Brazil enriches more uranium in search of self-sufficiency for nuclear energy

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Owner of the seventh largest uranium reserve on the planet, according to data from the World Nuclear Association (AMB), as of this Friday (26) Brazil will increase the amount of enriched metal to feed the Angra 1 and 2 plants, as only two in the Brazilian nuclear park.

The expansion will take place with the inauguration of the ninth cascade of ultracentrifuges at Fábrica Nacional de Combustíveis. The unit belongs to Indústrias Nucleares Brasileiras (INB), headquartered in Resende, in Sul Fluminense.

The new cascade of ultracentrifuges required an investment of R$54 million and will make Brazil capable of meeting 65% of the demand for annual recharges at the two plants. The plan is that by 2033 the country will have enough production to supply the units.

Self-sufficiency, however, would only be achieved in 2037, with 30 cascades. This is because, by 2026, the government intends to complete the works on Angra 3, which had been paralyzed since 2015, due to corruption scandals investigated by Operation Lava-Jato.

With the increase in its own production, Brazil will reduce the imports of enriched uranium, brought from Europe. According to the AMB, the country is one of the 13 internationally recognized for dominating the uranium enrichment cycle.

Specialists also point out that Brazil may discover, in the next few years, that it holds the world’s largest reserve of the metal.

The explanation for the phenomenon lies in the fact that estimates are made based on the mapping currently available, which analyzed only 30% of the national territory in the 70s.

The process was resumed by the Ministry of Mines and Energy. Former president of Eletrobras and professor emeritus of the Nuclear Engineering course at UFRJ, Luiz Pinguielli Rosa understands that the movement this Friday is fundamental for the country.

“We are moving towards self-sufficiency. In addition to mastering the process and having its own technology for enriching uranium, Brazil has large reserves that place it in a privileged position for the use of nuclear energy.

Today the demand is small because we only have two reactors. But we have the forecast for completion of Angra 3 and there is another reactor under development: that of the nuclear-powered submarine, built by the Navy”, says the researcher.

The specialist explains that enriching uranium means artificially increasing the concentration of the metal, so that it can be used as nuclear fuel. For the Angra dos Reis plants, the proportion used is 4.25%.

But for the underwater vessel, the required level is 20%: much higher, but well below the level required for nuclear weapons.

“For this, it would be necessary to reach the 90% mark, which will not happen, as Brazil is a signatory to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), as well as 188 other nations.

Although the level of uranium enrichment necessary for the Navy submarine is greater, it could also be carried out in the future at the FNC, in Resende”, the specialist assesses.

Amidst the electrical crisis caused by the reduction of reservoirs at hydroelectric plants, nuclear energy accounts for 1.2% of the Brazilian energy matrix. The Ministry of Mines and Energy’s National Energy Plan 2050 provides for the completion of Angra 3 and the construction of a new unit by 2031, as provided for in the 2031 Decennial Energy Plan.

The location has not yet been defined, but the intention has already been confirmed by Minister Bento Albuquerque.

In order to keep up with the current demand and its eventual expansion, in 2020 Brazil resumed uranium exploration at the Engenho Mine, in Caetité, in the southwest of Bahia. The national production was stopped for five years, after the depletion of the deposit then explored.

Reference: CNN Brasil

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