Brazil: Controversial nuclear project is given green light

Controversial Angra 3 reactor for Brazil's Nuclear Power Plant was given a pre-licence [pt] by the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) last July 23, not before a series of environmental terms were imposed by Environment Minister Carlos Minc – 60 all together ranging from permanent solutions for waste treatment, monitoring of radiation levels to investments in educational initiatives and environmental protection. Should these conditions signed by IBAMA and Eletronuclear in a pre-licence for completing Angra 3 be met, works may be resumed as soon as September this year.

Photo credit: Wilson Dias/ABr

Some bloggers were perplexed by the decision, considering that the Minister Carlos Minc, a founder member of the Brazilian Green Party who became Environment Minister last May after the resignation of Marina Silva, is well known for this fight against nuclear power. He has said that he is meeting an agenda defined before his term, and it also seems that Minc and President Lula, who has spoken of his commitment to nuclear power, don't quite agree when it comes to the subject. It hasn't always been the case, as Jorge Henrique Cordeiro [pt] shows, publishing a picture of the pair in 1989, during a protest against the construction of the same Angra 3. The blogger believes the country should invest in its great, rich potential for clean energy instead:

Energeticamente o Brasil tem imenso potencial hídrico, solar e eólico a ser explorado. Só os ventos do Nordeste oferecem 75 gigawatts de energia ao país. O que me leva a fazer uma continha básica: levando-se em conta que Angra 3 tem potencial para 1.350 megawatts (1 gigawatt = 1.000 megawatts, só pra constar) e custo estimado de R$ 8 bilhões para ser construída, seriam necessárias 56 usinas iguais à ela, ao incrível preço de R$ 450 bilhões, para gerar esse mesmo total de energia com reatores nucleares. E ainda têm a cara-de-pau de dizer que as fontes renováveis de energia são caras…

When it comes to energy, Brazil has a huge hydro, solar and wind energy potential to be tapped. The winds from the Northeast alone provide 75 gigawatt of energy to the country. This leads me to make a basic count: taking into account that Angra 3 has potential for 1,350 megawatts (1 gigawatt = 1,000 megawatts, to make it clear) and an estimated building cost of US$ 8 billion [approximately US$ 5.08 billion], it would be necessary 56 power plants like it, at the incredible cost of R$ 450 billion [US$ 285.8 billion], to generate the same total in energy with nuclear reactors. And they still are cheeky enough to say that renewable energy sources are expensive…

On the other hand, Alon Feuerwerker [pt] believes that the requirements for the license show the “premature obsolescence of Brazilian environmentalists” and thinks that, nevertheless, giving the green light to the project was a good step in the right direction:

De todo modo, a decisão é positiva para o país, desde que o radicalismo ambiental enxertado por Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva na Esplanada dos Ministérios não consiga interromper o andamento da obra, negando-lhe a licença de instalação. Aliás, é só do que se fala em Brasília: que o Ibama teria cedido agora para endurecer depois. Será?

In any case, the decision is a positive one for the country, as long as the environmental radicalism grafted by Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on the House of Ministers doesn't manage to stop the works progress, denying it the installation licence. Actually, everyone is talking about it in Brasilia: that the IBAMA has given in now to toughen up later. Will they?

Projeto Jogo Limpo [Fair Game Project, pt] has organized a poll to find out what their readership thinks about the matter. Some other bloggers are re-publising the message below, sent through e-mail by Greenpeace Brazil, urging people to complain directly to the IBAMA's president:

Não deixe isso passar em branco! Você pode enviar um SMS (torpedo) e reclamar diretamente com Roberto Messias, presidente do Ibama, através do número: 061 9982-4409. Exerça o seu papel de cidadão, mostre sua indignação e cobre explicações do Governo Lula!

Do not let this go unnoticed! You can send an SMS (message) and complain directly to Roberto Messias,  IBAMA's president, through the number: 061 9982-4409. Exercise your role as citizens, show your indignation and demand explanations from the government of Lula!

The campaign above is called “The Messiah has arrived and brought bad news” and protests have taken the streets of Brasilia, the capital city, and Rio de Janeiro. Ricardo Baitelo, from Greenpeace Brasil's energy campaign, laments[pt]:

“Aprovar o projeto de construção de Angra 3 é um retrocesso para o país e uma vergonha para o Ibama. Roberto Messias entra para a história como o homem que assinou a licença de um elefante branco radioativo, e Minc, opositor da energia nuclear, como o ministro que lavou as mãos para o fato”

“The approval the Angra 3 construction project is a setback for the country and a disgrace for the IBAMA. Roberto Messias is to enter history as the man who signed the license of a white elephant radioactive plant, and Minc, opponent of nuclear energy, as the minister who washed their hands to this fact”

Photo credit: Wilson Dias/ABr

The photos that illustrate this article are from the protest against the construction of Angra 3 organized by Greenpeace Brazil on July 23, when the deal was being signed. They have been taken by a photographer from Agência Brasil and are reproduced here under a Creative Commons licence.

The construction of a third reactor completing the last phase of the Brazil's sole nuclear power plant began in 1984 but was halted 22 years ago due to the country's economic problems. Its major components were purchased in 1995 and have since been stored, consuming 50 million dollars a year in maintenance costs. The project also faces strong opposition from environmentalists and the public in general.


  • […] Brazil: Controversial nuclear project is given green light Brasil: Projeto polêmico de Angra 3 recebe sinal verde Filed under: Brasil […]

  • Uranie Schwarz


    I Brazilien and live in Gemany, I look for one better world, I’m cyber-activist like you and also by greenpeace activist.

  • Uranie Schwarz

    É uma perda nacional e mundial, que esse orgao do governo nao haja apenas e exclusivamente em prol do interesse e da protencao do meio ambiente, nao há justificativa para a liberacao da construcao da usina nuclear agra3. A energia nuclear é uma energia ultrapassada e extremante poluidora. Por que nao estimular a construcao de energia renováveis??

    Esse foi meu texto enviado para o Ibama hoje dia 24.10.08

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