Nuclear energy and dams, two faces of the same nonsense

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If they approve the Castilla coal-fired energy plant, it’s a sign that the government gives priority to big projects regardless of whether they contaminate the environment. It could not be better for HydroAysen and Energia Austral.

If they reject the Barrancones coal-fired energy plant, it will mean less energy for Chile which will make more imperious the big projects for lack of electricity. It could not be better for HydroAysen and Energia Austral.

If they cut the lights in the Central Interconnected System, it is a sign that we lack energy. It could not be better for HydroAysen and Energia Austral.
If they do not cut the lights in the Central Interconnected System, it is a sign the energy conglomerates are trustworthy. It could not be better for HydroAysen and Energia Austral.
If Chile’s minister of mining and energy travels to Europe to witness the possibilities of nuclear energy, it is clear that they want to develop those types of projects, even though the majority of the population will reject it. It could not be better for HydroAysen and Energia Austral.

If the nuclear emergency in Japan makes us doubt in these type of generators in Chile, it means less energy for Chile, and the analysis is the same as that of Castilla. It could not be better for HydroAysen and Energia Austral.
For more than five years, this country has known the pros and cons of dam projects in Chilean Patagonia,  and the región Aysen, and it is noted that at every turn, each player tries to bring water to his own mill.

This is the story for those who want, at all costs, to build the five hydroelectric dams of Endesa and Colbun in the southern rivers of Baker and Pascua, and what Xstrata wants for the Cuervo River. Those people, when today we are in doubt of bringing nuclear plants to Chile, now decide that there is no other option but to build the dams.

But those who express this idea do not seem to understand the true message that the planet is giving us with what happened on the other side of the Pacific. They do not seem to understand that the lessons go much further than more thermoelectric energy, less nuclear power, more dams over here, projects with high impact over there.  
At the root of the problem is the nonsense of betting on energy options that implicate the highest risks for the ecosystems and our daily lives. The mega projects that essentially serve those who get rich with their construction and operation, are not the workers who make these projects possible. These big construction projects want to place human genius above nature, even as it is nature that defines the what, when and how.
For example, do they think of the Chaiten volcano, near which Transelec wants to build its high tension electric line? Do they think of Lake Cachet 2 and the 200 million cubic meters of water that it deposits into the Colonia and Baker rivers, exactly where HydroAysen wants to build the Baker dam 2? Do they think of the Aysen fjord or the the fault line Liquiñe-Ofqui on which Energía Austral intends to build the Cuervo dam?
In the case of nuclear energy, the dilemma is not only environmental, but ethical. A specialist recently rightly asked: “is it ethical, or just, to saddle for 24,000 years, more than 600 generations of human beings, with the care of nuclear waste that will be produced for our supposed benefit? And taking the argument to Patagonia, is it ethical or just for future generations of Chileans to inflict on a territory as beautiful as Aysen so much damage with reservoirs, garbage dumps, and electric towers? Is it fair to pass on to future Chileans the fear that at any moment millions of cubic metres of water could crash into their lands and their lives for the business interests of a few? Is it fair to Caleta Tortel, which already faces dangerous glacial floods on the Baker River from Lake Cachet 2?
If one thing is clear, it’s that dams are not reversible. They are built forever. In other words, this decision is irreversible, as the ex-Chilean minister of the environment, Ana Lya Uriarte, told reporters last week.

What we are looking for is sustainability -- to not mortgage the future of our children for our supposed necessities of today. I say supposed necessities because there do exist alternatives which are clean, secure, Chilean and democratic. (Yes, the control of energy is an issue of democracy). The interested parties omit studies and potential risks because they do not want to tell us what will be part of the new reality. This is about a simple “don’t do unto another generation that which you would not want done unto yourself."
Patricio Segura is director of communications for Aisen Reserva de Vida Coalition


Some of are guest columnists have so far included
  • Andres Gillmore, director of Corporación Costa Carrera 
  • Amanda Maxwell, Latin America Advocate, National Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
  • Lucas Chiappe, coordinator of Proyecto Lemu, El Bolson, Argentina
  • Damien Gillis, a documentary filmmaker from Vancouver, Canada
  • Jorge Moller, Chilean representative to the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC)
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