Decarbonization target opens up opportunity for nuclear energy

Whenever we talk about reduce greenhouse gas emissions In the electrical sector, the first sources that come to mind are solar and wind, but the president of the Brazilian ociation for the Development of Nuclear Activities (Abdan), Celso Cunha, maintains that this objective also involves nuclear generation. He explains his opinion by emphasizing that nuclear thermoelectric plants, unlike plants that are powered by coal and natural gas, do not emit gases such as CO2, which cause global warming.

“Within this concept (of decarbonization), nuclear has a great chance”, argues Cunha. Regarding competition with solar and wind sources, the president of Abdan argues that nuclear generation is “firm”, that is, it does not fluctuate with weather conditions. According to data from the National Electric Energy Agency (Aneel), the Nuclear generation represents around 1% of the Brazilian electricity matrix, with an installed capacity of approximately 2 thousand MW (through the Angra 1 and 2 plants, which are located in the state of Rio de Janeiro and use uranium as fuel). For Cunha, the ideal would be for nuclear energy to represent somewhere between 2% and 4% of participation in the electrical matrix.

The country also has another thermal plant under implementation, Angra 3, which is planned to have a power of 1,405 MW. However, the city council of the municipality of Angra dos Reis has questioned the work, alleging changes to the urban design and delays in financial transfers. This situation is in court and, until this Friday (15), construction of the project was at a standstill. Recently, the 2nd Civil Court of the District of Angra dos Reis revoked the injunction obtained by Eletronuclear in a writ of mandamus that authorized the resumption of works and now the company will appeal the decision in court and administratively with the city hall.

The president of Abdan warns that with each work stoppage the cost of completing the project increases. Currently, Cunha reports that 67% of the work has already been done, with the contribution disbursed so far being around R$7 billion. He calculates that around R$20 billion more would be needed to finish the thermal plant. The director estimates that it will be possible to complete the complex around 2029 or 2030.

Even with the evolution of the use of nuclear energy, the president of Abdan admits that there is several people who are afraid of this source due to the possibility of accidents or because of radioactive waste. However, he says that there is nothing in the world more controlled than the sector, whether in medicine, in the area of ​​radiation and cancer diagnosis and treatment, or for the generation of electrical energy.

Cunha also comments that, when talking about atomic energy, many remember the accident that occurred at the nuclear power plant. Chernobyl, Ukraine, in 1986. However, he emphasizes that current technology and care are completely different and safer. Including in incident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, in Japan, in 2011, the director points out that the reflections were much lower than those seen in the European thermoelectric plant. In Asia, the problem with the plant was caused by an earthquake and a tsunami.

According to him, the proof that there was an evolution between the two events is that the second one did not record large-scale contamination of people and an efficient contingency plan was adopted. Cunha also states that it is wrong to call nuclear waste, resulting from energy generation, atomic waste, since this material can still be used economically. He comments that this residue is a depleted fuelwhich no longer has the appropriate energy level for the plant that generated it, but which can be used in another plant or recycled.

However, adopting recycling, as Germany and France do, entails by-product plutonium, which can be used in the weapons industry for, for example, the manufacture of the atomic bomb. “Brazil’s option was to store”, details Cunha. The president of Abdan recalls that Angra 1 and 2, until four years ago, stored this waste in the reactor itself, later a company was hired to carry out this service, using an armored and controlled container.

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