Brazil turns to nuclear power as electricity demand rises


A government agency that supports research in the energy sector in Brazil has predicted a significant increase in electricity demand in the country over the next few years. Empresa de Pesquisa Energética (EPE) in a recent report stated that energy consumption will grow on average by 3.5% per year over the next decade, an increase that will require up to 58 billion dollars of investments in power generation and transmission, as well as up to 43 GW of new generation.

“Like many other countries around the world right now, Brazil is taking steps to modernize its network and expand the capacity of its transmission system,” said Andy Bennett, CEO of mPrest, a software developer and provider. orchestration and optimization of distributed assets for energy. , defense and commercial markets. Bennett said POWER, “This process will include costly upgrades to the country’s physical infrastructure as well as reliable integration of growing sources of distributed renewable generation. Smart grid management software has demonstrated crucial applications that can support these efforts. We can expect major utilities in Brazil to turn to these platforms to facilitate the energy transition and improve their customer experience through access to real-time insights and data-driven decision-making.

The EPE group said several technologies, both thermal and renewable, should help meet Brazil’s increased electricity demand. Government data from January this year shows that Brazil currently has 183 GW of power generation capacity in service, including 103 GW of hydropower, 46 GW of thermal power, 21 GW of wind power, 5, 5 GW of small hydro, 4.6 GW of solar, 1.9 GW of nuclear, 838 MW of mini hydro and 0.5 MW of wave energy.

Hydroelectricity has long been important to Brazil, accounting for up to 80% of electricity generation a decade ago, although it is approaching 60% today due to changing rainfall patterns. EPE said reliance on hydroelectricity will continue, alongside the growth of wind and solar power. But the group said the country will rely primarily on thermal power plants to supply most of the new generation, and that includes nuclear power.

Government officials have already begun a process of identifying sites for new reactors, which they want to commission by 2050, or even sooner, according to Brazil’s “National Energy Plan until 2050”. The country’s mines and energy ministry announced in January that it was working with Electrobras Cepel (Cepel), a state-funded electric power research group, to find sites where new reactors could be built.

“An increase in the participation of nuclear energy in the Brazilian energy mix is ​​important to reduce the impacts of water crises on electricity production,” Cepel said as part of the January announcement. The Ministry of Mines and Energy said in a statement: “Cooperation [with] Cepel should facilitate a more efficient choice of new nuclear sites in the country, taking into account projections of energy demand, socio-environmental needs and the attraction of new investments to enable the construction of the plants. Bento Costa Lima, the Minister for Mines and Energy, speaking at the COP26 meeting in Glasgow, Scotland last year, said nuclear energy “was, is and will be essential and fundamental to the energy transition”, adding that “we will add 10 GW in the next 30 years.

1. Brazilian officials want to complete construction of Angra 3, a nuclear project that has stalled for several years. The reactor would join two older reactors at the Angra site that have been operating since 1982 and 2000, respectively. Courtesy: Electronucleaire

Brazil’s only nuclear power plant, Angra, accounts for about 3% of the country’s output from two reactors that entered service in 1982 and 2000, respectively. Unit 1 is a 640 MW reactor; Unit 2 has a production capacity of 1,350 MW. Construction of a third reactor, the 1,245 MW Angra 3 (Figure 1), has stalled, but restarting this project is part of the country’s nuclear power plan, with hopes it could be in service by 2027.

While the Brazilian government plans to privatize electricity group Eletrobras, the Eletronuclear subsidiary will remain state-owned, giving the group more ways to find financing to complete Angra 3. Eletronuclear signed in September last year a memorandum of understanding with Russia’s Rosatom to develop cooperation in many areas of operation and maintenance of nuclear power plants, including the new construction and construction of Angra 3. Brazil has already announced its intention to adding nuclear power on at least two occasions since 2009, although nothing has materialized despite talks with major global players such as Westinghouse, China National Nuclear Corp., Korea Electric Power Co. and Rosatom. This time, however, the country wants to leverage public-private partnerships through the Conselho do Programa de Parcerias de Investimentos (CPPI, or Investment Partnership Program Council). Westinghouse could also be there.

“Around the world, we are seeing an increase in energy demand, and Brazil is no exception,” said Pam Cowan, president of Westinghouse’s Americas Operating Plant Services unit. Cowan said POWER, “Countries like Brazil are carefully considering how nuclear power can help meet their growing energy needs. Our products and services help nuclear operators deliver reliable power, achieve energy independence and build our low-carbon future.

Westinghouse, which built Angra 1, has served Brazil’s nuclear program for more than three decades and has an active presence in Latin America and South America. The company said it could supply Brazil with several nuclear power technologies, including its eVinci microreactor, small modular reactors and its AP1000 reactor for a large-scale power plant. “We are well positioned to support the full nuclear lifecycle, from designing new plants, to maintaining and operating existing plants, to decommissioning and decommissioning,” Cowan said.

The CPPI recently stated that enabling private investment in new energy infrastructure “will pave the way for the development of the Brazilian energy sector, motivating the creation of an attractive environment for investors, the revitalization of water resources and a structural reduction of energy production costs”. This private investment, while supporting large-scale nuclear, could also support decentralized power generation as part of Brazil’s energy strategy. “Unwired solutions such as Distributed Energy Resource Management Systems, or DERMS, allow operators to look in more detail at how energy is being used in their system,” Bennett said. “Often, this reveals opportunities to reduce strain on assets, giving utilities more time to coordinate system strengthening efforts efficiently and cost-effectively. Going one step further, asset health management systems allow utilities to assess the health of critical assets, such as transmission and distribution transformers.

CPPI said in a statement: “Brazil needs a strong, efficient and competitive Eletrobras, capable of meeting the investments needed to meet the increase in electricity consumption. In this sense, capitalization is essential for a promising future, not only for the company, but also for the electricity sector as a whole. To accomplish this mission, Eletrobras needs a substantial amount of resources, which the federal government does not have. Creating an attractive environment for investors will increase the competitiveness of the sector, which will reduce prices for the population.

Government data shows Brazil has 8.5GW of generating capacity, comprising 243 power plants, slated for commissioning this year, although developers have said some projects are likely to be delayed due to the pandemic. The data shows that 13.6 GW of generation capacity is being built, thanks to wind and solar installations. Projects totaling an additional 42 GW of generation capacity, including 26 GW of solar power, are in the development phase.

Darrell Supervisor is associate editor of POWER (@POWERmagazine).

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