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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 October, 2003, 13:27 GMT 14:27 UK
Brazil to produce enriched uranium
Roberto Amaral
Mr Amaral aims to make Brazil self-sufficient in uranium
The Brazilian Government has announced plans to begin enriching uranium next year, for use as fuel in its two nuclear power plants and for export within a decade.

The Brazilian Science and Technology Minister, Roberto Amaral, said the programme was designed to guarantee the country's energy supply, which depends heavily on hydroelectric power.

Brazil has the world's sixth largest uranium reserves and has had the capacity to enrich uranium since 1980, but has so far only done so for research purposes.

The uranium currently used to power Brazilian nuclear plants is enriched in Europe.

Power problems

Under the programme, Brazil aims to produce 60% of the uranium it needs to power the country's two nuclear plants, Angra 1 and 2, by the year 2010.

By 2014, Brazil expects to be completely self-sufficient in uranium and should also be able to produce enough for export.

The plan represents a revival of interest in nuclear energy in Brazil, after it became clear that the country's reliance on hydroelectric power left it vulnerable in times of low rainfall.

In 2001, Brazil was forced to bring in electricity rationing after a drought left reservoirs very low.

Peaceful programme

Mr Amaral's views on Brazil's nuclear programme have caused controversy in the past.

In January, he made international headlines after giving an interview to the BBC's Brazilian service, in which he argued that Brazil should not rule out acquiring the scientific knowledge necessary to build an atomic bomb.

However, he later denied that this meant Brazil intended to develop nuclear weapons.

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