Brazil cools on nuclear power plans; favors wind

Brazil will probably scale down its plans for new nuclear plants due to safety concerns following the 2011 radiation leak in Japan and pick up some of the slack with a “revolution” in wind power, the head of the government’s energy planning agency said.

Mauricio Tolmasquim, chief of the Energy Research Company, told Reuters it was “unlikely” the government would stick to its plans to build four new nuclear plants by 2030 to meet rising demand for electricity.

He declined to specify how many might be built instead.

Tolmasquim’s comments, part of a broad assessment of Brazil’s long-term strategic plans for electricity generation, highlighted continued global doubts regarding nuclear power more than two years after an earthquake and tsunami led to an accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan.

Brazil has not begun the tender process for the facilities projected to be finished by 2030. The nuclear facility currently under construction, known as Angra 3, is being built with technology from Germany’s Siemens-KWU.

Brazil remains a relatively attractive venue for nuclear power, Tolmasquim said, since it is one of just a few handful of countries that possess all the natural elements needed for its production. The country already has two working nuclear plants in Rio de Janeiro, and is currently building a third, due to come online in 2018.

After robust economic growth last decade, Brazil is in the market for new sources of reliable, clean, cheap electricity. Its power grid currently relies on hydroelectric dams for about 75 percent of its needs. That has clear environmental benefits but has also left Brazil vulnerable to occasional droughts.

Tolmasquim, who was the top aide for Rousseff when she was Brazil’s energy minister in the early 2000s and is still close to the left-leaning leader, said he sees particular potential for wind power expansion thanks to growing competition and technological advances that lowered prices.

Average wind power prices in Brazil have declined from 148 reais ($64) per megawatt-hour at the end of 2009 to 110 reais per megawatt hour this year.

“This is wind power’s moment,” he said. “There’s been a revolution in terms of cost.”

Source: Brian Winter | Reuters

Advertisements