Brazil and Argentina

Brazil-Argentina nuclear partnership seen to have great potential

Bnamericas Published: Wednesday, February 01, 2023
Brazil-Argentina nuclear partnership seen to have great potential

Brazil and Argentina have the potential to enhance their nuclear power partnership if the former can export more nuclear fuel to the latter.

“We have the seventh largest uranium reserves in the world, and we've only surveyed a third of national territory. Research indicates that we could jump to third position,” Celso Cunha (pictured), president of Brazilian nuclear power association Abdan, told BNamericas.

Whenever possible, state nuclear company INB exports nuclear fuel to Argentina, even though Brazil is not yet self-sufficient. 

But exports could become more frequent, as a second uranium mine is planned to come online in Ceará, joining the one in operation in Bahia. “When both are in full production, we’ll be able to feed [nuclear plants] Angra 1, 2 and 3, and still have a surplus,” Cunha said.  

The environmental licensing process for the Ceará mine is underway and operations could start two years after the permit is granted at the earliest. 

Meanwhile, Argentina is advancing with studies on small modular reactors (SMRs), which have lower costs and financial risks and can provide more flexibility to the electric power system. 

SMRs can, for example, balance the input of wind and solar sources, which fluctuate in the system due to intermittency – a sensitive issue in Brazil, where renewables are growing rapidly. 

“I believe the experience they are acquiring can contribute to Brazil, if not to development, at least to the regulatory part,” according to Cunha. 

The Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva administration is seeking to strengthen ties with Argentina, which were strained during the previous Jair Bolsonaro government.

Lula’s first foreign trip led him to Argentina, where he talked with his counterpart, Alberto Fernández, about financing from development bank BNDES for the second stage of a natural gas pipeline from Argentina's Vaca Muerta shale play.


According to Cunha, Angra 3 is advancing, with almost all large equipment purchased and key contracts, such as the electromechanical assembly, being executed. "The second phase of the work, whose cost is about 17bn reais [US$3.35bn], depends on BNDES," Cunha said.

Brazil’s 10-year PDE 2031 energy plan mentions the potential for the construction of a fourth nuclear plant in the southeast. "We have to wait for the PDE 2032 and for the new government to advance this discussion. We still don't know the direction that will be taken," Cunha said.  

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