30 July 1998

With a single 657 MWe PWR in operation, nuclear power accounts for only 1% of electricitysupplies. After long delays, construction of a 1309 MWe PWR is now again under way for commissioning next year. Brazil has abundant uranium resources and continues to invest heavily in enrichment and fuel fabrication facilities.

Occupying over half the South American continent, Brazil covers an area of about 8.5 million km2 stretching some 4320 km from north of the Equator to below the Tropic of Capricorn and the same distance from east to west. Brazil borders all other South American countries except Chile and Ecuador. Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world, with an economy bigger than China’s and a population (161 million) larger than Russia’s. The population and industrial development are concentrated along the Atlantic coast, particularly in the south east around Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. The capital is Brasilia and the language Portuguese.

The “Federative” Republic of Brazil is composed of a federal district (Brasilia) and 26 states, each of which has its own governor and legislative assembly. The federal president, who leads the executive, and the vice-president are directly elected for four-year terms. Congress consists of an 81 member Senate and a directly-elected 513-member Chamber of Deputies. President Fernando Henrique Cardoso was sworn in in January 1995 and there is a presidential election this October. If there is a change of president this is not expected to lead to any change in the policies on privatisation or nuclear power.

Brazil has historically refused to sign the nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty for domestic political reasons, but the situation has recently changed and Congress has just approved its ratification. Brazil’s nuclear facilities have, however, been under full IAEA safeguards for several years and in 1996 the country became a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

Brazil renounced its secret nuclear weapons programme following the introduction of a new constitution in 1988, and three years later it signed an agreement with Argentina that led to the setting up of the Brazilian-Argentine Agency for the Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials (ABACC). A quadripartite full-scope safeguards agreement signed by Argentine, Brazil, the ABACC and the International Atomic Energy Agency came into force in March 1994, since when regular inspections have been performed on nuclear installations in Brazil by both the IAEA and ABACC.

The Minister for the Navy announced in February 1996 that plans to build a nuclear powered submarine had been suspended, but the navy continues with work on fuel enrichment. The Army and the Air Force have also been reported at various times as taking an interest in building experimental plutonium and fast breeder reactors.


Brazil is well-endowed with many natural resources, including iron ore, bauxite and aluminium, uranium, and water power. There are substantial supplies of oil, which currently meet about half the demand, and small amounts of natural gas. Gas substituting for fuel oil is expected to play an increasing part in electricity generation from 2000. Imports of oil have been slightly reduced by the use of alcohol produced from sugar cane. Coal is mined in the south of the country, but 80% of coal consumption is met from imports.

Only some 20% of the large potential sources of hydroelectric power have been exploited. Unfortunately the main hydro reserves are up to 2500 km from the main load centres; not only does the need to transmit large blocks of energy make these reserves financially and environmentally difficult to develop, but there is opposition to the construction of large dams in remote and sensitive environments (like the rain forests). The geographical mismatch between electricity generation and demand is acute in the state of Rio de Janeiro, which imports some 70% of its electricity from other states. Some of the transmission lines feeding Rio de Janeiro are 1200 km long.


Brazil has ambitious plans for economic development and its mineral resources and abundant supplies of hydro electricity have supported the rapid growth of industry. Economic reforms introduced by President Cardoso in 1995 have revived the economy but put increasing pressure on electricity supplies. Nevertheless, electric power is expected to continue to have an increasingly larger role in meeting final energy demand.

An important part of President Cardoso’s reforms is the introduction of privatisation into an energy sector that has been dominated by state enterprises. Centrally imposed pricing and tariff policy have also led to inadequate returns on investments and a decrease in the reliability of electricity supply. The main thrust of energy policy is aimed at continuing privatisation and the stimulation of competition to attract new investment to the energy sector. The objectives are conservation and the efficient use of energy, expansion of oil production and electricity supply, and the use of renewable energy resources and technical innovation. In nuclear power Brazil remains committed to eventual self-sufficiency in the fuel cycle.


