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Surprise Announcement:
Brazil Plans Seven Nuclear Plants

by Gretchen Small

March 13, 2006 (EIRNS)—Brazilian Science and Technology Minister Sergio Rezende announced that Brazil has a plan to build seven nuclear plants over the next 15 years, two of them in the country's most impoverished region, the Northeast. Rezende made this revelation in a March 7 interview with BBC Brazil, while he was in London accompanying President Lula da Silva on a state visit last week. Rezende said he wants the government to approve the National Nuclear Energy Plan by the end of July. Once that happens, construction of the already-started Angra 3 would be completed, and then one new nuclear plant would be started every two to three years afterwards, for the following 15 years. This will be polemical, he said, but nuclear energy should stop being seen as the "ugly duckling." These plants can be built near urban centers, unlike hydroelectric plants, and costs will cheapen soon due to the worldwide renaissance in nuclear energy, he argued.

The Science Minister also announced that the formal inauguration ceremonies for the start-up of Brazil's uranium enrichment program on an industrial scale—pushed back repeatedly as the international campaign on Iran escalated—should occur in April, when President Lula can attend. Small-scale production has already begun, he said.

Isto-E magazine, which called Rezende's revelation of the nuclear plan a shocker, because no one knew that the government was giving nuclear power such attention, reported that the Science Minister visited the Joint European Torus (JET) fusion program while in London, and that the president of the National Nuclear Energy Commission Odair Goncalves, had joined Lula's team in London—after a trip to Moscow for which his agenda had not been revealed.

The decision to expand Brazil's nuclear capabilities beyond its two existing plants is still being fought out, however. After his meeting with Tony Blair, President Lula da Silva said that the government has not decided yet whether it will approve the National Nuclear Plan. Economics Minister Antonio Palocci quickly told reporters that hydroelectric plants, not nuclear, is what is needed.

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