Cuba Abandons Plans For A Controversial Nuclear Plant

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:19 PM EDT

( - Cuba's Castro government has abandoned plans to complete an unfinished and controversial Soviet-designed nuclear power plant in Juragua, in the central Cuban province of Cienfuegos.

Many in the United States had criticized the project because it was seen as a potential security threat, especially to the southern part of Florida.

Cuba's official government media reported that the Castro government gave up on the project because it wasn't "economically viable." Osvaldo Martinez, a senior official of the Cuban National Assembly economic commission told reporters in Havana, "There is no sense in finishing the electro-nuclear plant."

Work on the project began in the early 1980s, but the Castro government stopped the work in 1992 because Moscow could no longer support the project, given the break-up of the Soviet Union. The project consisted of two pressurized water reactors. The first reactor was only partially completed.

Last weekend in a speech, Cuban Leader Fidel Castro said Cuba was now looking at non-nuclear energy initiatives, such as a natural gas powered electricity-generating joint venture with Canada's Sherritt International Corporation.

Castro said this particular venture, which has been operating for a year and uses gas from domestic Cuban oil wells, was more efficient and less expensive than the Juragua nuclear project.

Bush expected to be tough on Cuba

Many Cuba watchers believe there will be fewer cultural exchanges between the Castro government and the United States and more support for Cuban dissidents under a Bush administration.

Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) told the Miami Herald she expects tougher talk toward the Castro government, but, as she put it, "Nobody's saying that if we have a Republican administration in Washington, the Marines are going to be storming the ports of Cuba tomorrow."

Ros-Lehtinen, herself a Cuban exile, does expect the Bush administration to turn back what she called "a trickling, weakening of the U.S. embargo day by day during the Clinton administration."

According to the Miami Herald, Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, a Cuban exile whose South Florida district borders Ros-Lehtinen's, will have some influence on Bush administration Cuba policy.

Most importantly, perhaps, a Cuban exile is expected to be named Wednesday as Bush's secretary of housing and urban development.

Mel Martinez, currently chairman of the Orange County, Florida commission fled Cuba when he was 15 years old. He is a close ally of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, George W. Bush's brother.