High hopes in Brazil

16 September 2008

Angra 3 impression (Eletronuclear)

Angra 3: To be the first of 58 new units? (Image: Eletronuclear)


Brazil's nuclear energy company has submitted a six-reactor plan to government, while ministers talk of building more than one per year until 2050.


Eletronuclear submitted a near-term plan to President Luiz Inácio 'Lula' da Silva last week which said six new reactors of 1000 MWe each were required in addition to the completion of Angra 3.


At present Brazil employs only the two nuclear power units at Angra, giving 1900 MWe, while the completion of the long-stalled Angra 3 would take this to 3120 MWe around 2014.


Looking beyond Angra, Eletronuclear's report said that new sites large enough for six reactors each are to be chosen in the northeast and southeast. The company said the selection process for the northeast site should start next month in order to meet the demands of the National Energy Plan to 2030, which specifies 6000 MWe of nuclear capacity by that date. Eletronuclear projected the completion of the first two northeast reactors in 2019 and 2021, and the southeast ones in 2023 and 2025.


Speaking at the Angra 3 site on 12 September, minister for mines and energy Edison Lobao said four states in the northeast had already expressed interest in hosting a plant: Pernambuco, Alagoas, Sergipe and Bahia.


He went on to say he thought Brazil would need 50 to 60,000 MWe of nuclear capacity by 2050, as compared to the country's current total electricity generating capacity of 100,000 MWe. Achieving that would put Brazil amongst the heaviest users of nuclear power: The current top three are the USA with 100,599 MWe of nuclear capacity; France with 63,643 MWe; and Japan with 47,577 MWe.


Lobao's said his ambitions for the development of nuclear energy would not be hampered by conditions imposed by anti-nuclear environment minister Carlos Minc. The 60 tough conditions Minc recently set for Eletronuclear as requirements for the completion of Angra 3 did not worry Lobao: "There is not a chance that the plant will not be built as a consequence of these requirements," he said, according to Brazzil magazine.


Meanwhile, another development means Lobao's plans for nuclear energy could be further boosted by the time 2050 comes. Brazil has recently gained the support of the European Union for it to join the Iter nuclear fusion project.


The Iter consortium currently consists of China, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea, the USA and the European Union, and is building the world's largest ever fusion reactor at Cadarache in southern France. If experiments at Iter are succesful, it is hoped the first fusion power station - Demo - could begin construction in 2025. After a decade of operation, commercial nuclear fusion power plants could be built by firms from any of the participating nations, which would share the engineering knowledge.