October 30, 1997 in Nation/World

Cuban N-Plant ‘Time Bomb’ Puts U.S. At Risk, Says Journalist

Eric Rosenbreg Hearst Newspapers
 

A Cuban nuclear reactor complex is so plagued by safety flaws that it poses a serious environmental risk to the United States, a Cuban journalist who toured the closely guarded facility said Tuesday.

Olance Nogueras, formerly a reporter with the Independent Press Bureau of Cuba who fled to the United States in August, told a news conference that the nuclear power plant “is a first-grade threat to the national security of the United States.”

The complex, he said through an interpreter, “is a time bomb.” It is located on Cuba’s southern coast about 180 miles from the Florida Keys.

Nogueras based his assessment of the two-reactor complex on firsthand tours, interviews with plant technicians and internal reports by a Russian company overseeing construction.

U.S. agencies, including the Energy Department, also have expressed concern about the safety of the reactors and the potential for radioactive contamination to reach the United States in the event of an accident.

Nogueras said more than half of the materials used to build Cuba’s first civilian nuclear reactor, ranging from valves to the crucial emergency cooling system, are defective.

The reactor containment walls - an essential safety feature - in the Juragua nuclear complex are built well below international standards, he said.

Nogueras was jailed 21 times by Cuban authorities for his articles on the power plants, said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., who sponsored the news conference.

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