Brazilian nuclear utility Eletronuclear (part of state-owned power company Eletrobras) has taken issue with a report from the Court of Auditors of the Union (TCU – Tribunal de Contas da União) which indicated an increase in the energy tariff would follow the eventual entry into operation of unit 3 of the Angra NPP. Eletronuclear said that the data cited in the report were preliminary.

Angra NPP units 1&2 currently generate about 3% of Brazil’s electricity. Construction of Angra 3 with a Siemens/KWU 1,405 MWe pressurised water reactor began in 1984 but was suspended after two years. The project resumed in 2006 and first concrete was poured in 2010. But work stopped again in 2015 following allegations of corruption involving government contracts. The unit was then 65% complete.

In 2022, the newly appointed Eletronuclear President, Eduardo Grand Court, ordered construction to restart. However, in April the city government of Angra dos Reis ordered work to stop again. Mayor Fernando Jordão said he authorised the embargo “because Eletronuclear is executing a project that is not in accordance with what the municipality approved" including the promised payment of compensation. In 2023 Eletronuclear said it was committed to reversing the suspension of work and was seeking a constructive dialogue with the city of Angra dos Reis to clarify outstanding issues. Eletronuclear obtained an injunction to continue the work but discussions are ongoing. In March Eletronuclear launched a public consultation on completion of Angra 3 with comments accepted until 26 April. Eletronuclear said the amount invested so far is BRL7.8bn ($1.5bn) and to complete the plant a further BRL20bn will be needed. Some 67% of the civil work has already been carried out.

TCU had indicated that completing Angra 3 would cost BRL43bn more than other power generation options resulting in an average increase of 2.9% for consumers of electricity. Eletronuclear pointed out that this information was taken from a report by the Energy Research Company (EPE – Empresa de Pesquisa Energética) that was based on an earlier preliminary presentation by the National Bank for Economic & Social Development (BNDES – Banco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Econômico e Social) to the Ministry of Mines and Energy.

Eletronuclear said the BNDES study was still not completed and would need to be validated by EPE and subsequently submitted for approval to the National Council for Energy Policy (CNPE – Conselho Nacional de Politica Energética) before it could be used to estimate costings. In addition, planned tax reforms would reduce the final tariff for the consumer, making electricity produced by Angra 3 competitive with other clen energy sources. Eletronuclear noted that a recent study by FGV/Energia made it clear that each BRL1bn invested in the nuclear generation sector generates BRL3.1bn in the production chain, generating 22,500 jobs in Brazil.

Also in a note, EPE confirmed that it had not received the price studies contracted by Eletronuclear and BNDES to make its cost projections. EPE points out that the Technical Report was prepared as a preparatory document for the Ministry of Mines & Energy (MME), “and was classified as confidential at the time of its registration in the TCU system". EPE said the report used by the TCU was prepared in January 2023 and did not include independent studies on the subject.

Independent studies on the completion of Angra 3 were commissioned in 2019, during the government of Jair Bolsonaro, when the project was included in the Investment Partnerships Program (PPI). A first version was completed by BNDES and delivered in November 2022 to Eletronuclear TCU. With the change of government in 2023, it was necessary to order a review, which should be completed by July. The studies are being conducted by Tractebel, part of the Engie group.

The Brazilian Association for the Development of Nuclear Activities (Abdan – Associação Brasileira para Desenvolvimento de Atividades Nucleares) also disputes the cost of BRL43bn cited by the TCU. According to Abdan President Celso Cunha, the projection of a 2.9% increase was achieved in comparison with intermittent sources, such as solar and wind.

Cunha pointed out that, while Angra 3 energy may increase costs by 1% in periods of rain it would save 3% in dry periods when thermal power based on natural gas or coal are needed to back up hydroelectric sources. He noted that the federal government could adopt measures that would reduce the cost from Angra 3 (to less than BRL500 per MWh, which is below current thermal costs.

He also explained that the economic security of the uranium mining and nuclear fuel company, Indústrias Nucleares do Brasil (INB) will only be achieved when Brazil has three nuclear units in operation. Abadan is also working to ensure Angra 3 is included in the revised version of the Growth Acceleration Programme (PAC). At the moment, only the technical, economic and socio-environmental feasibility study of the project is included in the PAC, with no forecast of completion of the works. The final decision on the plant will be the responsibility of the CNPE, which will establish the final price of the tariff and conclude whether it authorises the granting of the project.


Image: The Angra 3 unit under construction in Brazil's Rio de Janeiro state (courtesy of Eletronuclear)