Brazilian nuclear power plant goes up in natural paradise

The CNAAA nuclear power complex, seen on Aug. 1, 2019, is being built by Brazil on the beautiful coast of Rio de Janeiro state, in an area that UNESCO named a World Heritage Site just a few months ago. EFE-EPA/Fabio Motta

Brazil, whose paradisiacal beaches and exotic landscapes attract thousands of tourists every year, is building a nuclear power plant on the beautiful coast of Rio de Janeiro state.

Made up of two plants already in operation and a third under construction, the Admiral Alvaro Alberto Nuclear Complex (CNAAA) is located on the banks of Itaorna Beach in Angra do Reis municipality, a dream of a place that UNESCO named a World Heritage Site just a few months ago.

Ocean waters in rich shades of blue, smooth sand beaches and wild vegetation on its mountainsides characterize the region chosen for the new nuclear complex going up not far from an exquisite resort known as a getaway for billionaires and soccer stars like Neymar.

Though the idea of a nuclear neighborhood might be a little disturbing, it hasn’t stopped construction of luxury tourist developments and massive mansions in the region.

The reason is quite simple, according to those in charge of the Brazilian installation, who say the anxiety being created around the project is greater than it truly deserves.

Electronuclear chairman Leonam Gumaraes, whose public agency operates the power plant, said that most nuclear accidents have been caused by mistaken procedures.

“The safety of nuclear plants is shown by their very positive historic record. Of course there were two significant accidents: the one at Chernobyl (1986) and at Fukushima (2011). However, the majority (of accidents) were not caused by radiation but rather by the procedures employed, and, to a certain extent, by people’s fear of radiation,” Gumaraes said.

So much so that if a radiation alarm is sounded in a plant of the Angra dos Reis complex, in 99.9 percent of the cases it can be fixed with soap and water - that was the guarantee offered by Jefferson Borges Araujo, chief inspector of the CCAAA during a guided tour of the Angra 2 plant for foreign correspondents.

Araujo said that at present the chances of an accident occurring in any of the 436 nuclear plants around the world are minimal, and Brazil is no exception.

The official said that whatever might lead to a tragedy would most likely be due to external factors, as occurred with the one at Fukushima in Japan, which was destroyed by a tsunami.

“As for Brazil, the chances of a tsunami are practically non-existent,” Araujo told EFE, adding that if it should happen, the power plant has defenses - a natural one that is Isla Grande, located a few kilometers (miles) from the plant, and a barrier built to contain giant tidal waves.

Furthermore, all construction at the complex is over 6 meters (20 feet) above sea level, compared with 4 at Fukushima.

Despite being very secure, its industrial aspect is clearly an offense against the beautiful, lush landscape of mountain and sea that surrounds it. But no matter how much of an abuse it may appear to the viewer, it was not by whim that it was built there.

Its location in Angra dos Reis is strategic because it is close to Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, the two largest cities in the country and the principal centers of energy consumption in the South American giant.

The fact that it is close to the sea, surrounded by abundant water, helps keep the temperature of its reactors down, which is vital to its operation.

With regard to its location, the CNAAA does no harm to the environment because the production of nuclear energy does not spew greenhouse gases and is a necessary complement to renewable energy.

The plant currently generates about 3 percent of the electricity used in Brazil, thanks to its prodution of more than 2,000 MW - 640 MW at Angra 1 and 1,350 MW at Angra 2.

Gumaraes said that during the first half of 2026, when the Angra 3 plant is scheduled to begin operations, another 1,400 MW of generating capacity will be added. EFE-EPA mat/cd