Brazil to let private sector mine for uranium

Angra is Brazil’s only nuclear plant. (Image courtesy of International Atomic Energy Agency Brazil | Flickr Commons.)

Brazil’s lower house has approved a constitutional reform that authorizes the private sector to enter the uranium sector, which is currently the exclusive responsibility of state-run Indústrias Nucleares do Brasil (INB).

INB controls all activities related to mining of materials used for generating nuclear power. The country currently has to import most of the uranium used to power Brazil’s only nuclear plant — Angra.

The state-run firm will now be allowed to partner with private companies for uranium exploration and mining. INB would be able to also team up in related activities, such as processing of uranium ores, uranium enrichment and production, as well as the development of nuclear power technologies, the lower house said in a statement

The proposed amendment must now be approved by the senate by December 9, otherwise it loses validity. 

Brazil has the sixth largest uranium reserves in the world, but only a third of the country has been explored for the radioactive material, data from the World Nuclear Association shows.

Latin America’s largest economy reopened in late 2020 its only uranium mine, Caetité, located in the state of Bahia. The operation had been halted since 2014.

Mining from the new open pit, Engenho, is expected to make the country self-sufficient in terms of feeding its nuclear power reactors.  

Brazil’s only nuclear plant has two operating reactors, which generate about 3% of the nation’s electricity.

Construction of a third reactor resumed November, after being stalled for over seven years.