RESENDE, Brazil Ė Brazil increased its capacity to enrich uranium with the unveiling on Thursday of a new cascade of centrifuges, though its goal of mastering the whole nuclear energy production cycle depends on the next governmentís decision to resume investments in the project.
Brazilís minister of science and technology, Gilberto Kassab, who headed the opening ceremony, said that the unveiling of the seventh cascade of the enrichment plant operated by state-run INB in Resende, Rio de Janeiro state, was a historic event for the countryís nuclear industry.
The minister, however, acknowledged that the future of the project depends on whether Brazilís next president, who will be elected on Oct. 7, resumes investments in the Nuclear Energy Program, which has suffered from drastic budget cuts implemented by the current administration.
ďOur goal is to show the future government that this is a strategic activity and to present the reports demonstrating that new investments are needed to be able to conclude the project as soon as possible,Ē Kassab told EFE.
He estimated that it would cost an additional 2.5 billion reais ($625 million) to complete the project.
Brazil is one of only 12 nations to have developed the capacity to enrich uranium.
In the year 2000, the INB plant began producing part of the enriched uranium needed for Brazilís two nuclear power plants, Angra I and Angra II.
The government expects to conclude the first phase of the project in 2019 after building 10 ultracentrifuge cascades, through which Brazil will have the capacity to supply 70 percent of the enriched uranium needed by Angra I.
Thirty new cascades are expected to be built during the projectís second phase, which will conclude in 2033, giving INB the capacity to supply 100 percent of the fuel for Angra I, Angra II and Angra III, now under construction.
Brazil, with some of the largest uranium reserves in the world, has mastered six of the seven phases of the nuclear energy production cycle.
The Brazilian navy has created the technology to accomplish the seventh phase of converting uranium into a gas, though the country does not yet have the infrastructure to carry out this process in an industrial scale.