At the end of 1997 the total capacity of generating plant installed in Brazil was 59 247 MWe (53 863 MWe hydro, 4727 MWe thermal and 657 MWe nuclear), almost all of which was then still owned and operated by federal or state-owned companies. Electricity production in 1997 amounted to 288 803 GWh. Just over 95% (274 586 GWh) of this came from hydro stations, including 44 431 GWh from Brazil’s share of Itaipu on the border with Paraguay, which is the world’s largest hydroelectric dam. The balance of electricity produced came from thermal plants (coal (5265 GWh), diesel (3247 GWh), nuclear (3169 GWh), and fuel oil (2532 GWh)) and from wind (4 GWh).

Companies in the federally-owned Eletrobrás group accounted for 43.9% of the electricity produced and state-owned companies for 52.3%; a further 3.4% was provided by privately-owned companies and 0.4% by autoproducers. Tariffs are set by ANEEL, the National Electric Power Agency, which also promotes competition between utilities. ANEEL approval is required before a new power plant, nuclear or conventional, is connected to the grid. The extensive transmission system is in three separate parts; Itaipu is connected to the southern grid by a 6300 MWe hvdc link.

From 1992 to 1997 electricity demand grew by an average 4.7% a year and it is expected to grow by 5.8% a year to 2002. Electricity production is forecast to rise to 346 390 GWh in 2000 and 464 543 GWh in 2007. This will require an increase in installed capacity to 71 467 MWe (hydro 84%, thermal 16%) by 2000 and to 96 220 MWe (hydro 82%, thermal 17%) by 2007. The president of the federal Comissão Nacional de Energia Nuclear (CNEN – National Commission for Nuclear Energy) believes that, allowing eight years for the building of a nuclear power station, “a considerable nuclear construction effort will be needed by the year 2002” to meet part of the demand for additional capacity between 2010 and 2015.


Despite the introduction in 1995 of legislation to promote the privatisation of both federal and state electricity supply companies, the industry continues to be dominated by publicly-owned institutions. The most important of these is Eletrobrás (Centrais Elétricas Brasileiras SA). This holding company, set up by the federal government in 1962, reports to the Ministry of Mines and Energy. Just over 70% of its shares are owned by the federal government and federal institutions and the rest are traded on the stock exchange.

In addition to co-ordinating the activities of the state, municipal and private electricity supply companies, Eletrobrás operates through four generating/transmission companies (Chesf, Eletronorte, Eletrosul and Furnas). It is also responsible for the nuclear stations, which are excluded from the privatisation process.

Privatisation has proceeded more slowly than expected and so far only 14, mainly distribution, companies have been sold off. Future sales include Cesp (in São Paulo state), the country’s largest generator, the generation activities of the Eletrobrás subsidiaries, which should have been floated by the end of this year or in 1999, and 11 more distribution companies. Post-privatisation, Eletrobrás will retain a minority interest in the privatised companies, its 50% interest in Itaipu, and ownership of the nuclear plants. Various new organisations (Sistema Nacional de Transmissão Eletrica (SINTREL), Wholesale Energy Market (MAE) and Independent System Operator (AOS)) are being set up to operate and regulate the market and provide access to the grid system.


At the end of 1997 there was a single 657 MWe PWR, Angra 1, connected to the grid. This unit at Angra dos Reis, on the coast some 150 km southwest of the city of Rio de Janeiro, was ordered by the government on a turn-key contract from Westinghouse in 1971 and entered commercial operation in January 1985. Until the last few years the performance of Angra 1 was erratic. It suffered long outages due to repeated problems with the generator and it was out of service between March 1993 and December 1994 following a fuel failure. Considerable investment is being put into modernising the safety systems and studies are being performed on extending the life of the station.

Angra 1 had a load factor of 55.1% and an availability of 71.1% in 1997 and a lifetime load factor to end-1997 of 24.8%. It has generated 22 TWh (gross) since first power in April 1982. It supplies all its output to Furnas, the local utility and its previous operator, on a fixed contract for 4.3 TWh/year. The contract allows for any shortfall to be made up by electricity supplied by Angra 2.

