Nuclep delivers part of containment vessel for Brazil’s prototype nuclear submarine10 December 2021
Brazil’s nuclear heavy engineering company Nuclebrás Equipamentos Pesados ??(Nuclep) has begun delivery of the structures of the Containment Vessel for the full scale prototype on land of the first indigenously designed nuclear-powered submarine (SN-BR).
The components will be received at the Navy's Nuclear Industrial Centre in São Paulo, according to an order from Amazônia Azul Tecnologias de Defesa SA (Amazul), a company that hired Nuclep to complete the manufacture, assembly and supply of the Containment Vessel for the Generation Laboratory of Nuclear Power (Labgene), including its internal structures, such as the Primary Shielding Tank of the Reactor Pressure Vessel (RPV).
The consignment comprises two ferrules — a metal ring or ring that surrounds an object or mechanism — from the lower section and the bottom frame of the RPV Primary Shielding Tank. Nuclep has already delivered to Labgene two Accumulator Vessels (VP3 and VP4), two Heat Exchangers (TC1 and TC2) and the first (VP5 of two vessels, corresponding to the Flood Tanks (VP5 and VP6).
Nuclep said that, due to its qualified workforce, certifications and manufacturing structure, it was chosen to produce the Containment Vessel, an essential part of Labgene's works which corresponds to the structure where the nucleoelectric generation plant will be installed, tested and approved.
Labgene, located at the Navy’s Technological Centre (CTMSP) at Aramar in Iperó, São Paulo, was designed with the purpose of validating new concepts and devices that will improve the performance and safety of nuclear power generation and as a powerful tool for R&D relating to fuels and systems that will give support to the development of commercial and naval applications. It
is responsible for testing the Navy’s Nuclear Propulsion Prototype Reactor, part of the Brazilian Submarine Development Programme (PROSUB). Assembly of the reactor began in October 2020. The reactor, as well as the turbogenerators, the electric motor and other systems similar to those of a nuclear powered submarine will be tested in a controlled manner at Labgene. The purpose is to validate the operation of the reactor and the various electromechanical systems integrated with it, prior to installation on the submarine.
After the tests are completed, a similar reactor will be installed in the submarine Álvaro Alberto, being developed at the Naval Complex of Itaguaí, in Rio de Janeiro. On 25 November, the Brazilian Navy signed an agreement to start building the hull for the Álvaro Alberto, as part of the SN-BR project. According to an official press release, the “First Partial Construction Licence (LPC1)” was signed by the Brazilian Navy’s Directorate-General of Nuclear and Technological Development, the Naval Authority for Nuclear Safety and Quality and Fleet Admiral Marcos Sampaio Olsen. The future SN-10 Álvaro Alberto will have an (estimated) length of 100 metres, a complement of 100 sailors and feature a sail similar to those of the Scorpene-class. In 2019, Rolls-Royce was awarded a multi-million euros contract to provide safety Instrumentation & Control (I&C) systems for Labgene.
History of nuclear development in Brazil
Brazil has a long history of nuclear development. In 1955, it signed up to the US-sponsored Atoms for Peace programme which provided fuel for two research reactors supplied by the US, but restrictions were placed on the use of the research results from the reactors. In response, Brazil in 1962 set up the National Nuclear Energy Commission (CNEN) to lead its nuclear programme, and in 1965, built its first indigenous research reactor. In the late 1970s, faced with international restrictions on its nuclear development, Brazil launched a parallel nuclear programme funded by the military, the National Security Council (CSN) and CNEN.
The two programmes developed alongside each other throughout the 1980s and weathered various changes of government and reorganisations. In 1988, the official programme was restructured and the sensitive technology and facilities received from Germany were transferred to CNEN. Also in 1988, Brazil's congress approved a new constitution limiting nuclear activities to peaceful purposes and requiring congressional approval. Revelations about the parallel programme and its the secret funding resulted in congress eventually opening the nuclear programme to public scrutiny. The late 1980s saw increased transparency as democratisation took hold after 1985. In 1990 a parliamentary commission of inquiry (CPI) found that the Navy was not involved weapons development and the parallel programme was not terminated but reoriented. Today all the Navy’s nuclear facilities are under IAEA safeguards and subject to regular inspection, making Brazil the only country in the world to have opened military facilities to international monitoring.
Nuclep was founded in 1975 to design and fabricate heavy components for NPPs. It was a strategic decision because Brazil, at the time, had no company able to operate in that advanced industrial sector. In 1988 Nuclep became a CNEN subsidiary after Siemens sold its holding in the company. Nuclep is located in Itaguai, southeast of Rio de Janeiro and has its own maritime terminal with roll-on-roll-off facilities.