News

18
Apr

Brazilian government committed to nuclear, says energy minister

Brazil’s national energy plan to 2050 will consider new nuclear power plants including generation IV technology and small modular reactors to meet growing national electricity demand, Minister for Mines and Energy Bento Albuquerque said yesterday.

The Brazilian government is “strongly committed” to resuming the Angra 3 project, which will play an “important role” in the country’s future electricity system, the minister said at a high-level meeting alongside the World Nuclear Spotlight Brazil conference in Rio de Janeiro. The project will assure baseload security of supply for an interconnected grid of continental dimensions, he added.

Brazil’s National Energy Plan 2050 (PNE 2050), to be made public by the end of the year, will consider new nuclear power plants for baseload generation. Brazil has a large installed hydro power capacity – in 2016, this accounted for 66% of its gross electricity production, according to World Nuclear Association – but this will not be enough to assure baseload generation and security of supply in the face of growing electricity demand and a growing renewable energy capacity, he said.

In the period 2020-2030, Brazil would consider “existing technologies”, but advanced technologies such as Generation IV and SMRs must be considered in the period from 2040 to 2050, he said.

Brazil has been involved in programmes to develop new-generation reactor designs and systems, including the Generation IV International Forum and the International Atomic Energy Agency International Project on Innovative Nuclear Reactors and Fuel Cycles programme. Its National Nuclear Energy Commission (Comissão Nacional de Energia Nuclear, CNEN) is also involved with Westinghouse in developing the IRIS modular reactor, according to World Nuclear Association.

As a country with both large uranium reserves and developed technology to process this into nuclear fuel, Albuquerque said it would be “unreasonable” for Brazil not to take part in the nuclear fuel market as a supplier. He said he believed the country could generate finance to invest in increasing its national enrichment capacity and, consequently, creating new export opportunities for other stages of the fuel cycle.

“For this, we need to establish a new business for uranium mining and milling that considers public-private partnerships, similar to the models under consideration for Angra 3,” he said.

First concrete was poured for Angra 3 – a 1405 MWe (gross) pressurised water reactor – in 2010, resuming a project that had first begun in the 1980s before a lengthy suspension. The project was again suspended in mid-2015. Two nuclear power plants – Angra 1 and 2 – supply about 3% of Brazil’s electricity.

Albuquerque said the progress of Angra 3 would depend on a “complex process” of decisions which was already under way. Nuclear construction and operation company Eletronuclear, which is a subsidiary of the government-owned Eletrobras electric utilities company, this week started a market consultation to define a business model more attractive to partnerships between the Brazilian company and international nuclear industry players, he said. Commercial operation of Angra 3 in 2026 is the objective, he said, adding, “We are working hard and with determination for the necessary structural reforms to be made.”

Reforms would attract new opportunities for long-term investments and allow the creation of a “virtuous cycle” for the economy. This would generate confidence in to open the Brazilian market to foreign trade and encourage competition, productivity and effectiveness, he said. All productive sectors would benefit from a business environment with less regulation and bureaucracy, he added.

“We know the challenges ahead are enormous,. However, we are also sure that we have the will, the means and the courage to overcome these obstacles. The Brazilian government is committed, body and soul, to carry out the necessary reforms that will show our capacities and enable the country to start a new sustainable chapter in the development of its history.”