Brazil shelves plans to open up nuclear sector

Bnamericas Published: Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Brazil shelves plans to open up nuclear sector

A proposal to open Brazil's nuclear power sector to private investors has been shelved to avoid likely political snags, the government's energy planning chief said.

Eletronuclear, a unit of state-run utility Eletrobras, earlier this year called for "greater flexibility" to allow private companies to build nuclear power plants in Brazil.

But Maurício Tolmasquim, the head of energy planning agency EPE, said the government needed "to bide its time" before presenting a bill to congress.

"It would mean changing the constitution and we have to wait for the right moment," Tolmasquim told reporters. "This year is difficult. Constitutional change requires three-fifths of [congressional] support."

President Dilma Rousseff has struggled to push her economic agenda through a politically hostile congress, as an ongoing graft scandal and deepening recession drag her popularity to record lows.

The government last year said it had identified 21 possible locations for nuclear plants in each of Brazil's five regions.

EPE's long-term energy plan forecasts the construction of four new nuclear plants by 2030 at a combined cost of US$20bn.

Tolmasquim said the government remained committed to opening up the segment to private investors.

"It's hard to expand under the current model," he said. "To build a nuclear plant now you have long lead-times and costs. I think it's really important to have a majority of private capital."

The 657MW Angra 1 and 1.35GW Angra 2 plants in Rio de Janeiro state are currently Brazil's only nuclear power facilities.

Operated by Eletronuclear, they supply about a third of the electricity used in Rio de Janeiro state and account for 3.17% of the country's consumption.

The 1.35GW Angra 3 project (pictured) has been beset by chronic delays and accusations that engineering firms paid bribes to secure contracts.

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