Under construction on the same site is Angra 2, a 1309 MWe PWR ordered from Siemens-KWU in July 1975 as part of a complex and highly-controversial deal, involving the building of some eight similar units over a period of 15 years along with supporting fuel-cycle facilities. Angra 2 has had a chequered history. Construction was started by the end of 1976 but, due to financing problems, it was essentially suspended between 1988, when the unit was some 60% complete, and 1993, when the then president of the republic ordered its completion.

It was only in April 1995, with a refinancing package and the placing of new contracts, that construction work was resumed in earnest. Some $1.3 billion of new investment was provided by German banks (40%), Furnas Centrais Elatricas, the then operating utility (32%), Eletrobrás (24%) and the state research fund Finep (4%). Foreign companies were not allowed to bid for the new contracts, but could act as sub-contractors to Brazilian firms.

At the end of 1997 around 96% of the engineering, supply and civil work and 60% of the erection work on Angra 2 had been completed. Commissioning is planned to be completed in the second half of 1999. An Angra 2 simulator has been in operation on the site since 1985 and has been used to train operators from other countries (Argentina, Germany, Spain, and Switzerland) with Siemens-KWU reactors.

A third unit, Angra 3, on the same site is included in Eletrobrás’ current 10-year plan. This station is also part of the 1975 deal with Siemens. Construction was started in 1983, but although essentially only preliminary site clearance has been completed, some 60% of the design and engineering work has been done and the main components have been supplied (imported). Studies on its financing are in hand. The commercial contracts with Siemens for the construction of Angra 2 and 3 are still valid and Siemens is actively involved on Angra 2.


In August 1997 responsibility for the operation of Angra 1 and the design and construction of Angra 2 and 3 was entrusted to a new wholly-owned subsidiary of Eletrobrás, called Eletrobrás Termonuclear SA (Eletronuclear). An earlier suggested name was Eletrobas Geração Nuclear SA. Eletronuclear combines the nuclear sections of the utility Furnas and another former Eletrobrás subsidiary, the architect engineer Nuclen Engenharia e Servicos SA (Nuclen). Siemens sold its 25% holding in Nuclen to Eletrobrás when Eletronuclear was formed.

The direction of nuclear policy rests in the hands of the president of the republic. While Eletrobrás reports to the president via the Ministry of Mines and Energy, the other sectors of the nuclear industry (r and d, the fuel cycle and regulation) are the responsibility of CNEN, which reports to the president of the republic via the Secretaria de Assuntos Estrategicos (SAE – Presidential Secretariat for Strategic Affairs).

CNEN was formed in 1956 with headquarters in Rio de Janeiro to define a policy that would make Brazil self-sufficient in nuclear energy “in the near future”. It currently consists of two directorates under a central administration: CNEN/DPD (Diretoria de Pesquisa e Desenvolvimento – Research and Development), which is responsible for the fuel cycle, reactor technology, production and utilisation of radioisotopes, and nuclear physics and chemistry); and CNEN/DRS (Diretoria de Radioproteção Segurança e Licenciamento – Radiation Protection and Safety), which is responsible for radiation protection, and the safety, control and licensing of nuclear power plants and other nuclear installations.

Over the years CNEN has set up four large r and d centres: Instituto de Pesquisas Energaticas e Nucleares (IPEN – Institute for Energy and Nuclear Research) in greater São Paulo; Instituto de Engenharia Nuclear (IEN – Institute for Nuclear Engineering) in Rio de Janeiro; Centro de Desenvolvimento de Technologia (CDTN – Centre for Nuclear Technology Development) at Bel Horizonte, Minas Gerais state; and Instituto de Radioproteção e Dosimetria (IRD – Institute for Radiation Protection and Dosimetry). The first three report to CNEN/DPD and the fourth to CNEN/DRS. There are research reactors at IPEN, IEN and CDTN. As part of a programme of decentralisation a Regional Centre for Nuclear Sciences is being established in Recife to enable the benefits of nuclear medicine to be felt in the north and northeast regions of the country. Considerable work has been done by CNEN research centres on the application of nuclear technologies to agriculture and to environmental problems.

