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Armed raid on nuclear workers’ housing raises fears over Brazil’s two reactors

Screenshot from 2018-01-13 05:06:22.png


Dom Phillips 13 Jan 2018

Fears over the security of Brazil’s two nuclear power plants have been raised after a heavily armed gang raided a secure workers’ condominium just a kilometre away and blew up two cash machines.

About 10 men held security guards hostage at around 3am on Monday, robbed guests at a party in a private club then escaped in a waiting speedboat from the Praia Brava condominium for workers at the Angra 1 and 2 nuclear reactors, run by state company Eletronuclear.

It was the second incident in a month: on 9 December, thieves exploded an ATM in the Mambucaba Condominium, another security-controlled workers’ village 15km away from the plants, near Angra dos Reis on the Rio de Janeiro state coastline.

Dr Paul Dorfman, a senior researcher at University College London’s Energy Institute, said that the use of “explosives and modern weaponry close to any nuclear plant” was a cause for worry, even if the explosion would not have caused direct damage to reactors.

“There are grave and increasing concerns about risk of attack to a nuclear plant across the world,” he said.

While reactors are encased in steel pressure vessels and layers of concrete, high-level radioactive spent nuclear fuel ponds are at greater risk. Older reactors like Angra 1, which began operating in 1982, have less sophisticated safety systems than more modern plants.

“If someone was to throw a few explosions around you could imagine what would happen,” Dorfman said.

Residents of the Praia Brava condominium, which is controlled by a private security firm, were terrified by the attacks.

“They were stunned,” said a relative of one family that lives in the condominium, who spoke anonymously for fear of reprisals. “Nobody imagined that this could happen.”

Local politicians have called for military protection for the area.

“It is an unbelievable situation,” said Thimoteo de Sá, a city councillor in Angra dos Reis, the nearest town 44 kilometres away. “This should be protected by the army at least – we are talking about a nuclear plant.”

On Friday, Eletronuclear closed cash machine at its four residential areas, the company said in an emailed statement.

“The entire security force of the company in Angra was put on notice, and the surveillance of the Angra nuclear power plant was reinforced,” it said. Security at the plants is overseen by the federal government, it said.

Brazil, Argentina and Mexico are the only three Latin American countries with functioning nuclear power plants.

Brazil is believed to have had a nuclear weapons programme, though it is unclear if it ever actually developed a weapon, and it renounced the ambitions in 1990. Brazil still mines its own uranium and is building a nuclear-powered submarine with French help.

Angra 1 and Angra 2 supply 3% of Brazil’s electricity. Work on a third reactor, Angra 3 began in 1984, was suspended two years later, began again in 2010 and ground to a halt again in 2015 after Eletronuclear officials were arrested as part of a sweeping corruption investigation.

Eletronuclear said it was looking for partners to finish Angra 3 and has signed memorandums of understanding with Russia’s state nuclear company Rosatom and the China National Nuclear Corporation.

Lying around 200km west of Rio de Janeiro, the “Green Coast” tourist area around Angra dos Reis has suffered from rising violent crime. In August, British tourist Eloise Dixon was shot and wounded when her family’s hire car drove into a community controlled by Rio drug gang the Red Command.

Police said the gang involved in the December ATM robberies targeted Santander bank cash machines because they have less sophisticated security systems.

“It is a gang specialised in this type of crime, it operates in other states and it had support from a gang here in Rio,” said Mauricio Mendonça, a detective from the Rio police’s robberies division.


January 13, 2018 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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