Laguna Verde is the largest nuclear power generating facility in Mexico. It includes two nuclear power plants (Laguna Verde and Laguna Verde II), of 805 MW each.
The construction of the first plant began in 1976 and started operating in 1990, while the construction of the second one started in 1977 and was connected to the electric grid in 1995.
Since the beginning of its operation, there were protest of several civil society organisations, especially the group 'Madres veracruzanas'. Their claim has always been that the presence of the plant entails potentially a negative environmental risk and that it operates with poor security standards, and therefore it constitutes a risk for the surrounding population centres.
In 1987 up to 10 000 people demonstrated against the project.
With Chernobyl in mind (1986) the community did not want to take the risk.
Laguna Verde has been polemical since before it was built. As Carlos Navarro reports, the threat of a nuclear mishap in Mexico ignited again a debate in 2011 on whether the Mexican government should proceed with plans to expand the capacity of the Laguna Verde nuclear power plant. The plant, property of the state-run electric utility Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE), operates two boiling-water reactors fueled with enriched uranium and provides 3% to 4% of Mexico’s total electricity needs.
The Fukushima disaster prompted a group of environmental organizations, led by Greenpeace México, to demand that the government abandon nuclear power altogether. Opinions in the Mexican Congress are mixed. The governments have been fully confident in the Laguna Verde facility because it has been certified by Mexico’s Comisión Nacional de Seguridad Nuclear y Salvaguardas (CNSNS). The CNSNS awarded operating licenses to the first reactor in 1990 and to the second in 1995. There are no immediate plans to construct any new facilities. Authorities point out that he Laguna Verde plant--located along a federal coastal highway in the community of Alto Lucero de Gutiérrez Barrios —-is in a relatively low-risk area, compared to Fukushima. Still, Veracruz is not immune to earthquakes, as the state was shaken by a magnitude 5.7 earthquake in February of 2011. The plant in Veracruz does face the risk of hurricanes, which would bring high winds and flooding.
The CNSNS admits that operators of the Laguna Verde facility had to suspend operations 37 times between 2000 and 2007 and at other times since then, because of minor emergencies at the facility. The CNSNS implemented stricter inspection and training requirements after the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) released an audit in 1999 that discovered a high number of safe shutdowns of the reactor that weakened the operating systems. The review also cited inadequate personnel training, poor management practices, and obsolete equipment.
Bernardo Salas Mar, a physics expert at the UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico), pointed out that an electrical fault created a situation where Reactor Number 2 was at risk of a meltdown. Salas was fired from Laguna Verde for reporting irregularities at the plant. The UNAM physicist said he worries that, even without an accident, the nearby population is being exposed to excessive radioactivity. Leaders of communities in Veracruz are also worried and assert that there have been excessive cases of cancer.
Environmental groups like Greenpeace México, have made no secret of their opposition to the plant. A group of local organizations --including Grupo Antinuclear de Madres Veracruzanas which was founded in 1987 and La Asamblea Veracruzana de Iniciativas y Defensa Ambiental (LAVIDA)-- demand the closure of Laguna Verde.