According to Brazilian military sources, Brazil will be ready to control the whole industrial cycle of uranium processing, from extraction of the radioactive mineral to its final conversion into fuel, in large volumes, by the end of the year.
The Coordinator of the Nuclear Propulsion Program belonging to the Brazilian Navy Captain André Luis Ferreira quoted by the government news Agency Brazil said that once the country has the necessary technology to complete the nuclear cycle, this will grant the country independence from other suppliers in the process of uranium enrichment.
It is scheduled that the first phase of a plant for the production of uranium hexafluoride, from which enriched uranium is developed, should be completed at the military complex or Aramar in the state of São Paulo sometime late this year.
Captain Ferreira said that residues generated from the hexafluoride process will be treated several times to minimize the environment impact.
The announcement of the hexafluoride plant occurs just a week after Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva together with the Turkish Prime Minister helped strike a deal with Iran regarding its nuclear fuel, which has triggered an ongoing international diplomatic confrontation. Iran’s nuclear fuel, according to the agreement reached, will be partly enriched in Turkey.
Lula has repeatedly defended Iran’s right to develop its own nuclear program for peaceful purposes. Similarly vice president José Alencar had publicly defended Brazil’s right to develop nuclear weapons as a dissuasive element and for the defense of its own territory and natural resources particularly the rich offshore oil deposits. This includes the construction of nuclear powered submersibles, which is a long cherished project of the Brazilian navy.
Brazil has two nuclear plants in the city of Angra do Reis, state of Rio de Janeiro which contributes with 3% of power to the national grid. Since uranium enrichment in Brazil on an industrial scale only begun this year but mostly on an experimental basis, most of the enriched fuel at 4%, for the current power plants comes from overseas.
Ferreira also said that the new processing plant will help the navy have its first reactor for the country’s first nuclear submarine by 2014. The reactor will in a first stage function with uranium enriched 5% that will later increase to 20%.
“The Navy’s reactor will help as a model for future nuclear plants,” said Ferreira. He also anticipated that Brazil should reach nuclear fuel self sufficiency by 2014 and the first nuclear powered submarine will begin to be constructed in Brazil in 2016, to be finished and launched by 2021. The submarine will be developed with French technology and is based on the Scorpone submersibles model.