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Nuclear Power in Chile

Nuclear Power in Chile

During the 70s and 80s Chile was in the process of modernizing the electric sector. During these years Chile liberalized its economy, privatized utility companies and opened the electricity sector to foreign investors.

During this time, however, Chile did not initiate any nuclear energy program unlike Argentina and Brazil. Chile did not seem willing to consider a nuclear energy option. Even in 2005, the future president Michelle Bachelet did not want to incorporate the development of nuclear energy as a valid option as part of her national energy policy.

Subsequently, several factors caused a change in the conception of nuclear energy in Chile. On the one hand, after years of increasing gas imports from Argentina, the neighboring country abruptly reduced gas exports to Chile. Until then, Argentine gas exports had led to a rapid increase in electricity production, but this change led to costly energy substitutions.

All this was compounded by the volatility of fossil fuel prices worldwide with a tendency to growth, as well as the effect of a drought in the generation of hydroelectric power plants and an earthquake in electricity generation in the North. All this led to an effective energy crisis from 2006 to 2008.

With a growing economy, it was projected that Chile's electricity consumption would continue to grow between six and seven percent by 2020, and the government admitted that it should rapidly develop sufficient and competitive energy resources. For the year 2010, a report from the "Ministry of Energy", similar to the Energy Department of the United States of Chile, evaluated that a nuclear energy program would be convenient, competitive and sustainable, and in fact is likely to be necessary for the energy demands of Chile from 2024.

Dr. Eduardo Cruz Coke

The nuclear energy in Chile appears for the first time in 1964 with the approach of the project carried out by Dr. Cruz-Coke.

Chilean Nuclear Energy Commission

The most important organization in Chile is the CCHEN (Chilean Nuclear Energy Commission) that is responsible for everything that is related to the peaceful use of nuclear energy. (Since initially nuclear energy was used for war purposes).

The CCHEN, has two nuclear reactors for research, Center for Nuclear Studies of Aguirre and La Reina. All applications related to nuclear energy are carried out in this center. In addition, CCHEN carries out activities related to the training of Chilean professionals and students in the field of nuclear energy.

History of CCHEN

After the 1955 United States published information on nuclear matters, Dr. Eduardo Cruz-Coke Lassabe (an important Chilean doctor and politician), thought that nuclear power would be very important for Chile. What caused that in the Senate of Chile proposed the creation of an institution that regulated the aspects related to nuclear energy. Ten years later, the National Nuclear Energy Commission (CNEN) was created.

Cruz-Coke presented important projects, among them is the construction of the first Nuclear Power Plant in charge of CCHEN and Endesa. Although in spite of the initial enthusiasm, governments preferred to avoid risks with such an expensive project with such a long-term performance. On the other hand, there has been regulation in Chile on aspects related to nuclear energy.

Development of nuclear energy in Chile

In Chile there are 3 stages in nuclear development:

  • The technological exploration between 1955 and 1964.
  • Technological research between 1964 and 1974
  • The experimental level from 1983 onwards.

Technological exploration of nuclear energy in Chile (1955-1964)

The first thing was to send scientists and officials to study the progress and technology of nuclear energy in other countries. Meanwhile, Chile joined the CIEN (Inter-American Commission on Nuclear Energy), which was created for the cooperation of the states of that commission with the peaceful use of nuclear energy. This was in 1959, the same year in which Chile signed other agreements with the US to provide support in relation to nuclear energy research and another was the Antarctic Treaty, which, among other things, prohibited nuclear explosions and the elimination of nuclear power. of radioactive waste in this territory.

A year later, in 1960, Chile became a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

In 1962, work began on the clinical use of radioisotopes.

In 1963 the treaty of partial prohibition of atmospheric tests was signed. That same year Chile was elected the State of the IAEA representing Latin America.

Finally, on April 16, 1964, Dr. Eduardo Cruz-Coke managed to make his first project come true: the National Nuclear Energy Commission (CNEN) was created, of which he was its first president.

Technological research (1964-1974)

This was characterized by the formation of plans, creation of infrastructure, signing of technical assistance agreements, creation of advisory committees in various areas, recruitment of Chilean or foreign professionals to devote to the development of nuclear energy in Chile.

Among these we highlight the following facts:

Creation of the Chilean Nuclear Energy Commission

In 1965, the Chilean Nuclear Energy Commission was created as a continuation of the previous commission. It was created as an autonomous administration body of the state with the aim of addressing the problems related to the production, acquisition, transfer, transport and peaceful use of atomic energy and fissile and radioactive materials.

The most important mission of CCHEN was to propose the bill for the Nuclear Energy Commission. The respective law was put into practice on October 23, 1965.

In 1966, the University of Californa donated a cyclotron to the University of Chile. This donation was very important for the research and training of national physicists in the nuclear area.

CCHEN also sponsored projects of Chilean universities on topics such as medicine, agriculture, chemistry, among others.

Creation of the Nuclear Studies Center "Central la Reina"

In 1966, the creation of a Nuclear Studies Center "Central la Reina" stands out. In this year there were around 120 professionals working in 29 groups of teacher researchers who worked in nuclear aspects of medicine, physics, biochemistry, physiology, pharmacology, veterinary science, pure science, etc.

Measurement of environmental radioactivity

The Department of Physics of the Faculty of Physical and Mathematical Sciences of the University of Chile carried out that year the first measurements of air radioactivity, in the islands of Pascua and Juan Fernández. Later, CCHEN determined a national program to measure environmental radioactivity with the help of the National Health Service, the University of Chile, the Chilean Air Force and the Federico Santa María Technical University.

Also in 1966 Chile signed an agreement with different countries and International Organizations on peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

At the end of 1968, the La Reina Nuclear Studies Center was created. As of 1968, radiological control of milk and grass was made. In July 1969, the environmental radioactivity laboratory was transferred to CEN La Reina.

In 1970 the first building of CEN La Reina was finished. The first laboratories to be qualified were those of nuclear applications related to nuclear energy in industry, agriculture and hydrology and personnel dosimetry.

Experimental nuclear reatrot In 1972 Chile signed an agreement with Spain for collaboration in the research of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. This agreement led to the participation of the Nuclear Energy Board of Spain at the beginning of the work of the Nuclear Studies Center of Lo Aguirre.

In 1973, CCHEN created the Institute of Nuclear Medicine (IMN) and the Center for Nuclear Studies of the Army (CENE). A year later, the radiomedicine service of CCHEN was launched.

On June 21, 1966, CCHEN received the facilities and projects of the nuclear studies center of the army, with the objective of unifying all the development of nuclear energy in Chile in a single organism.

In 1980 the board of directors gave CCHEN a new orientation. With the aim of giving greater national development, improving security and radioprotection and improving certain operational aspects.

Experimental level since 1983

In 1983 there were laboratories for analysis by activation, uranium analysis by delayed neutron count, neutron diffraction, and x-ray diffraction, x-ray fluorescence, etc.

The "nuclear development plan" is designed with the purpose of carrying out a regulation and technical regulation of nuclear safety and radiation protection, developing an active policy of international relations and setting up facilities at the pilot level in order to develop a future nuclear power plant program. power.

On May 2, 1984, the nuclear safety law was enacted. Which 4 years later passes the control function of the first category radioactive facilities to CCHEN.

A year later the "protocol for the cooperation of the peaceful uses of nuclear energy" was signed with the China Nuclear Corporation.

In 1994, Chile signed the convention on nuclear safety in Vienna.

In 1995 Chile became part of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

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Last review: April 30, 2019