In 2009, the state-owned Eletronuclear company, based in Rio de Janeiro and with offices in Brasilia, opened a branch in Recife, Pernambuco. Its plans at that time were to build a nuclear power plant along the coast somewhere between Salvador, Bahia and Recife, Pernambuco.
The Pernambuco state government initially planned to locate the power plant near Porto de Suape, in the Recife metropolitan region, according to media reports. However, that location was discarded due to geological instability. Without no viable location found on the coast, the banks of the São Francisco River began to be considered for the project; considering, in addition to the available water, characteristics such as low population density (ten inhabitants per square kilometer), the existence of a power grid ̶ of the Companhia Hidrelétrica do São Francisco (Chesf) ̶ and the geological stability. A site was selected on the border between the municipalities of Belém do São Francisco and Itacuruba.
Between 2009 and 2011, Eletronuclear technicians visited the site to prepare studies and, considering the 2030 National Energy Plan, an eight square kilometer site along the river’s edge was allocated for the plant.
The Central Nuclear do Nordeste [the Northeast Nuclear Complex], as the project was named, would have space for up to six reactors, although the initial project called for only two. With six, it would have a 6,600 megawatt capacity and annual gross production of 50.58 million megawatts.
In 2011, Eletronuclear (a subsidiary of Eletrobras) released a report that indicated that the location was the best available option in the Northeast. The Pernambuco governor at the time, Eduardo Campos, of the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB), supported the idea. However, article 216 of the state constitution prohibited the use of nuclear energy until all other possible sources had been exhausted.
Due to legal hurdles at the time, construction of the plant became impossible. However, the subject was raised again in 2019, after the Secretary of Energy Planning and Development of the federal Ministry of Mines and Energy, Reive Barros, at an event in Rio de Janeiro, mentioned that the “soon to be released” 2050 National Energy Plan would likely endorse the construction of new nuclear power plants, in addition to proposing the completion of Angra 3. The president of Eletronuclear, Leonam Guimarães, specifically mentioned the municipality of Itacuruba, indicating that there were already viability studies for the plant construction at a cost of 30 billion reais.
A proposed constitutional amendment, PEC nº 09/2019 submitted by state representative Alberto Feitosa (Solidarity Party), sought to alter the Pernambuco state constitution to allow nuclear plant construction in the state, which expanded the debate and mobilizations about the power plant.
Two Indigenous peoples, the Pankará and the Tuxá, currently reside in the areas that will be impacted by the plant. They were not previously consulted about the project, as required by International Labour Organization Convention 169, which had been ratified by Brazil. Around 300 Pankará and 78 Tuxá families will have their traditional ways of life affected if the project proceeds, especially fishing in the São Francisco River. The project has also interfered with progress of the administrative demarcation of the Pankará Serrote dos Campos Indigenous Land, and recognition of the territorial rights of the Tuxá in Itacuruba.
On 11 October 2019, Leonam Guimarães and senator Fernando Bezerra Coelho, (Brazilain Democratic Moviment (MDB), leader of the Bolsonaro government in the Senate, introduced the details of the Itacuruba project to Pernambuco Governor Paulo Câmara, Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB), who said he was at least open to discussion. The federal attorney in Pernambuco (PR-PE) then began preparations to investigate the case.
correia, Mariama.2019.PEC que abre caminho para usina nuclear em Itacuruba divide governistas na Alepe. In: Marco Zero. Recife, 11 out.Disponível em:https://marcozero.org/pec-que-abre-caminho-para-usina-nuclear-em-itacuruba-divide-governistas-na-alepe/. Accessed: 20 Nov. 2019.
mariz, Carlos Henrique. 2011. A rota da expansão da energia nuclear brasileira. 2º Seminário Nacional de Energia Nuclear. Rio de Janeiro. Disponível em:https://www.slideshare.net/blogdejamildo/o-documento-oficial-da-eletronuclear. Accessed: 20 Nov. 2019.
santos, Maria Carolina. 2019. Itacuruba se mobiliza contra usina nuclear no sertão nordestino. In: Marco Zero. Recife, 20 jun. Disponível em: https://marcozero.org/itacuruba-se-mobiliza-contra-usina-nuclear-no-sertao-nordestino/. Acessed: 20 Nov. 2019.
