|Science and Technology in the Transformation of the World (UNU, 1982, 496 p.)|
|Session IV: The control of space and power|
|Nuclear energy in Latin America: The Brazilian case|
|Luiz Pinguelli Rosa|
To complete this work, it is appropriate to add two appendices: The first, "Latin America as a Nuclear Market," is based on a report made by the President and the Executive Director of the American Nuclear Society, after the meeting of the Inter-American Nuclear Energy Commission held in July 1979 in Chile. The second, "Comments on the Brazilian Energy Policy," is based on a report of our Energy Study Group of the Graduate School of Engineering (COPPE) of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.
While in "Latin America as a Nuclear Market" we can see the commercial point of view on nuclear energy and its implications in the international game, in "Comments on the Brazilian Energy Policy" we intend to show the socio-economic side of the most general energy questions and some national issues in Brazil.
A. LATIN AMERICA AS A NUCLEAR MARKET
Latin America is an emerging market for nuclear power reactors and appears perhaps to be the largest export market for reactor vendors in the next 20 years.
The population in Latin America is now about 340 million and is expected to become 600 million by the year 2000. With 260 million additional people and increasing industrialization, Latin America will need to increase electric energy production.
Existing technology and the shortages of fossil fuels in many areas may lead to nuclear energy. By the year 2000 it may be possible to have about 25,000 MW of nuclear power, although Brazil expects to exceed this capacity. The total electric energy production could reach 50,000 MW or even 150,000 MW. The difference will be mainly made up by conventional energy sources: hydra, coal, oil, and gas. A small part of the electrical energy will be produced by solar, wind, or geothermal energy (2000 MW) and by biomass (5000 MW).
Based on the present conditions, including the attitudes toward nuclear power in Latin America, it is estimated that there will be between 20 and 30 reactors operating in Latin America by the year 2000 and another 30 or 40 under construction. They would be in the following countries: Brazil (10-30), Argentina (2-6), Mexico (2-10), Venezuela (1-3), Chile (1-2), Peru (1-2), and Colombia (1-2).
(Based on a report by U. Du Temple and E. Menelly of the meeting of the Inter-American Nuclear Energy Commission (IANEC) held in July 1979 in Chile, published in Nuclear News, September 1979 (59).)
Argentina is the first country in Latin America which has used nuclear power. The first nuclear plant is Atucha, near Buenos Aires, with a heavy-water reactor (Siemens) of 367 MW, operating since 1974. There is another HWR (CANDU) plant of 600 MW under construction near Cordoba, by a consortium of Canadians, Italians, and Argentinians. This plant will start operation within two years. Argentina has plans to build four additional plants, all of the natural uranium and heavy-water type. It seems that the reactor vendor for the first of these plants will be KWU.
Two of the principal points of the Argentine nuclear programme are:
a. that Argentina would secure integrated self-sufficiency in the field of nuclear energy;
b. that Argentina would establish an integrated industry for developing the fuel cycle at all stages.
According to the report of the IANEC meeting, the two objectives have been followed quite closely. Argentina has an estimated reserve of 25,000 tons of U3O8, and it produced 110 tons of UO2 in 1978. There is a pilot plant for fabricating the fuel element. Future plans call for the production of zirconium tubes for cladding the fuel. Argentinians now have an experimental plant producing three tons of heavy water per year. They plan to produce all of the heavy water for the nuclear programme (hundreds of tons per year).
There is a technology transfer programme between Argentina and Peru, by which Argentina supplies two small reactors to the Peruvian Institute of Nuclear Energy. One of those reactors, for training, is completed and the other one, for isotope production, is being constructed.
Venezuela has stated its intention to have a nuclear plant on line by the early 1990s. However the government attitude toward nuclear energy does not appear enthusiastic. Hydro and coal-fired plants with some oil plants are expected to meet the electricity demands for the next 15 years.
Chile is planning to build a 600 MW electric nuclear plant near Santiago. The studies are being advised by a North American firm. The reactor is expected to be named soon. Chile is believed to have enough uranium to support a domestic nuclear programme, but the extent of these deposits are not well known.
Mexico intends to have two power reactors at the Laguna Verde plant in operation by the 1980s. Equador has made an agreement for the supply of a research reactor by Spain; and Paraguay has a small research reactor.
The report discusses in detail the Brazilian nuclear programme which we have already explained in another part of this work. The general impression from the report is that Brazil, though friendly with all its neighbors, is very competitive with Argentina and appears to be going it alone in nuclear development with the help of West German technology.