CNEN has two wholly-owned subsidiaries established during the 1988 reorganisation of the industry: Industrias Nucleares do Brasil SA (INB), with headquarters in Rio de Janeiro, is responsible for fuel cycle activities as indicated below; and Equipamentos Pesados SA (Nuclep), which has a facility for the fabrication of heavy equipment for the nuclear programme at Itaguai, on the coast southwest of the city of Rio de Janeiro. Nuclep has technical links with Siemens-KWU, MAN-GHH and Voest-Alpine and received ISO 9001 certification in 1994. With the slow progress of the nuclear programme it has been mainly engaged in non-nuclear fabrication work. Partnerships with foreign companies are being considered.


The CNEN/DRS has based its regulatory requirements on national standards and on the codes and regulations of the International Atomic Energy Authority, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Germany. On Angra 2 it has adopted the German practice of independent inspections. These are performed by representatives of the German TÜV and the Instituto Brasileiro de Qualidade Nuclear. There are five stages in the CNEN licensing process: site approval, construction licence, authorisation to use nuclear materials, preliminary operating licence, and full operating licence. In addition, nuclear installations have to meet the requirements of the Brazilian Institute for the Environment (IBAMA), which was set up in 1989.

Projects currently in the licensing process are Angra 2, the reconversion and pellet facilities at the nuclear fuel fabrication plant at Resende (see below) and the prototype naval propulsion nuclear reactor being developed by the Centro Tecnologico da Marinha em São Paulo (CTSMP – Navy Technology Centre). CTSMP is located alongside IPEN in São Paulo, and also operates the Aramar Demonstration Centre, Iperó, near Sorocaba, São Paulo state. Although the navy has cancelled plans for a nuclear submarine, the prototype reactor is apparently still being considered for possible land-based applications. Studies on the use of 100 to 300 MWe reactors in the northeast of the country have been carried out by the navy with Copesp (Coordenadoria de Estudos Especiais) and the University of Campinas.

The Brazilian Nuclear Programme Co-ordination and Protection Commission consists of representatives from every organisation responsible for the secure operation of nuclear installations. The Commission’s meetings are also attended by representatives from state and municipal governments and from private organisations with an interest in nuclear security. The General Regulations for the Nuclear Programme Protection System have been reviewed and an External Plan for the Angra site prepared. The establishment of the SINEAR (the National System for the Investigation of Radiation Occurrences), which covers the whole of Brazil, makes possible a prompt response to be made to such emergencies.

One of the problems facing the nuclear industry in Brazil is the shortage of skilled workers. Training programmes for the nuclear industry were abolished at the beginning of the 1990s without much consideration being given to the future. A study commissioned by the SAE showed that 53% of people with specialised nuclear training were over 42 and only 8% were under 30 years old. New training programmes are being prepared to encourage students to take up nuclear courses.



Only 25% of the country has been prospected for uranium. The INB estimates the country’s uranium reserves at 310 000 tU and the OECD/NEA puts 162 000 tU (at

New mines being developed on one of the many deposits at Lagoa Real in Bahia state are expected to be in commercial operation by the end of this year. The reserves here are put at 100 000 tU concentrate. The first step will be the operation of two open-pit mines, Cachoeira and Quebradas; the ore will be processed and the uranium extracted using static leaching and solvent extraction. The cost of developing the project has been low, about US$25 million, and according to INB production costs are very competitive with market prices. In the beginning 300 t U3O8/year will be produced, which will satisfy the needs of both Angra 1 and 2. As the geological conditions in the area are very favourable, the reserves can be exploited step-by-step to meet demand. Another large deposit (142 500 tU) associated with phosphatic rocks is at Itataia in Ceará state. Although Rio Cristalino, in northern Para, is a most promising area, uranium exploration there has been suspended on grounds of cost. The geology is similar to that of Canada’s Athabasca basin in Saskatchewan and INB hopes that further exploration and analysis can be performed together with the private sector.


All conversion services are imported; a local industrial-scale plant would not be commercially viable so long as there are only two or three nuclear power plants in operation. However the technology for such an industrial-scale conversion plant has been demonstrated in the 90 tU/y UF6 pilot plant that IPEN began operating at Iperó in 1984. A conversion plant being built by CTMSP to meet the needs of the navy’s propulsion programme is expected to be in operation at “the beginning of the next decade”.


