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Updated: Nov 23, 2023

Author: Meire Rastelli

Translator: Emily Ciccarelli

The lack of society’s participation in the formulation of public policies in various sectors causes many decisions to go unnoticed. Do you know the National Energy Policy 2050? Formulated during the Bolsonaro government, it was put to public consultation in July of 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic monopolized the attention. It predicts the construction of ten more nuclear power plants until 2050, in a clear prioritization of nuclear energy, for considering it a way to reduce the greenhouse effect gases, but not examining other aspects.

Scientists such as professor Célio Bermann, from the University of São Paulo’s Energy and Environment Institute (Instituto de Energia e Ambiente da Universidade de São Paulo), in an interview to the website Brasil de Fato, clarify that there is no such thing as clean energy, because any type results from physical and chemical processes that bring some level of environmental degradation.

Add to it the enormous environmental risks. An example is the uranium mine that has been explored in Caetité, state in Bahia, by Brazil’s Nuclear Industries (Indústrias Nucleares do Brasil – INB), a state-owned company responsible for the mining of uranium in the country. Between 2009 and 2019 there were more than ten accidents, involving leaks of uranium liquor, sulfuric acid and uranium dust.

These substances have contaminated workers, soil and water sources in the region. A study conducted by scientists of the Caratinga University Center about the high incidence of cancer in the Caetité municipality concluded that there is a possible link between the uranium mining activity and the increase in the number of leukemia and lung cancer cases. The study also questions the existence of a socio-environmental study prior to the company’s implantation, as well as indicates the need for supervision from the public power to guarantee the community’s life quality, assessing the effects of radioactive waste on the population and the environment.

This population was not inert when facing the increase of cancer as a death cause in the region and the admission by the INB that there they were not monitoring the health of workers and population of the area because the radiation effects in small doses is cumulative, and it can only be seen in medium and long term. This statement was made back in 2005, in a public audience. Community leaderships and representatives from Public Federal Ministry and Public Statal Ministry of Bahia came together in favor of carrying out an inspection at INB and using it as a requirement for renewing the license to expand mining by Insituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Hídricos (IBAMA). INB remains omissive and the conflict has been accompanied by various entities of civil society.

Brazil has the sixth-largest global uranium reserve and our Constitution establishes that both the exploration, mining, enrichment, reprocessing, industrialization, nuclear mining commerciality and derivatives in terms of exploration of nuclear services and installments are a Union monopoly. It is a sector that involves billionaire ciphers and in which the private sector has great interest.

Not by accident, the federal government has acted in the sense of expanding the presence of private initiative in the sector. In that line, the National Energy Policy 2050 talks about “enhancing the regulatory mark associated with nuclear energy, going through flexibilization of the Union monopoly, by the organizational structure of the sector and its regulation”. Furthermore, the INB annual report of 2020 affirms the objective of “making models of partnership with the private capital possible”, besides the search of “operational flexibility” for possible future nuclear fuel sale.

Santa Quitéria, city of the Caatinga of Ceará with approximately 43,000 residents, lives a possible exploration of the Itatiaia quarry and the opening of the largest uranium and phosphate mine in Brazil, all this in an area with three water basins and 156 villages, including traditional, indigenous, quilombo communities and land reform settlements - populations that take it sustenance from the land.

T he Santa Quitéria project predicts a nuclear installment, a mining compound and a pile of phospho-gypsum and lime to deposit waste derived from the process. The companies involved promised hundreds of jobs and developments to the region, but many habitants hear them with distrust. They understand they are in a semiarid region and that the enterprise will use large quantities of water, besides putting all of the human and animal population at risk of radioactive contamination of waters, soil, as well as the dissemination of dirt and gases dangerous to all life. This awareness takes habitants to fight to stop the implantation of that project.

According to predictions, the Itatiaia power plant will produce three times more than the one existing in Caetité. In 2019, IBAMA considered the project unviable in environmental terms, but the companies that compose the project submitted a new request accompanied by Environmental Impact Study. The current government of Brazil is one that least defends the environment, and the communities fear the future decision, baffled with the fact that some people were called to work in the process of land sondage and well drilling without authorization by IBAMA.

The question of the quantity of water to be used by the enterprise is particularly concerning in a semi-arid region. The largest part of the population that lives in the surroundings of the Itatiaia quarry does not have access to piped water; their supply is provided by water trucks and cisterns. The Edson Queiroz Reservoir’s capacity is 254 million cubic meters of water, not to forget that 99% of the water volume must be reserved for the population so that its supply can be guaranteed in the following years. It is necessary to calculate the water availability to the population in case the project is implanted, since it is located in the semi-arid. What will occur in a dry season like the one experienced between 2012 and 2017, when the water reservoir had only 10% of its capacity?

The situation is concerning, especially in a country ruled by people that don’t value the environment and the protection of the Brazilian people’s health and life quality.

March 6th, 2022

Curatorship of the World Social Forum on Health and Social Security


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