Will the Juragua Nuclear Power Station be Completed?

Additional countries with the potential to have nuclear programs in place by 2015 are Cuba, Iran, and Turkey.(1)

  --Energy Information Administration

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) analyzes current and historical energy supply and demand, both domestic and international. EIA does not advocate policy. For that reason, the issue of whether or not the Juragua Nuclear Power Station should be built is outside the scope of this Agency. This section focuses on whether or not the Juragua Nuclear Power Station will be built, and its potential impact on nuclear generation. 

Even with the focus narrowed, the task is complicated by the abundance of possible interpretations of the sparse data. For example, it is not known how much of the work remains to be done. In 1996, Carlos Fernandez de Cossio, an official in the Cuban Ministry, stated in an interview that “the first reactor is almost done.”(2) In 1998, a trade journal estimated that work on the plant was 75 percent complete.(3) If these estimates are accurate, why were Cuba and Russia seeking foreign investors? 

Percentages, even if accurate, can be misleading. Of greater significance than the 75 percent or more completed is the issue of what is included in the remaining 25 percent or less to be done? The U.S. General Accounting Office estimates that although as much as 97 percent of the civil works on the first reactor are complete, less than half (37 percent) of the equipment for unit 1 has been installed. Touring the plant in 1995, Ed Rabel, a reporter for NBC News, stated, “the Cubans believe finishing the plant will cost slightly more than $300 million, most of it to outfit this now empty control room.” 

EIA projected three scenarios for Cuba’s nuclear program. Only one of the scenarios, the high case, anticipates nuclear power in Cuba by 2020. The high case assumes that (1) Russia and/or a third party provides sufficient funds and technology to complete the project, (2) Cuba is unable to find alternatives to nuclear power that are available in sufficient quantities and at an affordable cost, (3) international political and economic pressure is not sufficient to derail the project, (4) foreign participation continues in training of Cuban staff and in aspects of the nuclear program that involve health, safety, and protecting the environment, (5) that Cuba is able to obtain sufficient nuclear fuel, and (6) that no new unanticipated obstacles arise.  While none of these factors is an absolute certainty, all are within the realm of possibility and some may be within the realm of probability. Under this scenario, Juragua 1 would come on line in 2006 and Juragua 2 in 2015. If either or both units become operational, it is highly unlikely that this will lead to a nuclear plant “building boom” in the Caribbean or anywhere else. However, it may have a significant impact on the Russian nuclear industry. 

Russia has pledged to honor contract commitments made under the former Soviet Union. A theory has been advanced that this is just a graceful way of abandoning the plant, and that the best the Cuban President can hope for is to use it to get economic concessions in exchange for not building it. There is no way to prove or disprove this contention, but it seems unlikely. If President Castro were to use Juragua as a "bargaining chip" to obtain cheap (or free) oil in exchange for a pledge to abandon the Juragua project, it may work to Cuba’s advantage but it will greatly hamper Russia in any attempts to expand its nuclear market. Newer Russian reactors reflect some of the lessons learned from Chernobyl and from the West. In the very small, very competitive nuclear market, an abandoned power plant in the Cuban jungle would not go unnoticed by a potential buyer.  Two decades have passed since the Soviet Union signed an agreement to build them. Whatever the future holds, Juragua's twin reactors currently are: 

  • the only commercial nuclear generating units in the Caribbean
  • the only Soviet-designed nuclear reactors in the western hemisphere
  • the only Model V318 reactor under construction anywhere.
They are the first of their kind; the last of their kind–a link to Cuba’s past and, possibly, a harbinger of its future. On May 14, 1999, Russia and Cuba formed a joint venture to complete the project.(4)  The story of Juragua has at least another chapter. 



1. Energy Information Administration (EIA), Nuclear Power Generation and Fuel Cycle Report 1997, DOE/EIA-0436 (Washington, DC, September 1997).

2. Emling, Shelley, "Cuba Goes Ahead with Nuclear Plant Despite U.S. Objections," Cox News Service, November 25, 1996.

3. Nuclear News (March 1998), p. 41.

4. "Russia, Cuba Plan Nuclear Joint Venture," Nuclear Market Review (May 14, 1999), p. 1.