The Multinational Monitor


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Westinghouse Reactors Malfunction

Brazil Threatens Action

Westinghouse, the world's leading manufacturer of nuclear power plants, has gotten itself into some hot water overseas due to faulty steam generator systems on its reactors.

"Brazil has stopped further payments to Westinghouse for construction of the country's first nuclear power plant" on account of this problem, the Journal of Commerce quoted Brazilian minister of mines and energy Cesar Cals as saying in mid-May. Neither the Brazilian embassy in Washington, nor Westinghouse would confirm Cals' statement. But one knowledgeable Brazilian source notes that the Brazilian press has been running reports saying not only that Brazil had stopped payment, but also that it "was thinking of suing Westinghouse."

Brazil's Westinghouse reactor, Angra I, has been under construction for the past 10 years, and because of delays and cost overruns, the project is not popular in the country.

"The whole deal is considered a disaster," says the Brazilian source. "There is a widespread feeling that we wasted billions of dollars, that this thing will never work, and that Brazil does not need nuclear power."

Westinghouse has encountered similar difficulties with its steam generator systems in Yugoslavia, Spain, and Sweden.

There is "an error in design which Westinghouse is pushing very hard to correct," says Lafleur, deputy director of the office of international programs at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. This error "is marginally a safety problem," he adds. "It's a big problem for Westinghouse," says Lafleur." It certainly doesn't improve their image any."

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