Caribbean madnessPublished by MAC on 2007-03-17
17th March 2007
It wouldn't be the first time that a minerals company has benefitted from a nuclear power plant to fuel one of its operations: Rio Tinto has done so for many years, with the Wyfla nuclear reactor supplying electricity for its Anglesey smelter in north Wales.
However, the idea that a tropical country should go the same way might seem to many as sheer environmental madness.
Nuclear power plant and aluminum smelter planned in Suriname
By Ivan Cairo, Caribbean Net News
17th March 2007
PARAMARIBO, Suriname: Embarking on an ambitious plan, investors are discussing construction of a nuclear power plant and an aluminum smelter in Suriname, officials here have confirmed. Meanwhile, the authorities have started consultations with stakeholders in several sectors of society to determine whether the country is ready to become member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of the United Nations.
In an invited comment, Foreign Affairs Minister Lygia Kraag-Keteldijk noted that the consultation is necessary. "I started discussions with several stakeholders including the different ministries, the business community and others to sound out whether Suriname is ready to become member of the IAEA," said the minister. "I don't want to take the decision all by myself," she added.
According to Suriname's ambassador, Jules Ramlakhan, the authorities have to look into different aspects, including defence, health and environmental issues in order to formulate a policy regarding nuclear energy and technology in Suriname.
According to Bisram Chanderbosh, president of Surinam Industrial Engineering and Vehicle Services, which developed the project, the ground breaking ceremony for the smelter and power plant in Groot-Chatillon is scheduled for August this year. Construction of the facilities will take three years, with an investment of US$3 million from investors in Suriname, the Netherlands, Great Britain and Germany.
"The energy that we will produce is exclusively for industrial purposes and not for common households," said the businessman. Nuclear fuel for the so-called Simplified Gas Cooled Reactor (SGR) will be supplied by companies in Italy, Japan, South Africa, France and China.
Concerns over possible environmental risk are also dealt with, he disclosed. Suppliers will collect the waste every three years, while there would be an advanced monitoring system in place to track delivery of the fuel and collection of the waste.
At the power plant, 1,000 to 1,500 people will be employed, while at the aluminum smelter and other industries, including a ceramics factory and wood processing companies connected to the project, a work force of up to 3,000 will be necessary, said the investor.
The projected aluminum smelter consisting of two units with a capacity of each 250,000 tons per year will produce high voltage cables, ingots and aluminum foil. "If necessary we will import alumina," said Chanderbosch, but his company has already held talks with bauxite mining companies in Suriname to supply alumina.
Currently Belize and Jamaica are the only CARICOM nations that are members of the IAEA. If Suriname join the organisation it will become the 144st member.