In the second half of December, the testing phase should begin for the enrichment of uranium to produce nuclear fuel at the Nuclear Industries of Brazil installations in Resende, in the state of Rio de Janeiro.
The process, which has been approved by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), now depends only upon receiving security clearance from the National Nuclear Energy Council.
By 2010 the Resende unit will be able to furnish 60% of the demand for enriched uranium from the Angra 1 and 2 nuclear power plants
Authorization to begin the experimental stage, as announced by Minister Eduardo Campos, on November 24, came after a visit by IAEA experts, who were in Brazil between the 16th and the 18th of this month.
During a period that could take from six to eight months, equipment will be adjusted, installations will be checked, results will be evaluated, and other technical trials will be conducted.
At the same time, the Ministry of Science and Technology and the IAEA will discuss pending issues that must be resolved for the effective inauguration of production.
Among these issues is the frequency of future visits by IAEA technicians and the quantity of samples to be collected during each inspection.
Brazil has the world’s sixth largest uranium ore reserves, which permit the long-term satisfaction of domestic demand and exportation of the surplus.
The uranium enrichment operation increases the concentration of uranium-235 found in nature. The concentration leaves it at levels that serve only for use as fuel in thermonuclear power plants.
At present the enrichment process is all done abroad, mostly in Canada. Part of the enrichment process will be carried out in Resende, with the use of ultracentrifugation technology developed by the Brazilian Navy’s Technologicial Center in São Paulo (CTMSP).
Minister Campos also recalled that article 21 of the Federal Constitution prohibits the use of nuclear energy for other than exclusively peaceful ends.
In addition to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (TNP), which was signed in 1997, Brazil is also a signatory of the Quadripartite Agreement for the Use of Safeguards, which has been in effect since 1994, and the Complete Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which has still not taken effect, precisely because it has not been ratified by countries that possess nuclear weapons technology.
Translator: David Silberstein