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Cuba's Abandoned Nuclear City

And the People Who Call It Home

Cuba's aging and abandoned nuclear power plant in Cienfuegos. Darmon Richter

In 1976, at the height of the Cold War, the Soviet Union drew up blueprints for a twin reactor nuclear plant to be built at Juragua, a site just west of Cienfuegos Bay, on the southern coast of Cuba. When completed, the facility would revolutionize the island’s shoddy electric power grid—with just one reactor capable of meeting 15 percent of the country’s energy needs. It would also reduce dependence on expensive oil imports, while creating thousands of new jobs for the country. In order to see this dream realized, a small city was to be six miles from the plant—it would feature 4,200 homes intended for the families of construction workers, scientists, engineers, technicians, and the nuclear specialists flown in from Moscow to oversee the project. The city, which became known as Ciudad Nuclear, or Nuclear City, officially opened on October 13, 1982.

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Although the project held much

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