Nuclear Power and Mexico's Energy Autonomy

Juan Jazo
February 28, 2019

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2018


Fig. 1: Photo of the Laguna Verde Power Station. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The Mexican energy sector is an unlikely candidate for the widespread adoption of nuclear energy for a number of reasons. Mexico's large oil reserves have long eliminated the need for the development of alternate energy programs, and unfortunately, this has led to dependence on fossil fuels as well as unchecked air pollution choking many of the countries cities and industrial centers. However, this may soon change as critical policy changes have created increased incentives for investment in clean energy. Due to a desire at the political level to make Mexico's energy sector more robust and reduce harmful carbon emissions, Mexico passed the Energy Transition Law in 2015, which set aggressive targets for increasing Mexico's clean energy production. [1] The law outlines percentages of total energy production that is to come from low-carbon energy sources like wind, solar, and nuclear power production, setting ambitious goals like 35% of total energy production coming from these sources by 2024. [1] This climate lays an exceptionally appropriate foundation for increasing development of Mexico's nuclear energy sector, which currently only has a single nuclear reactor in operation (see Fig. 1) at the Laguna-Verde Power Station in Veracruz, MX.

Brief History of Nuclear Energy in Mexico

Nuclear power is not a predominant supplier of energy in Latin America and the adoption of nuclear technology in Mexico has been slow. [2] The country has just two nuclear reactors which are located at the Laguna Verde Power Station off the coast of Veracruz, Mexico. [3] The plant began operating in 1995, and each reactor currently produces approximately 682 MW of electricity, accounting for 4% of Mexico's total energy generation and providing energy to around 4 million people a year. [2] Although nuclear energy has not had a historic presence in Mexico, the Laguna Verde Power Station provides a successful example of how nuclear energy can be a candidate for powering Mexico in coming decades.

Future of Nuclear Development

Mexico's reliance on fossil fuels poses a threat to the countries economic stability, and consequentially, policy changes throughout the last decade reflect this desire to diversify the countries energy portfolio. The countries government has clearly defined its goals pushing for renewable energy in the aforementioned Energy Transition Act of 2015 and nuclear energy is considered to be a competitive fuel source moving forward. [3] Nuclear energy is also attractive because it is not subject to the same volatility affecting fossil fuel prices, which is a reason nuclear power has been included in Mexico's National Electric System Development Program (NESDP). [3] Recently, the Mexican government has been considering adding additional reactors the Laguna Verde power station, which would help expand Mexico's nuclear capacity and bring more clean energy to people around the country. [4] Ultimately, economic incentives are the primary forces behind energy policy and at the moment natural gas and coal plants are cheap and reliable options for powering Mexico, which explains nuclear energy's slow growth. However, with Mexicos new energy and emission initiatives, the groundwork has been set for nuclear energy to soon become an integral element in powering the country.

© Juan Jazo. The author warrants that the work is the author's own and that Stanford University provided no input other than typesetting and referencing guidelines. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] "Ley de Transición Energética," Diario Oficial de la Federación, 24 Dec 15. [Executive Order that Enacts the Energy Transition Act, published in the Federal Gazette of December 24, 2015].

[2] S. Squassoni, "Nuclear: Latin American Revival," America's Quarterly (Winter 2009).

[3] "2016 Top Markets Report, Civil Nuclear, Country Case Study: Mexico," U.S. International Trade Administration, 2016.

[4] A. Barrera, "Mexico Eyes Construction of Two New Nuclear Reactors - Official," Reuters, 24 Sep 15.