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Brazil joins world's nuclear club


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Brazil has joined the select group of countries with the capability of enriching uranium as a means of generating energy.


A new centrifuge facility was formally opened on Friday at the Resende nuclear plant in the state of Rio de Janeiro.


The Brazilian government says its technology is some of the most advanced in the world.


The official opening follows lengthy negotiations with the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the IAEA.


Brazil has some of the largest reserves of uranium in the world but until now the ore has had to be shipped abroad for enrichment - the process which produces nuclear fuel.


In future some of that enrichment will take place in Brazil.


The government says that within a decade the country will be able to meet all its nuclear energy needs.


Brazilian scientists insist their technology is superior to that of existing nuclear powers. They claim the type of centrifuge in use at Resende will be 25 times more efficient than facilities in France or the United States.




Sensitivity over that technology led to a standoff two years ago with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN watchdog.


Keen to protect its commercial secrets, Brazil was reluctant to give inspectors full access to its facilities and politically the negotiations were complicated by simultaneous concerns about Iran's nuclear plans.


But in the end Brazil and the IAEA agreed a system of safeguards to ensure that the new facilities would not be channelled into weapons production.


Friday's opening at Resende is being hailed as a major step forward in Brazil's development and it comes amid renewed concerns about energy supplies in South America.


Last week Bolivia announced plans to nationalise its gas reserves, prompting fears of price rises. As a big importer of Bolivian gas, Brazil sees nuclear energy as one of several strategic alternatives.



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