• Nation's sole nuclear plant could double with new investment
  • Energy ministry, CFE studying viability of more atomic power

A Mexican senator is preparing legislation that would pave the way for expansion of the nation’s only nuclear power plant as part of its drive toward developing more clean energy.

The bill is meant to encourage additional investment in the nuclear sector, beginning with the Laguna Verde plant in the state of Veracruz in eastern Mexico, said author Jose Luis Lavalle, a senator in the National Action Party. Laguna Verde has two working reactors, but was designed for four with a capacity to generate 1,510-megawatts of electricity, according to the Comision Federal de Electricidad, or CFE.

The nuclear effort follows Mexico’s move to build up its oil and natural gas industry by inviting investment from foreign companies. The government set a mandate in 2012 to get 35 percent of the country’s energy from non-fossil fuel sources by 2024, up from 21 percent now.

“The debate over nuclear energy in our country has dragged on and been delayed for many years,” Lavalle said in an interview. Two new reactors could generate as much as 3,000-megawatts of additional power, he said. “By denying ourselves from entering this debate, we deny Mexicans the ability to receive energy from an available source.”

Creating Investment

Lavalle, who sits on the senate energy committee, said his bill could be presented to the senate as soon as February, during the next legislative session. The legislation is still a work in progress and Lavalle didn’t provide details about what he’ll be proposing. But he said he wants his plan to create incentives for investment "where we can create wealth opportunities for the country.”

Adding two nuclear units to Laguna Verde plant is “a topic that needs further analysis and discussion,” said Enrique Ochoa, the chief executive officer of CFE, Mexico’s government-owned electricity company, in a May interview. The atomic plant in Veracruz is a good example of clean and safe nuclear energy production, Ochoa said.

The U.S. would be supportive if Mexico decides to pursue further nuclear power generation, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, a nuclear physicist, said in a May interview in Merida, Mexico. Both nuclear and renewable sources are efficient long-term options for clean-energy generation, Moniz said.

Lavalle is working on revisions to the draft of his legislation to “hear all the voices that want to participate” in the nuclear power debate, he said. The senator hopes to gain the support of lawmakers on the energy committee before he presents the bill in the legislative session early next year, he said.

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