LATIN AMERICA Uranium has taken on a whole new glow in Lula-land

Jan 01, 2008 | 01:09 PM |

Uranium, and who will mine it, is a hot topic in Brazil. With the fight against carbon emissions gaining strength, Brazil is one of several nations where nuclear energy is emerging as an environmentally acceptable alternative to both coal-based and hydroelectric power stations.

In mid-2007, the Instituto Brasileiro de Mineração (Ibram) presented the Congresso Nacional with a draft law to open up uranium mining, enrichment and sales to the private sector, until now the exclusive domain of the state. The proposal is now being considered by Brazil's legislature, and prospects for its approval look good in view of the need to ensure fuel for Brazil's Angra 1, 2 and 3 nuclear power stations. Angra 2, on hold for a long time, and Angra 3, a new project, both recently gained the go-ahead from President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, who is anxious to ward off the threat of electricity shortages that are widely feared for 2010-12 if the country's gross domestic product continues to grow at more than 5 percent a year.

Nuclear energy currently accounts for less than 3 percent of Brazilian energy generation but is seen as an answer to an increasingly complex energy equation in Brazil, where opposition from a strengthening local and international environmental lobby is stalling or dramatically slowing the major new hydro-power projects proposed for Amazonia. The opening up of uranium mining would play right into the hands of Brazil's Vale (formerly Cia. Vale do Rio Doce), which is already prospecting for uranium in Australia in a $6.5-million venture and has started exploring for uranium in Canada.....

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