Brazil energy minister favors more nuclear power but not hydro: report

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil’s incoming mines and energy minister, Bento Albuquerque, supports more nuclear and wind power development to diversify the country’s energy matrix, while saying hydropower had reached its limit, newspaper Folha de S.Paulo reported on Friday.

Albuquerque favors restarting construction of the Angra 3 nuclear power plant, which has been halted since 2015, as well as promoting the mining of uranium in Brazil, he said in an interview with Folha.

The admiral is currently the Brazilian Navy’s head of nuclear development and technology, responsible for building five submarines, including a nuclear-powered vessel scheduled to enter service in 2029.

Angra 3 would be Brazil’s third nuclear plant. Earlier this year sources told Reuters that the project was struggling to find investors. Albuquerque said that up to 49 percent of the project was open to private investment.

“They say (Angra 3) needs 15 billion reais ($3.84 billion) more, and we’ve already spent 16 billion reais. Is it worth it? I think it’s very worth it,” said Albuquerque, who was chosen by President-elect Jair Bolsonaro to be minister after the Jan. 1 government transition.

Bolsonaro had suggested the country build more hydropower stations in the Amazon, raising fears of increased deforestation among environmentalists, but Albuquerque said that expanding hydro power is not viable.

“The model of large hydropower stations is no longer viable, whether for environmental concerns or for the depletion of water resources,” he said in the interview.

Albuquerque said he had not yet made up his mind on the privatization of state-owned energy utility Centrais Eletricas Brasileiras SA, proposed under the current administration of President Michel Temer.

Reporting by Jake Spring and Anthony Boadle; Editing by Steve Orlofsky