all at the same time.

    Of course, it all depends on Venezuela finding enough spare barrels of oil to conclude (as opposed to sign – that seems likely in the next two months, give or take) the deal, an iffy prospect at best.

  20. RWG Says:

    Iran announces cold fusion with tap water and ipod. Chavez expropriates all tap water and ipods.

  21. concerned Says:

    I keep thinking about the movie “China Syndrome”.

  22. island canuck Says:

    Just to show the competence of our wonderful government here’s a bit of news from this morning’s El Universal.

    Crude production drops 4.5% in the first semester while exports fall 11.3%.

    I would assume that difference is an indication of how local usage is growing to keep the electrical generators humming.

  23. Ira Says:

    Medvedev is laughing all the way to the bank.

  24. Gringo Says:

    Not one nano watt of nuclear power will be in place in Venezuela in ten years, unless someone discovers simple cold fusion with tap water and an ipod charger.

    Good line there, Miguel.

    As you point out, the track record of the government in fulfilling plans- with the exception of accumulating power and confiscated property- is not a good one.

  25. Roberto N Says:

    Great post Miguel!

    When Esteban Chacumbele announced the reactor I laughed so hard my customers called an ambulance.

    Mega is right, more smoke and mirrors to deflect attention internally away from his next move, as well as attract attention on the world stage.

    The ipod thing? Te la comiste!

  26. megaescualidus Says:

    I think it is Chavez’s way of getting some attention. He knows that, in the eyes of other countries, a wacko like him talking about setting up a nuclear reactor in Venezuela will definitely cause a reaction, particularly in the US since he made those remarks in no other country than Iran. It is at best a smokescreen (yet again, like many other times), or better yet simply BS (we’re also used to that).

  27. HalfEmpty Says:

    Not one nano watt of nuclear power will be in place in Venezuela in ten years, unless someone discovers simple cold fusion with tap water and an ipod charger.

    Ima on it Chief! Does it have to be 3G?

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