Cuba disputes U.S. claim that nuclear plant is unsafe
HAVANA (CNN) -- Cuban officials insist a planned nuclear
power plant in Cuba would meet international safety standards and
reject U.S. criticism that the facility is deteriorating and could trigger an
"We don't comment on the nuclear power plants that the United States
has in its territory," said Cuban Vice President Carlos Lage.
The Juragua power station, begun by the Cuban and Soviet governments in
the early 1980s, was abandoned when it ran out of money after the Soviet
However, Russia's Interfax news agency reported last week that Russia and
Cuba reached agreement on a new joint venture to complete the plant,
located on Cuba's southern coast.
U.S. officials have expressed skepticism that the Russians and Cubans can
find the estimated $700 million needed to finish the project.
The plant is based on Soviet technology, but would use a light-water
reactor, rather than the graphite-cooled model built in Chernobyl, Ukraine,
the site of the world's worst nuclear accident.
Some U.S. critics fear the plant's construction is not safe, accusing the
Cubans of constructing a facility riddled with cracks in concrete containment
vessels and substandard welds in critical pipes. They fear an accident could
threaten the United States.
According to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association,
radiation leaks from the Cuban plant could be carried by Caribbean winds
north to Florida and up the eastern seaboard to Washington, D.C., or
possibly west to Texas.
"We certainly don't need another Chernobyl 90 miles away from the
United States," said New Jersey congressman Bob Menendez, who
suggested the United States respond by reducing U.S. aid to Russia by the
same amount Russia invests in the plant.
Cuba said the nuclear plant will meet international requirements and said
government was willing to work with an International Atomic Energy body.
"We have not rejected this. We have excellent relations with those
organizations. We've always worked with them, and not because anyone
asks us to," Lage said.
Havana Bureau Chief Lucia Newman contributed to this report.