Angra 3, Nuclear Power Plant in Brazil

Angra 3 is a new nuclear plant planned for Brazil, which the German government is keen to actively support.

ECA Watch member urgewald is actively campaigning on this issue.

The Angra 3 project - history and current situation

After raising concerns about the Angra 3 project after the Fukushima disaster, the German government is waiting for results of a Brazillian 'stress test' on the project. When the results are available, the government will make a decision on whether to convert its 'in principle' guarantee to genuine ECA support for Angra 3.

German-Brazillian agreement to build 8 nuclear power plantsGerman government gives' in principle' ECA guarantee for Angra 3 plantFukushima disaster leads to change in German nuclear policyGerman government demands reports on how Angra3 designs take on board lessons from Fukushima

The Angra 3 project

In the 1970s a German-Brazilian nuclear treaty agreed German assistance in building eight nuclear power plants, a uranium enrichment plant and a reprocessing plant in Brazil. In reality only one reactor was built, Angra 2, which existed as a derelict construction site for decades before finally coming online in 2000. Angra 3 is supposed to be the twin reactor to Angra 2.

The original 1970s plans were drawn up and tendered by German company Kraftwerks Union, which later became part of Siemens, then Areva-Siemens, and is now fully owned by Areva.

Export credit guarantees for Angra 3

In late 2009 Areva requested from the German government an export credit guarantee worth €1.3 billion to construct Angra 3. In February 2010 the government granted an ‘in principle’ guarantee, to be converted into a full guarantee once Areva secured full financing for the project with private banks. ECA ‘in principle’ guarantees can be cancelled when there is a change to the the basic legal or factual position underpinning the guarantee changes.

Areva and its Brazilian client Eletronuclear have been negotiating with a consortium of mainly French banks including Société Générale and BNP Paribas to secure the financing.

In order to grant an ‘in principle’ guarantee for Angra 3, the German government of the time had to eliminate an existing guideline on export credits which forbade the promotion of nuclear exports.

The effect of Fukushima – in Germany

Following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011, Germany’s own policies on nuclear power fell under new scrutiny and the government placed a three month moratorium on extending the lifespan of old nuclear reactors in Germany.

Urgewald and other environmental organisations argued that this moratorium represented a change in the factual basis of Germany’s ‘in principle’ ECA guarantee for Angra 3, and that the guarantee should be cancelled. These arguments were supported by an online petition calling for cancellation of the guarantee, signed by more than 130,000 people and extensive media interest in what a German phase-out of nuclear power might mean for nuclear exports from the country.

Opposition members of the budget committee forced the government in July not to prolong automatically the guarantee in principle (due every six month until the final guarantee is given) in the light of Fukushima and the German phase-out.

The effect of Fukushima – in Brazil

Brazil’s two existing nuclear power plants faced close scrutiny following the Fukushima accident. Existing criticism about unsatisfactory evacuation plans and radioactive waste storage on site in open cooling ponds was reinforced, and the head of the Brazilian nuclear authority (CNEN) was forced out of office. It was revealed that Angra 2 had been operating for 10 years on a preliminary licence.

In July 2011 the Brazilian bar association raised in the High Court concerns that Congres had never voted on Angra 3, in violation of the Brazilian constitution. While Electronuclear argues that Angra 3 holds a valid licence for construction from the 1970s, the bar association posits that after 20 years of de facto stagnation, the project should be considered as new and requires validation from congress.

The current state of Angra 3

In September 2011 the German government extended its ‘in principle’ guarantee for Angra 3.

The government also demanded a report from Areva on how the Angra 3 plans take on board lessons from Fukushima, in particular dealing with potential problems from earth quakes, landslides (regular in the area and often blocking the only evacuation road), floods, emergency electricity supplies and evacuation plans. In March 2012 urgewald and Greenpeace presented a study by two Brazilian experts further raising doubts and detailing the problems of bad evacuation plans, the danger of land slides, the unsatisfactory safety evaluation, and the problems of the old design.

Areva answered the government’s request by publishing a report in April 2012. It primarily refers to a ‘stress test’ to be carried out in Brazil in order to answer the government’s questions. The German government is still waiting for the results of the Brazilian stress test before deciding how to move on the project.

More information:

Information on Angra 3 from BankTrack
uregwald website (in German)


Publications related to Angra 3, Nuclear Power Plant in Brazil