Resende Nuclear Fuel Factory (FCN)
The completion date for the navy's nuclear-powered submarine was postponed several times, from 1995 to 2010. Until 1995 that project had cost an estimated US$1 billion. The submarine program, rarely scrutinized in the past, was the subject of scathing criticism by Veja, the leading weekly news magazine, in December 1994. The magazine raised allegations of corruption and exposed technical difficulties with the program.
Parts of the original Navy centrifuge project remain active. The Navy's original project for Uranium-235 enrichment has been transformed into a commercial venture. In 2000, the Navy announced the transfer of this plant to a Brazilian state company -- The Nuclear Industries of Brazil (UNB) in Resende, a city in the state of Rio de Janeiro.
The plant should ultimately reach the production of 100,000 SWU/year, enough for one oft Brazil's nuclear power reactors. Its first module with 20,000 SWU/year became operational at the end of 2003 year. The complete set of units was intended to be operating in eight years, to attend the ANGRA 1 needs and partially the needs of ANGRA 2 and 3 (~300,000 SWU/year). A future increase of this capacity will depend on technical evaluation and resources availability.
With this capacity, the plant could initially produce enough HEU for 5-6 implosion type warheads. By 2010, as capacity rises, it could make enough every year for 26 to 31 [100,000 SWU/year] and by 2014 enough for 53 to 63 [200,000 SWU/year].
The first Brazilian uranium enrichment plant is in the process of being implemented, using part of the existing facilities, in industrial scale, through the ultra-centrifugation technology. A contract between INB and the Centro Tecnológico da Marinha (The Brazilian Navy Technological Center) in São Paulo (CTMSP) provided for a project with modular implementation and the installation of the 1st cascade for the first half of 2002.
INB plans to install a 200 t SWU/a centrifuge enrichment plant, using a technology developed at the Centro Tecnológico da Marinha - CTMSP (Navy Technological Center) in São Paulo, in the Resende Industrial Plant in the State of Rio de Janeiro. This plant will have an initial capacity of 100 t SWU/a and was planned to become operational in 2002.
In December 2002 Brazil opened the new uranium enrichment plant that can produce fuel for its nuclear power plant or for export. The plant, in the town of Resende in Rio de Janeiro state, cost some $140 million.
The Nuclear Fuel Factory (FCN) lies at INB Resende, South of Rio de Janeiro State. This industrial unit - of pioneering activities in the Country - contains the production of uranium dioxide powder and pellets, the production of components and the assembly of the fuel element, the company administrative area and the Zoo-Botanic Center. The infrastructure for the uranium enrichment activities is under implementation. Previously, Brazil supplied the uranium, which is transported to Canada where it's converted into hexafluoride gas, and then to the United Kingdom for enrichment before it returns to Brazil for fabrication into fuel elements.
The unit has an in-house nuclear safety program and an external one, for environmental monitoring. A nuclear accounting system, internally implemented, required by the Comissão Nacional de Energia Nuclear - CNEN (the Brazilian nuclear regulatory authority) and supervised by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) continously performs a balance of the material in processing with a precision reaching tenths of milligrams.
By late 2003 the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was negotiating with the Brazilian Government to ensure that the new uranium enrichment facility, due to begin operating in 2005, was properly safeguarded.
In April 2004 the Brazilian government denied access for the IAEA inspectors to the uranium enrichment facility being built in Resende. The plant, scheduled to begin operation in October 2004, remains subject to IAEA inspections aimed at making sure it is notused for producing weapons-grade material. In February and March 2004 Brazil refused to let IAEA inspectors see equipment in the plant, citing a need to protect proprietary information. The IAEA had dispatched inspectors to Resende who found significant portions of the facility and its contents shielded from view. Walls had been built and coverings are draped over equipment.
By November 2004 the IAEA was able to reach an agreement in principle with the Brazilian government on a safeguards approach to verify the enrichment facilities in Brazil, at the Resende facility. This approach would enable the IAEA to do credible inspections but at the same time take care of Brazil´s need to protect certain commercial sensitivity inside the facility.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|