Brazil’s nuclear utility, Eletronuclear, on 25 February published in the Official Gazette (Diário Oficial da Uniao), a tender for a company to resume the civil works at the partly completed unit 3 of the Angra NPP, and to carry out part of the electromechanical assembly. This aim is to accelerate the plant's progress and to press ahead with some construction activities before hiring a contractor to undertake work to complete the construction of the plant. The contract is expected to be signed by May. First concrete is now scheduled for October and hiring of the general contractor for the second half of 2022. Eletronuclear is a subsidiary of state-run electric utility Eletrobras, which the government plans to privatise, although the nuclear power unit will be spun off and remain under state control.
Eletrobras has approved a Critical Path Acceleration Plan with the aim of completing Angra 3 by 2023. Commercial operation would start by the end of 2026.
Angra 3 was planned in the 1980s but work stopped due to lack of finance. Construction resumed in 2010, but Eletronuclear faced a corruption scandal in 2015 and stopped paying contractors, including French company Areva, which was installing the Siemens-designed reactor technology now owned by Framatome. Angra 3 is 67% complete and 80% of the nuclear reactor equipment has been bought and is being stored, costing Eletronuclear BRL25 million a year on upkeep and insurance for the construction site. This excludes interest payments on BRL10 billion in loans from national development bank BNDES to build Angra 3.
Eletronuclear's president, Leonam dos Santos Guimaraes, pointed out that the resumption of Angra 3 works is finally becoming a reality. “We worked with dedication to get here. And we will move forward, with even more determination, to complete the construction of the plant ”, he said. He added that Angra 3 will diversify and provide security of supply to the Brazilian electrical matrix. “In addition, the energy generated by the unit will replace that produced by more expensive thermal plants. As nuclear power plants do not emit greenhouse gases, Angra 3 will also take a step towards the decarbonisation of energy generation in the country ”. The project will create some 7,000 direct jobs, at the peak of the work, in addition to a much larger number of indirect jobs. The vast majority will be hired in Costa Verde, which will boost the region's economy.
Eletronuclear said work at Angra 3 has been progressing significantly, reflecting the priority given to the project by the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME). Earlier in February, the Senate adopted Provisional Measure 998, allowing revision of the price for energy generated by Angra 3, and that law is now awaiting Presidential approval. It will establish a legal framework to encourage investment in the plant's resumption.
It terminates the existing reserve energy contract and allows for the signing of a new contract, with an energy price that meets the project's profitability and low tariffs. This price will be calculated by the Brazil Development Bank (BNDES), which has already been working on the financial and contractual restructuring of the project.
According to the new law, the National Energy Policy Council (CNPE) will be responsible for authorising the signing of this new contract and the granting permission to operate the plant. The unit will be authorised to operate for 50 years, extendable for another 20, Eletronuclear said. The CNPE will also monitor construction of the plant. The reference price for energy from Angra 3 will be updated by BNDES, taking into account the maintenance of the project's economic and financial viability, the contracting of financing under market conditions. BNDES will also update the investment required to complete the plant, which is estimated at around BRL15 billion ($2.66bn). The total investment made so far is BRL 7.8 billion.
Work already being done under the Critical Path Acceleration Plan Includes completion of the concrete superstructure of the Angra 3 reactor building. In addition, an important part of the electromechanical assembly is provided for in the initial phase of the resumption of the work schedule, which includes the closure of the steel containment ball and the installation of the used fuel pool, the polar bridge and the semi-gantry crane.
Funds to pay for the work underway at the plant come from the Advance for Future Capital Increase (Afac) approved by Eletrobras in July 2020. In 2020 Eletrobras released BRL1.052 billion to Eletronuclear and for 2021 a further BRL2.447 billion is expected. Also, at the end of June 2020, Eletrobras approved the conversion of Afac contracts into new Eletronuclear shares worth BRL850 million. It also authorised the capitalisation of financing contracts in which the holding company is the creditor of its subsidiary, totalling almost BRL1.036 billion. These were important steps towards clearing Eletronuclear's debts with Eletrobras. Eletronuclear has also been negotiating the debts owed to BNDES and Caixa Econômica Federal (CEF) due to the financing of Angra 3, which total BRL6.6 billion. The company has been paying BRL30.1 million monthly to BNDES and BRL24.7to Caixa.
Eletrobras' decision to grant Afac to Eletronuclear followed approval by the Council of the Investment Partnerships Programme (CPPI) of an interministerial committee report on the business model for Angra 3. It recommends the hiring of a company specialised in EPC contracts to finish the work, based on an independent evaluation carried out by BNDES.
Despite having decided to hire an EPC company to complete the plant, CPPI made room for a partner to enter the project, stating that this would be a strategic choice for Eletronuclear. Any partner, however, would only have a minority stake in the project. All the key nuclear industry companies have expressed interest and signed Memorandums of Understanding with Eletronuclear to exchange information about the project. Eletronuclear said these include Westinghouse (USA), EDF (France), Rosatom (Russia), and CNNC and SNPTC (China).