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Brazil Nuclear Power

Nuclear Power

Nuclear energy provides an interesting chapter in Brazil's energy policy. In the early 1970s, nuclear energy was considered to have great potential, but it failed to develop. In 1975 Brazil signed an agreement with the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) under which that country would supply eight nuclear power reactors and transfer technology for the complete nuclear fuel cycle. A small nuclear power plant--the Angra I, which has a 626-megawatt capacity--was built near Rio de Janeiro, and work was programmed to start on two larger facilities on the same site (the Angra II and III units, which were to have a combined capacity of 3.1 million kilowatts).

The Angra I plant, which has a reactor supplied by Westinghouse Electric Corporation, was completed and trial runs were made in 1982, but reactor defects delayed operations until 1983. Moreover, technical problems allowed the facility to function only intermittently. Regarding the Angra II and III plants, construction was started on the first. However, the fiscal crisis, a slower than anticipated growth in the demand for electricity in the 1980s, the adverse United States reaction to the Brazil-West Germany agreement, and a growing environmental militancy in Brazil led to slowdowns in construction.

In 1985 the agreement with West Germany was revised, and the construction of the other reactors was postponed indefinitely, in part for financial reasons. Moreover, growing fiscal difficulties led to an interruption of construction on Angra II and further postponement of Angra III. In 1988 it was estimated that the completion of the two plants would require $2.8 billion dollars, which was not available. In the early 1990s, there were no indications of when the two facilities would be completed. Despite the delays, the technology transfer clauses of the agreement have been maintained, and Brazil has continued to receive West German nuclear technology.

In 1990 Brazil's uranium reserves were estimated at 301,500 tons, or the equivalent of 2.1 billion tons of petroleum. A yellow-cake (see Glossary) factory and a plant to produce nuclear fuel elements have been completed, and additional processing facilities are under construction or planned. These will allow for the enrichment of uranium and the reprocessing of spent fuel. However, as was the case with the power reactors, lack of resources has slowed down developments in this area. In early 1997, the Brazilian nuclear energy program was being supplied by the only uranium mine operating in Brazil, in Poços de Caldas, Minas Gerais State. That mine is being deactivated and replaced by the Lagoa Real/Caetité Mine in the Caetité District in southwestern Bahia State

Data as of April 1997



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