Argentine Nuclear Leader Tells Bolivians: Only the Most Audacious Projects Are Successful
August 23, 2014 • 9:52PM

Beyond its economic benefits, mastering nuclear energy lays a foundation for the true independence of a nation, and establishes a cadre of people prepared to master complex problems of all kinds, Leonardo Sobehart, head of New Business for the Nuclear Projects Division of Argentina's high-technology company, INVAP, told Bolivia's "Reporte Energia" magazine.

Sobehart was interviewed prepatory to the discussion on nuclear energy which took place during the August 20-21 VII International Oil and Gas Congress in Bolivia, where Bolivian Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linares argued that nuclear energy was the "fire" of the 20th and 21st centuries, which Bolivia had to master. Sobehart also spoke at that congress.

Bolivia's Government has committed the country to mastering and using this technology, but the task of organizing the nation to carry this out has just begun. Soberhart was clear that the decisions on how fast to move, or how to structure such a program in Bolivia, are not his to make, but he offered valuable insights on the approach required to succeed, citing the spirit which guided Argentina and the United States under JFK.

"Bringing people closer to science is the biggest challenge. How to accomplish this, is the job of political leadership," Sobehart said, pointing to JFK's setting the goal of putting a man on the Moon as an example of how such a mission can mobilize the whole of society.

"It is the statesmen who find the mobilizing project" for their nations, he said. "Developing technology is a long and difficult road which requires determination and perseverance, since new challenges must constantly be faced. But the benefits over the medium and long term, in improvement of the quality of life of the population and the independence of a nation, are undeniable.

"It is a matter of developing an ability of one's own to resolve ever more complex social problems. This can only be achieved through an unequivocal committment by the political leadership of a country, knowing that they will see only part of the process which they begin. But it is certain that the Nation will end up enjoying its fruits.

"What is most difficult, is to chose the different problems to resolve. If the challenge is not sufficiently ambitious, there will not be any real advance in capability..." Sobehart emphasized that nuclear energy, and science generally, are an instrument of political and economic independence. People should not

"mistake science and technology as an instrument of colonization, but exactly the opposite, an instrument of independence."

To the question of what Argentina has learned from the process of developing nuclear energy, Sobehart answered:

"nuclear energy in Argentina has not only contributed to satisfying the basic necessities of the population in energy, health care, industry, agriculture, mining and security, but it also generated a synergetic effect on the development of the country's educational, scientific, technological and industrial infrastructure.

"After more than six decades of continual effort, nuclear activity has also become a fundamental pillar of the country's capability to export high value-added goods and services, which has sustained and provided a model for other branches of knowledge, such as aerospace.

"Argentina has a redundant capability to design, construct and operate safely any installations of the nuclear fuel cycle...

"Currently our greatest challenge is, perhaps, to finish construction of the nuclear power plant we designed, test it, and finally add it to the gamut of our products. It is a challenge which we undertook more than 20 years ago, but today we are close to achieving it."