Brazil's visions of nuclear-power grandeur dim

The long-awaited $350 million worth of hardware for Brazil's two new nuclear power plants arrived recently from West Germany. But it will not be sped to the construction sites. Most of it will be stored for at least another year, until Brazil's nuclear construction program is nudged back on track.

A decade ago the military government proudly unfurled a bold nuclear-energy plan. Now Brazil is stumbling on its visions of grandeur, high estimates of energy demands, bad planning, and soaring construction costs.

Inflation, spiraling international interest rates, and faulty equipment have all waylaid the nuclear program. Brazil's first power plant is still not operating properly. At best only 4 of the 9 reactors planned for 1990 will be ready by the year 2000.

Estimated originally to cost about $9 billion, the nine plants are now expected to total up to $30 billion. The power they will generate will cost nearly $3,000 per kilowatt and will take years for Brazil to absorb.

That is twice as much as the unit price for hydroelectric power. Brazil today has a potential of 213 million kilowatts of hydroelectric power, seven times as much as the country can absorb - without nuclear energy.

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