Venezuela Puts Nuclear over Oil

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"Other countries plan to use nuclear power in the same way. . ."

Venezuela expects a nuclear reactor to save it $1 billion per year by increasing the amount of oil it exports, but a lot of work remains to realize the promise of nuclear cooperation with Russia.

On November 9, Venezuela's National Assembly ratified last month's nuclear cooperation agreement with Russia that could see the countries work on a research reactor, and then a nuclear power plant. Celebrating this act, the Ministry of Communication and Information said a large nuclear reactor could displace some 15 million barrels of oil from electricity generation with an export value of $1 billion.

Producing 1200 MWe, a pressurized water reactor from Russia would produce up to about 10 TWh per year. This tallies with the latest IEA data, which shows Venezuela used oil to generate 13.11 TWh of electricity in 2007—about 11% of its total.

Although nuclear power plants usually operate for constant baseload supply and oil is usually used flexibly to meet peak demand, it is clear that nuclear power could liberate the majority of that oil for export while reducing carbon emissions at the same time.

Other countries plan to use nuclear power in the same way and enable more exports of fossil fuels. Russia has been expanding its nuclear and hydro generation base in order to export more gas, while producers in the Middle East like the UAE and Iran would also prefer to export oil and gas rather than use them for electricity.

The 19-article cooperation agreement with Russia sees the first step to renewing Venezuela's nuclear development as personnel training, including the application of IAEA safeguards. Other key developments will be radiation safety, environmental protection, emergency response and the expansion of the proper regulatory environment to maintain those capabilities.

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