Brazil looks to new nuclear build

18 May 2007

The Brazilian government is planning to approve the construction of up to eight new nuclear power plants by 2030. The government is also likely soon to approve the construction of a third reactor at the existing Angra site.


Plans for Angra 3 could be approved at a meeting of the National Energy Policy Council in June, and Odair Goncalves, head of the government's nuclear energy commission, is confident that the plant will get the go-ahead despite opposition from Environment Minister Marina da Silva. Angra 3 was originally planned as a twin unit to Angra 2, a 1270 MWe pressurised water reactor (PWR) which started up in 2000. Parts for the reactor had been purchased before the project was frozen due to a lack of funds, and over 70% of the equipment is already on site. It is estimated that the project will cost $3.5 billion to complete.


Speaking during a conference at the country's development bank in Rio de Janeiro, Marcio Zimmermann, planning secretary at the country's Energy Ministry, told reporters that the nuclear option will become more likely if environmental objections delay the construction of large hydroelectric power projects. "While we will continue to be dominated by hydroelectric power, nuclear offers good alternatives at good costs. We cannot avoid it," he is reported as saying. Each of the planned units would have a capacity of "about 1000 megawatts" and cost about $2.3 billion, according to Zimmermann.


Hydroelectricity currently accounts for over 80% of Brazilian electricity generation but droughts can cause power shortages. The country is already co-owner, with Paraguay, of the world's largest operating hydroelectric power complex, the 12,600 MW Itaipu Dam on the Paraguayan border. However, plans to build further major dams on tributaries of the Amazon are fraught with controversy.


The country's two operating nuclear power units at Angra have a combined generating capacity of 1896 MW and provide about 3% of its electricity. Brazil has its own uranium resources and has been mining uranium for use in its power plants since 1982. It opened the first stage of its own uranium enrichment facility at Resende in 2006 and also has its own fuel fabrication plant.


Further information


Industrias Nucleares do Brasil (INB)


WNA's Nuclear Power in Brazil information paper