ANGRA DOS REIS, Brazil (CNN) -- A government-controlled firm is forging ahead with plans to resume expansion of Brazil's nuclear power program.
The Brazilian government has authorized the company, Electronuclear, to go back to work on the nation's third nuclear power plant.
Work on the Angra 3 reactor, near Rio de Janeiro, has been stalled for 22 years by a lack of money and political issues.
But the administration of President Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva is turning to nuclear power to meet electricity needs that are growing with the country's booming economy.
"Things have changed a lot, and today it's clearer to everyone that nuclear energy has a role to play in the Brazilian electrical system, just like the other forms of producing electricity, which can't be dismissed," said Leonam Guimaraes, an Electronuclear spokesman.
Brazil is the 10th-largest energy consumer in the world, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. It's the third-largest consumer in the Western Hemisphere, behind the United States and Canada.
The two operational nuclear power plants in Brazil supply about 3 percent of the nation's electricity, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The other countries in the Western Hemisphere that use nuclear power to generate electricity are Mexico (where nuclear power generates 5 percent of electricity), Argentina (7 percent), Canada (16 percent) and the United States (19 percent), according to the atomic agency.
France generates more electrical power with nuclear reactors than any other nation (78 percent), followed by Lithuania (72 percent), Slovakia (57 percent) and Belgium (54 percent), the agency said.
Brazil's two reactors went into use in 1985 and 2000. They supply about half the electrical power used in the state of Rio de Janeiro, according to Electronuclear.
Electronuclear plans to begin construction work on Angra 3 in February and hopes that it will generate electricity by 2014, when Brazil will host the FIFA World Cup soccer tournament.
Environmental activists say authorities have not adequately planned an effective response in the event of an accidental release of radiation from Angra Three.
They also warn that building a third plant could adversely affect the environment, but Electronuclear has pledged to comply with each of 60 conditions the Brazilian government set in granting the country a license to restart work on the third reactor.
Journalist Omar Lugo contributed to this report.
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