The report concludes that Latin America appears to offer the greatest external market for all exporters of nuclear reactors and associated services for the next ten years. However, United States policy may have helped European firms to gain ground in this market. The Latin American countries complain that the United States does not trust them and restrains the transfer of technology to them. In addition, the United States is accused of using its influence with European countries to hinder any nuclear development in South America. As a result, the United States has been virtually excluded from South American nuclear markets. It is still not considered a reliable supplier of fuel, enrichment services, and reactors.
Consequently, the development of a Spanish-speaking, independent consortium to develop nuclear power appears to be in the making. With the uranium resources of Latin America and technical experience and expertise of Spain and Argentina, it can develop nuclear reactors with the help of Canadian and European technology. This kind of cooperation among Spanish-speaking countries to develop nuclear technology shows that it could be possible to realize the Latin American nuclear co-operation we have pointed out in this paper.
B. COMMENTS ON THE BRAZILIAN ENERGY POLICY
The energy policy in all western countries before the petroleum crisis in 1973, had a basic goal of supplying the explicit needs of energy at the lowest price.
This policy has resulted in the problems we know very well in our days. The main lesson of this crisis, from our point of view, is that an effective energy policy cannot be limited to supplying the demand and cannot be only oriented to the search for the minimum price.
An effective energy policy must also orient the energy demand to make it consistent with the global objectives of the country. In case of a country with a non-coherent industrial system - one which does not include the complete production of machines and equipment, and in which the energy sector is almost completely controlled by the government - the energy policy could have an important role in directing the construction of a coherent structure of production. It can lead to the introduction into the country of certain industries which still do not exist but are crucial to the reproduction and expansion of the industrial system. But it can also allow the reduction of the rate of growth of some industries which are not convenient to the country, because they are strongly dependent on developed countries.
The energy policy, if well oriented, can be one of the most important poles directing the industrial policy of the country, as the energy enterprises are responsible for a substantial part of the purchases of equipment. On the other hand they have influence on industrial costs through the energy prices.
This same policy can be used to improve regional development in parts of the country which are not industrialized up to now.
The energy policy can be also responsible for the development of national technology. Thus, the construction of thermoelectric plants in France has allowed the development of their national industry of turbines. In Brazil, the construction of hydroelectric plants has allowed the development of an advanced national technology for dam construction, but the same did not happen with the equipment for these plants.
The energy policy must also take into account several other elements. In a developing country, with a non-coherent industrial system, the need for foreign currency for productive activities is always important. Thus, the reduction of expenses on imports for the energy sector becomes important. This way we improve the degree of coherence of the system, and on the other side, we free foreign currency reserves for the more important need of the country to achieve greater industrial progress. For this purpose, it is necessary that the energy policy shift the consumption towards indigenous energy resources, in both aspects of technology and supply.
This policy would also allow an improvement in the security of the energy supply. This point is not irrelevant, since energy is crucial to sustain productive activities. An interruption in the energy supply of the country - with the threat of uranium embargo by the USA exemplifying this possibility - can generate an economic crisis. We must be protected against it.
Besides, an indigenous energy source allows the pricing policy to be controlled by the country, avoiding the price fluctuations on the international market that could interfere with the energy policy.
It is important to point out that we must not forget the environmental problem. The energy consumption is, in our time, large and concentrated enough to produce serious effects on the ecological equilibrium of some regions. This exacts a social cost which can be large but has been forgotten in most of the cases. It is necessary to take this cost into account; otherwise, sooner or later the country will have to pay for it. An energy policy which does not include this question will bear on future generations the consequences of irresponsibility.
Finally, the energy policy should be strongly related to the social and economic policy. There is no way to separate it from the national planning we have in mind for the future. Either we will maintain a high concentration of revenue, socially and regionally, or we will try to reach a more reasonable distribution of the national revenue. This is neither a rhetorical nor an idealistic question. It would be unrealistic to separate the technical and political discussions on energy from the economic and social context. Institutional changes are to be hoped for in the direction of democratization and decentralization. Second, the workers seem to become more important in the political decisions, independently of formal changes. To forget this fact in the discussions on energy demand is a serious error. We shall remember that (a) the rates of domestic consumption of energy are highly unequal, (b) the sophisticated goods incorporated in the middle-class standard of living demand a high use of energy, (c) public transport is insufficient and its service is very bad, (d) the private car has all the privileges, as we can see by the costly highways in large towns.
To this disparity in the social consumption of energy we have to add the disparity of the industrial system, which produces goods for a relatively small part of the population or for export and neglects almost completely the needs of the majority of the people.
The re-orientation of energy demand is the basic condition for an effective energy policy in Brazil. We have to abandon the idea that the energy demand is a variable on which we cannot have any influence. The social demand is not the direct expression of a fundamental need of people but the result of a contradictory process of confrontation between the wish and the other offer.