Enrichment services are also currently performed abroad. In 1993 the government stopped work on the jet-nozzle enrichment process that was being developed under the 1975 agreement with Germany. Instead effort was concentrated on the ultracentrifuge process being developed by both IPEN and CTMSP. IPEN’s isotopic enrichment laboratory (LEI) began operating in 1987 and has three small cascades operating independently. CTMSP has been building a pilot industrial-scale plant at the Aramar Demonstration Centre, using locally-produced centrifuges; the first module with a capacity of 7000 SWU is expected to be in operation later this year.

CTMSP is now co-operating with INB in the transfer of this technology to a full-scale industrial plant at Resende, that would meet the needs of Angra 1 and the partial needs of Angra 2. The president of CNEN said last year that this plant would be built in two stages: the first with a capacity of 20 000 SWU would be in operation in four years and the second with a capacity of 80 000 SWU would follow eight years later. To reduce costs the new plant will make use of installations at Resende originally intended for the jet-nozzle process.

Fuel fabrication

INB’s 100 tHM/y fuel fabrication plant (FEC) has operated at Resende, Rio de Janeiro state, since 1985 and is being refurbished. The plant was designed by Siemens, who have also supplied the production equipment in three stages (fuel assembly, pellet production and conversion) and transferred the technology for the mechanical design and fabrication of the PWR fuel assemblies. FEC has supplied reloads to Angra 1 and in the near future INB will be the sole supplier of fuel assemblies to both Angra 1 and 2.

At present fuel rods are manufactured and fuel elements assembled using imported UO2 pellets. FEC also produces fuel element components, such as top and bottom nozzles, spacer grids and end plugs. It was not until the early 1990s that INB resumed efforts to implement the second and third phases of the hardware supply contract with Siemens (pellet production and conversion). A US$21 million contract was finally signed in January 1996 covering the supply and installation by Siemens of facilities for the production of uranium dioxide powder and pellets in the FEC. These units also make use of installations built for the jet-nozzle enrichment plant. Erection of the two units is expected to be completed by September this year and following three months commissioning they will start commercial operation early in 1999.


No policy on reprocessing has been clearly defined, but IPEN has a spent fuel reprocessing laboratory. Spent fuel from Angra 1 is currently stored in ponds on site and the capacity of these has been increased by re-racking.

Waste management

The CNEN has responsibility for the regulation and final disposal of radioactive waste. There are no plans for the management of high level wastes. Waste from the mining and processing operations at Poços de Caldas are kept in a dam system on site. Wastes from CNEN installations and from industrial and medical installations are stored at research institutes. The radioactive waste resulting from the accident at Goiânia is stored in a special repository at Abadia, Goiás state.

Fuel technology transfer

The agreement signed by the German and Brazilian governments in 1975 served as the starting point for co-operation between Siemens and Brazilian companies operating in the nuclear fuel cycle sector. This treaty provided the framework for various other general agreements which were signed in 1976 and 1977, and which, in turn, formed the basis for contracts with INB. To enable the design and fabrication of fuel assemblies and core components for the Angra 1 and 2 nuclear power plants to take place in Brazil, the following contracts were particularly important: Technical Information Contract (licence agreement) • Transfer of know-how for the mechanical design and fabrication of PWR fuel assemblies and for the functional design of core components and fuel assembly shipping casks. • Training of personnel in the design and fabrication of PWR fuel assemblies. • Delegation of Siemens personnel to Brazil to assist during fuel fabrication. Engineering Service Contract Basic and detailed design of buildings and supply systems for the fuel fabrication facility. Hardware Supply Contract • Manufacture and delivery of production equipment for the fuel fabrication facility in three transfer steps (fuel assembling, pellet production and conversion). • Installation of production equipment and commissioning of the fuel fabrication facility. Nuclear Fuel Supply Contract for Angra 1 Design, fabrication and delivery of reload fuel batches; the share of local manufacture in Brazil was increased over the entire term of the supply contract. Nuclear Fuel Supply Contract for the Initial Cores of Angra 2 and 3 Design, fabrication and delivery of fuel assemblies including nuclear in-core fuel management services. These contracts have been extensively updated to reflect project-related situations and modifications.

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