Uranium and derivatives
In addition to generating electricity in nuclear power plants, Brazil has large reserves of raw material
Uranium and derivatives
A nuclear power plant works the same way as a conventional thermal power generation plant. What changes is the heat source: instead of burning coal, oil or gas, power generation begins with the fission of uranium atoms in the reactor. The nucleus is hit by a nuclear particle, a neutron, which causes its fission into two or more parts.
This causes the release of a large quantity of energy in addition releasing more neutrons that then provide continuity to the fission process with other uranium atoms. The energy generated in this process heats the system water, which becomes steam and then drives a turbine. Finally, the electricity generator coupled to the shaft of the turbine produces electricity. The process has the advantage of emitting little CO2, either directly or indirectly - quantities are comparable to renewable sources.
Brazil currently has two nuclear plants in operation, Angra 1 and Angra 2 (both in the State of Rio de Janeiro). With the inauguration of Angra 3 in 2016, current production of 2,007 MW will increase to 3,412 MW. In the coming decades additional plants are going be built, in locations yet to be defined, in order to provide base load generation.
In addition to expanding nuclear capacity, Brazil invests in the extraction of the raw material for nuclear generation, uranium. Only six countries hold 81% of known uranium reserves. Brazil has the sixth largest reserves, with 309,370 tonnes, however more than 80% of national territory has yet to be prospected.
This level of reserves should increase with the advancement of exploration activities. Currently the uranium mined in the country comes from the Caetité mine in the State of Bahia, the only uranium mine in Latin America.
It is estimated that potentially there is an additional 300,000 tons in locations where uranium is associated with other rocks (especially in the Northern Region), and another 500,000 tons in areas not yet prospected. New national reserves are expected to lift Brazil to occupy third position worldwide.
Uranium is distributed over the entire earth's crust and forms part the majority of rocks, but only those which have a high uranium content are exploitable. The containing rock is extracted from the ground and then subjected to an industrial process that produces a liquor. This is taken to a processing plant, where it is clarified and filtered to turn into a yellow colored salt - uranium concentrate.
Considering only the uranium already prospected, there is already enough to supply 37 power plants equal to Angra 2 for 65 years, helping to reduce external energy dependence.