Leak raises safety fears over Brazil’s nuclear industry
A newly-uncovered leak at Brazil’s only nuclear plant has raised fears over plans to add another reactor to the complex.
The Brazilian news magazine, Epoca, has uncovered a leak at one of two reactors at the nation’s only nuclear plant, Angra 1 & 2, increasing fears over the plans of state electricity supplier, Electrobras, to add a further reactor. Epoca, other Brazilian media and environmentalists see the failure to announce the leak of thousands of gallons of slightly radioactive cooling water, which occurred in May but was never announced, as a cover-up. However, the Brazilian government has said that since the accident at the Angra 1 reactor, which was caused by human error, but which was contained by an emergency tank, only ranked as one on a 1-7 scale of seriousness, there was no need to publicly announce it. Although the entire plant was shut down for a whole week, whilst the nation is still in the throes of an energy crisis (see related story), the government said the spill at the plant, which is situated 80 miles (120 kilometres) west of Rio de Janeiro in one of Brazil’s biggest resort and eco-tourism areas, never posed any threat to the environment, public, or workers.
The government is yet to agree on whether to permit a third reactor, and this incident seems likely to lead to further objections from the Environment Ministry. Proponents of the project say that another reactor is essential to reduce the country’s reliance on hydroelectricity, the reason for its current woes, but opponents say it is too expensive to build more plant and there are few waste storage options.
“The accident again confirms that the nuclear programme is extremely dangerous,” commented Greenpeace Brasil, adding that it had been informed that a moratorium on new reactors was being prepared.