by CHRIS GRAEME [email protected]
Portugal must introduce nuclear energy to reduce its crippling dependence on imported fossil fuels.
That is the controversial opinion of millionaire Portuguese businessman Patrick Monteiro de Barros, who addressed the American Club last week.
He said the recent sale by the State of 21% of Energias de Portugal’s (EDP) capital to the Chinese energy supplier Three Gorges for €2.7 billion hadn’t been enough to pay the country’s electrical energy financial deficit which had steadily accumulated since 2005.
Blaming the “ruinous energy policies” of the PS government of José Sócrates, he said nuclear energy was the only way to reduce Portugal’s energy bills by creating competition between producers with the goal of reducing the cost of the mix while benefitting the consumer who had been “the main victim of former Government policies”.
“The reduction in the cost of our energy is vital in order to make the country competitive and enable our economic recovery and is one of the recommendations of the ‘troika’,” he said.
Patrick Monteiro de Barros, the man behind Europe’s largest independent oil refinery company, Petroplus, and one of the richest men in Portugal said that the country needed to “renegotiate its renewable energy contracts, namely wind energy as was done in Spain so as to “stem the relentless haemorrhage of the cost deficit”.
“The crisis has to be equally painful for all, we can’t be cutting Christmas and holiday subsidies while at the same time maintaining hallucinating charges,” he said.
The oil refining tycoon then called on a widely participated democratic debate and serious and objective information campaign.
“The Portuguese should have the possibility to make their opinions felt on a subject that is so important to the country,” he added.
Apart from its competitive cost, nuclear energy was, for Europe, an alternative to natural gas from Russia and oil from Algeria and Nigeria, which always “presented a political risk”.
“I have affirmed that nuclear energy is indispensable for Portugal as we are one of the countries with the greatest dependence on imported fossil fuels while we are surrounded on the Iberian Peninsula with Spanish energy players a lot bigger than ours and who use nuclear energy,” he said.
“We, therefore, suggest a study and licence for a nuclear power station in Portugal.”
The magnate then slammed the last PS government for “immediately refusing to analyse the matter by making sure that nuclear energy wasn’t even in the Government’s policies”.
Portugal’s energy strategy had been designed by Eduardo Oliveira Fernandes and Carlos Pimenta, both strong defenders of renewable energy and fierce opponents of nuclear power because it was “a source of very competitive energy”.
But he said that Portugal’s continued investment in eolic energy and hydro-electric dams was “costly, created increasing losses and provided intermittent power”.
Yet it was perfectly feasible for Portugal to build at least one 1,600 MW nuclear power station with an option for a second one, in a series of locations at favourable costs, adding to the fact that Portugal has uranium in sufficient quantities to supply a nuclear station for at least 60 years.
Patrick Monteiro de Barros said that Portugal needed to “break its taboos surrounding nuclear energy” and pointed to a poll carried out by the newspaper Expresso, which revealed a “majority favourable to the construction of a nuclear power station” five years ago.
He argued that renewable energy was still “substantially costlier than fossil fuels” and pointed out that nuclear energy was a source of power which was “constant, competitive, clean and safe”.
“As to safety, one should remember that there has not been in the western world one death to date as a result of a nuclear accident.” *
Instead he argued that Chernobyl in the Ukraine was the result of errors that “only could have happened under Communism in the former Soviet Union”.
“Of course we need to talk about Fukishima and the lessons should be learnt and applied to improve safety levels even more,” he said, adding that “nuclear safety today was the best and safest of all energy forms produced.”
“Countries like China and India had already confirmed they were taking lessons from the Japanese disaster but were not going to abandon their nuclear power programmes,” he said.
*Questionable given the size of the Chernobyl accident in the Ukraine in the 1980s, which was undoubtedly responsible for many deaths from cancer-related illnesses.
Do you have a view on this subject? Please email Editor Inês Lopes at [email protected]
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