Brazil president inaugurates 450-MW Amador Aguiar

Officiating at a hydro project inauguration May 4, Brazil President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva warned that Brazil would be forced to resort to nuclear energy if obstructions to hydropower development are not lifted.

Lula took part in inauguration of the 210-MW second stage of the 450-MW Amador Aguiar hydroelectric project in Minas Gerais State. The 240-MW first stage of the project was commissioned in December on the Araguari River under the name Capim Branco. (HNN 12/6/06) The project was renamed Amador Aguiar in honor of the founder of big Brazilian bank Bradesco.

The 1 billion reais (US$463 million) project was developed by a consortium led by mining company Companhia Vale do Rio Doce (CVRD). Other members of the Capim Branco consortium are Minas Gerais utility Companhia Energetica de Minas Gerais (Cemig), base metals producer Votorantim, and Suzano Papel e Celulose, part of Comercial e Agricola Paineiras.

Lula: Stalling hydro will bring nuclear age

Lula repeated his complaints about delays in building two large hydropower projects on the Madeira River in the Amazon. The long process of getting environmental licenses has delayed the 3,580-MW Santo Antonio and 3,300-MW Jirau hydroelectric projects. (HNN 4/30/07)

�Everyone knows of the problems that we have to face, the legal, the environmental,� the president said. �We have two great plants on the Madeira River and are working intensely to overcome the obstacles presented.�

A few days earlier, Lula split up the environmental protection agency, Instituto Brasileiro de Meio Ambiente (Ibama), saying it was too slow in granting operating licenses for infrastructure projects such as hydroelectric plants.

A new agency called the Institute of Biodiversity is to take over Ibama’s conservation tasks such as management of wildlife and nature reserves. That is to leave Ibama to concentrate exclusively on supervision, licensing, and authorization relating to the environment, officials said.

Although officials said the plan actually would strengthen Ibama’s licensing activity, it was attacked by environmental groups. Protesters accused the government of bending environmental laws to force through big industrial projects.

While Lula was at the hydro site, more than 100 environmental protection workers showed up at Congress carrying signs, banging on doors, and asking legislators to reject the presidential order reorganizing Ibama.

Lula said he would be deciding in coming weeks whether Brazil will build a third nuclear power plant. Work on the 1,350-MW Angra 3 reactor was halted in 1985 due to lack of funds.

Lula said oil and gas plants are more expensive than hydro and nuclear energy, and Brazil has a shortage of fossil fuels.

“We can’t continue depending on gas we don’t have,� he said. �We need to think about the type of energy in our matrix,” he said.

“We either build the hydroelectric plants we need or we’ll enter the nuclear age,” Lula said.

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