November 11, 2019 / 8:15 PM / a month ago

Brazil mulls nuclear agency as stepping stone to OECD membership

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil is considering joining the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), a specialized agency within the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which could serve as a stepping stone to joining the rich-nations club, its head said.

NEA director general William Magwood said the membership of the agency, which groups 33 countries with 85% of the world’s nuclear power capacity, is straightforward and based on mutual interest in sharing state-of-the-art nuclear technology.

“Membership can happen very quickly and that means it is a very practical stepping stone toward OECD membership,” Magwood said in an interview on Friday.

He said South Korea used that path in the 1970s and, more recently, Argentina joined the agency in 2017 with the intention that it would help its pending bid for OECD membership.

“They are certainly talking about it, it is something the Brazilian government is looking at,” Magwood said at the end of a visit to Brazil during which he visited the country’s unfinished Angra 3 reactor.

Brazil had expected to join the OECD quickly with the backing that U.S. President Donald Trump offered President Jair Bolsonaro in March, but in October Trump said Argentina had U.S. endorsement to join first, dashing Brazil’s hopes.

Membership of the NEA largely overlaps with the OECD, except for three exceptions: Russia, Romania and Argentina.

SMALL IS GOOD

Magwood said Brazil was doing the right thing in completing its mothballed third nuclear reactor, Angra 3, on the coast south of Rio de Janeiro, despite the price tag to finish the job, estimated at some 15 billion reais ($3.7 billion).

Brazil’s state nuclear power company Eletronuclear is looking for a partner for Angra 3 and has narrowed the field to China’s National Nuclear Corp (CNNC), France’s EDF (EDF.PA) or Russia’s Rosatom.

“It is such a huge investment that it makes sense to go ahead and finish that plant, but beyond that Brazil should start looking at new technologies,” Magwood said.

Magwood said Brazil is right to plan new reactors because climate change concerns will demand cleaner energy for the future, while Brazilian authorities he spoke with said the country is reaching the limits of its hydroelectric potential.

As the government studies plans to build more nuclear plants in Brazil’s northeast, it would do well to study small reactors that are cheaper and safer and can be built in larger numbers, he said.

The first of these, made by NuScale Power LLC, majority-owned by Fluor Corp (FLR.N), will be on the market next year.

Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Leslie Adler

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