By Russ Dallen
Latin American Herald Tribune staff
CARACAS -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez said that his country and Russia intend to build a nuclear reactor in the oil-rich state of Zulia.
"A nuclear reactor, to produce energy for peaceful purposes, will soon be built in the state of Zulia and named in honor of the Venezuelan scientist of the last century Humberto Fernandez Moran," Chavez told supporters in Maracaibo, the capital of Zulia state.
"Brazil has several nuclear reactors, as does Argentina. We will also have our own reactor," the president said.
Chavez, speaking at a campaign event in Venezuela's second largest city said that the contract for the nuclear complex would be among the treaties that will be signed during the visit to Caracas of Russian President Dimitri Medvedev later this month.
Chavez said that the nuclear complex would be called "Humberto Fernandez Moran", to be named after the Zulia-born scientist who developed the Venezuelan Institute of Scientific Research (IVIC) and was responsible for bringing Venezuela's (and Latin America's) first small nuclear reactor from the U.S. in the 1950s. Fernandez Moran was forced to leave the country in 1958 for having collaborated with the military rule of Marcos Perez Jimenez, under whom he was a Minister of Science and Education.
Fernandez Moran contributed to the development of the electron microscope and was the first person to use the concept of cryoultramicrotomy -- superfreezing and slicing ultra-thin samples, for which he also
developed the diamond blade -- for examination under the electron microscope. He also worked on the concept of electronic cryomicroscopy, the use of superconducting lenses of liquid helium in electronic microscopes.
After exiling from Venezuela, Fernandez Moran worked for NASA on the Apollo Project and taught at Harvard, MIT, the University of Chicago and the University of Stockholm.
- Strengthening Ties with Russia
Chavez revealed that Venezuelan and Russian technical teams have already been working on the nuclear project in preparation for Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's visit later this month.
Venezuela has strengthened ties with Russia under Chavez, purchasing more than $4 billion in Russian weapons since 2005. Coinciding with Medvedev's visit to Venezuela and Cuba, a Russian naval task force led by Russia's newest and most powerful nuclear cruiser, Peter the Great, will be off Venezuela for maneuvers, marking the first visits of Russian warships to the region since the end of the Cold War.
- Chavez campaigning intensely for governors and local candidates, especially in Zulia
Chavez made the nuclear announcement in Zulia, where he was campaigning for his candidates for governor and other local offices. On Sunday some 17 million registered voters will go to 11,500 voting centers to elect 22 governors, 328 mayors, and 233 regional legislators -- a total of 603 positions.
It is the fourth time since these local election campaigns began in late August that Chavez has stumped for his candidates in Zulia, in the far northwest of the country. The persistent presence of Chavez in the state is part of the enormous effort he has made to prop up or push the candidates of his political party PSUV.
Zulia is the most important oil producing region in the country, and produces approximately 1.5 million barrels a day, even 80 years after U.S. oil workers drilled the Los Barroso gusher there -- the first major oil find in Venezuela.Click here to watch a video on the life of Venezuelan scientist Humberto Fernandez Moran (pictured above at the electron microscope he helped perfect).
Click here to see President Chavez' June visit to Moscow