Commissioning of Kudankulam NPP and nuclear energy in Latin America, by Leonam dos Santos Guimaraes, Planning, Management and Environment Director Eletrobras.
The Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant emerged from an intergovernmental agreement between the former Soviet Union and India in 1988. Its 100% connection to the grid is a great achievement. It is the result of a strong political will and a government commitment to the nuclear programme of that country. The fact that the unit is of VVER type - a Russian version of PWR - and the long tradition of local PHWR technology in India, show that technology transfer strategy and diversification are ways to improve nuclear energy in the country. For Russia, selling its VVER technology abroad, is also a great achievement. Kudankulam will thus be a shop window of Rosatom’s technological and commercial capabilities.
In a world marked by conflict, it is gratifying to see that one of the major industries such as nuclear - in which the state-of-the-art technology, money and politics are so united - can enhance its credibility and increase its revenues in a civilised way through economic and scientific cooperation. Russia has traditionally been one of the strongest players in this market. Its nuclear technologies have long been considered the best in the world, allowing it to acquire economic and political partners globally. This is especially true in Asia, which has just set out on the road to acquiring relatively cheap nuclear energy, while it seeks partners able to provide them with safe and economical nuclear reactors. In this regard, Russia’s greatest success so far is the development of nuclear cooperation with such states powerful as India or China.
Most of the currently planned reactors are in Asia, region with fast-growing economies and growing demand for electricity. Many countries with existing nuclear energy programmes (such as Argentina, Armenia, Brazil, Bulgaria, China, Czech Republic, India, Pakistan, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, South Korea, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, Ukraine, the United Kingdom) plan to build new power reactors (besides those under construction). In total, over 160 power reactors with a total net capacity of about 182,000 MWe are planned and more than 300 are proposed.
Energy security concerns and fossil fuel constraints due to the greenhouse effect, have combined with national needs for economic growth and social inclusion to put nuclear power back on the agenda for projected new capacity in many countries.
The fact that unit #2 of the Kudankulam nuclear plant has reached 100% of its capacity is a good motivation to talk about nuclear energy in Latin America. In order to do so, we must first understand the region’s diversity of economic, energetic and social contexts. Brazil, Argentina and Mexico are the only three countries that currently have nuclear power plants in operation. But Chile, Uruguay and, more recently, Venezuela and Bolivia, are showing up as potential newcomers. In 2016, the World Energy Council presented a study on energy projections in Latin America based on three basic scenarios for 2060, which are called SAMBA, TANGO and BLUES.
The study considers critical uncertainties for the three scenarios, with respect to productivity and competitiveness; climate change and resilience; regional governance and the instruments of action. TANGO’s scenario, with strong productivity and economic growth led by the States, shows the highest nuclear quota and installed capacity for the region. But the World Energy Council holds a pessimistic view for our industry, stating that “nuclear waste is very limited in the region due to lack of institutional capacity and high capital costs.” However, the Latin American nuclear energy projections - developed by the International Atomic Energy Agency - forecast between 13 and 55 installed GW in the region by 2050. Someone said that “predicting is a very difficult task, especially when it comes to predicting the future.” As we say in Brazil, “even the past is uncertain”, so I prefer to be more optimistic in regards to nuclear power in Brazil and Latin America.