Archive for October 21st, 2010

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.

Never.

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.

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