valadares, João. 2019. Contra usina nuclear, índios buscam até o papa. In: Folha de S.Paulo. São Paulo, 30 nov. Disponível em: https://www1.folha.uol.com.br/mercado/2019/11/contra-usina-nuclear-indios-buscam-ate-o-papa.shtml. Acessed: 20 Nov. 2019.
|Peoples impacted||Pankará; Tuxá|
|Indigenous Lands impacted||Pankará Serrote dos Campos; Tuxá Pajeú; Tuxá Campos|
|Region||Sertão Pernambucano, Mesorregião do São Francisco|
|Period of Violation||De 2011 até hoje.|
|Type(s) of population|| Semi-urban|
|Source(s) of information|| Site|
Other social media
|Cause(s) of violation|| Land conflicts|
|Specific materials|| Water |
|Company(s) and government entity(s)||Eletronuclear, Companhia Hidrelétrica do São Francisco (Chesf)|
|Relevant government actors||Federal government: Ministry of Mines and Energy, Ministry of Social Development (whose functions were incorporated into the Ministry of Citizenship), Ministry of the Environment, the Federal Attorney in Pernambuco (PR-PE); the state Legislative Assembly of Pernambuco, the Pernambuco state government, the National Indian Foundation (Funai), and the Palmares Foundation|
|Type(s) of financing|| National|
|O estado da mobilização diante da violação|| Medium (street protests, visible organising)|
|When did the organising start?||As mobilizações populares em torno da construção da usina nuclear de Itacuruba tiveram início em 2011. Desde então, ocorrem de modo localizado nas áreas de impacto da usina e entre os grupos étnicos da região, envolvendo também a Assembleia Legislativa do Estado de Pernambuco (Alepe), assim como docentes e discentes da Universidade Federal de Pernambuco (UFPE) que acompanham e estudam o processo de instalação da usina e seus impactos socioambientais.|
|Group(s) that are organising|| Scientists / local professionals|
Local government / political parties
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Neighbours / citizens / communities
|Form(s) of organising||Há quase dez anos, as entidades que lutam contra a construção da usina nuclear de Itacuruba passaram a atuar conjuntamente por meio da Articulação Sertão Antinuclear. Ambientalistas, ativistas e moradores de Itacuruba têm realizado sistematicamente eventos, seminários e passeatas para debater os impactos ambientais e sociais da construção da usina. Além disso, protagonizaram reuniões com políticos, visando barrar o projeto. A Igreja Católica, que tem sido atuante na defesa dos direitos dos moradores da região, é um dos principais opositores da construção da usina. A Articulação dos Pescadores do Sertão também se encontra nessa luta, junto ao Grupo de Estudos e Pesquisas Transdisciplinares sobre Meio Ambiente, Diversidade e Sociedade da Universidade de Pernambuco (GEPT/UPE), coordenado pela professora Clarissa Marques. Em 13 de outubro de 2019, o padre Luciano Aguiar entregou pessoalmente uma carta ao papa Francisco, após cerimônia de canonização de Irmã Dulce, no Vaticano, fazendo referência à construção da usina e aos impactos que ocasionaria.|
|Positive progress in the violation process||Article 216 of the Pernambuco state constitution, which bans use of nuclear energy in the state until all other energy sources have been exhausted, remains in effect. The local community, scholars and environmentalists have been mobilizing nationally and internationally around the cause.|
|Negative progress in the violation process||The project is moving ahead, without free, prior, informed consent from those impacted. The proposed state constitutional amendment, PEC nº 09/2019, which would alter Pernambuco’s state constitution to allow the building of nuclear power plants in the state, is still being deliberated. The demarcation of the Pankará Serrote dos Campos Indigenous Land remains unfinished, and the recognition of the territorial rights of the Tuxá in Itacuruba has also stalled. This territory is not even in the initial phases of demarcation.|
|Viable alternatives for a solution to the violation||Begin the process of public debate regarding construction of the Itacuruba nuclear power plant and the permanent suspension of the project. Demarcation of the Pankará Serrote dos Campos Indigenous Land and the area traditionally inhabited by the Tuxá of Itacuruba.|
|Date form filled out||20/11/2019|