By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Federal highway police officers protecting a convoy transporting uranium to one of Brazil’s nuclear plants in Angra dos Reis engaged in a gunfight with armed hostiles who shot at the convoy early Tuesday (March 19th) afternoon.
“During an escort mission at Angra dos Reis…near the town of Frade on the BR-101 highway, armed individuals shot at federal highway police officers who reacted,” said a statement from the Federal Highway Police. “The escort team continued normally. Nobody was arrested or injured.”
The uranium convoy started at the town of Resende at around 6AM. As it was passing the town of Frade, about nineteen miles (thirty kilometers) outside of Angra dos Reis, the convoy came under gunfire.
Highway police officers were able to fend off the attack and the uranium convoy reached its destination, the Angra II nuclear plant, about thirty minutes later.
Late Tuesday, Eletronuclear, a subsidiary of Eletrobrás, which operates the Angra I and II nuclear plants, released a statement saying that the group that shot at the officers likely had no intention of hijacking the cargo, theorizing that police officials may have been caught in the crossfire of a gunfight between local armed gangs.
Importantly, Eletronuclear stated that the Tuesday’s incident did not threaten the uranium cargo or the safety of the residents. “The nuclear fuel is packed inside metal containers specially made for this. These enclosures undergo resistance tests against impact and fires.”
The statement continued, “If a gunshot could penetrate the protection of the container, it could damage the nuclear fuel. However, this would not endanger the population or the environment. The uranium contained is in a natural state, having the same level of radioactivity found in nature.”
Tuesday’s attack happened in the same area and on the same highway where British tourist Eloise Dixon was shot and wounded in 2017 after her and her family drove into the Água Santa favela community searching to buy bottled water.