Chile musn't fear nuclear energy after Japan: Pinera

Wed Mar 16, 2011 6:55pm GMT
 

* Chile to sign nuclear cooperation agreement with U.S.

* Chile needs to double energy supply in 10 years: Pinera

SANTIAGO, March 16 (Reuters) - Chile should not be afraid of nuclear energy and will sign a cooperation pact with the United States this week despite the fallout from Japan's crisis, President Sebastian Pinera said on Wednesday.

Chile's Foreign Minister Alfredo Moreno is set to sign the nuclear cooperation pact with the U.S. embassy in Santiago on Friday, three days ahead of a visit by President Barack Obama during a Latin American tour.

Japan's nuclear crisis appeared to be spinning out of control on Wednesday as radiation levels surged at a tsunami-battered plant, and some countries have delayed nuclear power decisions. [ID:nL3E7EG2W2].

"Chile needs to learn about nuclear energy," Pinera said after a meeting with the Japanese ambassador in Santiago. "We can't be afraid to learn ... about all sources of energy."

Pinera said Chile needs to double its energy supply in 10 years to cope with rising demand, stressing nuclear energy was one of many options to help boost power output in a land grappling with cyclical energy squeezes.

However, the government stresses that no decision on whether to adopt nuclear power will be made during Pinera's presidency, which ends in 2014, and that it is simply fact-finding.

Chile relies heavily on fuel imports, producing barely any crude of its own and a drought has hit hydroelectric power output. (Reporting by Bianca Frigiani, writing by Juan Lagorio, editing by Simon Gardner and Marguerita Choy)

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