Why Brazil’s nuclear power industry is optimistic about working with Lula

Bnamericas Published: Wednesday, December 14, 2022
Why Brazil’s nuclear power industry is optimistic about working with Lula

Brazil’s nuclear power association Abdan is optimistic about the sector’s outlook under incoming government of president-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. 

“We’ll have a set of new actors and a series of projects that are underway, many of which were born during the [previous] Lula and Dilma [Rousseff] administrations. So it would be a big mistake to think that this new government would go back on this,” Abdan president Celso Cunha told BNamericas.

Lula will assume the presidency on January 1. 

Cunha (pictured) highlighted the Angra 3 nuclear power project and the launch by Rousseff of a program that called for four new nuclear plants by 2030, but which never got out of the drawer. He also mentioned the Prosub program for the construction of a nuclear submarine, a project that is being carried out by the Brazilian navy. 

Abdan has discussed several nuclear-related topics and sent its suggestions to the part of Lula’s transition team that is in charge of the science and technology sector, said Cunha.

Among these are the creation of a nuclear safety authority, which would see the separation of regulation and inspection from the other activities carried out by the nation’s nuclear energy commission (CNEN). 

“This is something that Brazil has already committed itself to before the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency], and we need to move forward soon to reduce the perception of risk and to show commitment,” Cunha said. 

Another reason for the sector’s optimism is the small modular reactors (SMR) technology, which according to Cunha could make nuclear power "great again."

"With the small reactors, we have the possibility to build what the whole world is looking for. And doing it domestically, we can provide the fuel and leverage it with competitive rates,” he said.

Brazil has the world’s seventh largest uranium reserves and it “could soon” move up to second place, said Cunha. 

“We’re literally sitting on a barrel of money. With this, it’s fundamental that the country positions itself to export not only ore, but fuel with added value,” Cunha said, adding that the entry of the private sector into uranium extraction is of key importance. 


Regarding potential risks to the conclusion of the Angra 3 construction works due to the change in government and Eletrobras’ privatization, Cunha sees no reason for not finishing the 21bn-real (US$3.97bn) project. 

“I don't believe that the new government will paralyze it,” he said. 

Cunha added that there are still some issues to be resolved, such as deciding the price of the energy that the plant will produce – a highly sensitive matter in a country with the second most expensive power rate in the world. 

“We’ve already seen the statements from the coordinator of [Lula’s] energy group, Mauricio Tolmasquim, emphasizing that there are more than 500bn reais for the people to pay. It’s a very big number and we cannot look at it in an isolated way,” he said. 

A former president of federal energy research company EPE, Tolmasquim recently criticized what he sees as very costly measures taken by President Jair Bolsonaro and congress, such as the Eletrobras privatization being attached with the mandatory contracting of gas-fired thermal plants in places not served by pipelines, and mandatory contracting of small hydro plants. 

Tolmasquim also slammed the Bolsonaro administration for the way it provided large financial support to the electric power sector during and after the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

In response, the mines and energy ministry (MME) came out on Tuesday with a release, saying that Tolmasquim’s statements were filled with misinformation and the numbers he presented being “purely inferences.”

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