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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Brazil Nuclear Weapons Program

West Germany did not require IAEA safeguards, and following the 1975 agreement Brazil transferred technology from its power plant projects to a secret program to develop an atom bomb. Code-named "Solimões," after a river in the Amazon, the secret program was started in 1975 and eventually came to be known publicly as the Parallel Program. In the beginning of the eighties, the Navy Nuclear Parallel Program began to expand, especially after the uranium enrichment process named jet nozzle (which, as part of the Agreement, was bound to be transferred to NUCLEBRAS) turned out to be infeasible. During the decade, the civilian nuclear program lagged behind. Meanwhile, parallel research for obtaining fuel cycle know-how was intensified.

In 1987, José Sarney (president, 1985-90) announced that Brazil had enriched uranium successfully on a laboratory scale to 20 percent. At that time, some observers predicted that Brazil would have a nuclear-weapons capability by the turn of the century. On the eve of the promulgation of the 1988 Constitution - which submitted all nuclear activities to Congressional approval - NUCLEBRÁS was extinguished and the 'Parallels' became official and brought to the public through Decree-law nº2464 of August 31, 1988.

President Fernando Collor de Mello took bold steps to control and restrict Brazil's nuclear programs. In September 1990, he symbolically closed a test site at Cachimbo, in Pará State. That October, he formally exposed the military's secret plan to develop an atom bomb.

Within Brazil's Congress, a CPI looked into the Parallel Program. Members visited numerous facilities, including the Institute of Advanced Studies (Instituto de Estudos Avançados--IEAv) at the Aerospace Technical Center (Centro Técnico Aeroespacial--CTA) in São José dos Campos. They also interviewed key players in the nuclear program, such as João Figueiredo (president, 1979-85) and retired Army General Danilo Venturini, the former head of the National Security Council (Conselho de Segurança Nacional--CSN) under Figueiredo. The CPI investigation exposed secret bank accounts, code-named "Delta," which were managed by the CNEN and used for funding the program. The most disturbing revelation in the CPI report was that the IEAv had designed two atomic bomb devices, one with a yield of twenty to thirty kilotons and a second with a yield of twelve kilotons. It was also revealed that Brazil's military regime secretly exported eight tons of uranium to Iraq in 1981.

Nuclear Disarmament

Through a series of agreements, Brazil and Argentina have defused the issue of nuclear rivalry. On May 20, 1980, while under military rule, both countries signed the Brazilian-Argentine Agreement on the Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy, establishing technical cooperation in developing the nuclear fuel cycle and coordination of nuclear policy. President Sarney and Argentine president Raúl Alfonsín strengthened this cooperation in 1985, with the Joint Declarations on Nuclear Policy of Foz do Iguaçu. After the 1985 agreement, the presidents and technical staffs made reciprocal visits to nonsafeguarded nuclear installations in both countries. The heads of state made subsequent joint declarations in Brasília (1986); Viedma, Argentina (1987); Iperó, Brazil (1988); and Buenos Aires (1990).

On November 28, 1990, Presidents Collor de Mello and Carlos Saúl Menem of Argentina signed the second Foz do Iguaçu declaration (Argentine-Brazilian Declaration on Common Nuclear Policy of Foz do Iguaçu), in which both governments pledged their commitment to an exclusively peaceful use of nuclear energy and established a Common System for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials (Sistema Comum de Contabilidade e Contrôle de Materiais Nucleares--SCCCMN). On July 18, 1991, Presidents Collor de Mello and Menem agreed to establish the Agreement on the Exclusively Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy, which created the Brazilian-Argentine Agency for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials (Agência Brasileiro-Argentina de Contabilidade e Contrôle de Materiais Nucleares--ABACC). That agreement entered into force on December 12, 1991, after ratification by the legislatures in both countries. With headquarters in Rio de Janeiro, the ABACC provides on-site inspections of nuclear facilities in Argentina and Brazil and maintains an inventory of nuclear material in each country.

The most important nuclear accord between Brazil and Argentina was signed on December 13, 1991, in a meeting attended by Presidents Collor de Mello and Menem at the headquarters of the IAEA in Vienna. The accord is referred to as the quadripartite agreement, because it was signed by Brazil, Argentina, the IAEA, and the ABACC. The agreement allows for full-scope IAEA safeguards of Argentine and Brazilian nuclear installations. It also allows the two countries to retain full rights over any "technological secrets" and to develop nuclear energy for the propulsion of submarines. Brazil's Senate ratified the agreement on February 9, 1994, but only after considerable pressure by Brazil's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Itamaraty).

On May 30, 1994, Brazil ratified the Treaty of Tlatelolco, following the lead of Argentina and Chile, which had ratified it on January 18, 1994. In Brazil, there was an active lobby against the quadripartite agreement and the Treaty of Tlatelolco. Indeed, it took Brazil considerably longer than Argentina to approve those pacts. Brazilian diplomats have argued that the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is discriminatory because it excludes capabilities of those already in the club. Furthermore, some Brazilians argued that the NPT is an infringement on sovereignty and that the current agreements are sufficient and even stronger than the NPT. Nevertheless, Brazil finally agreed in 1997 to ratify the NPT.

Some observers have argued that Brazil is still seeking the technological capability to produce a nuclear bomb, despite the 1991 quadripartite agreement, the full ratification of the Treaty of Tlatelolco, and a provision in Brazil's 1988 constitution that bars the development of nuclear energy for anything but peaceful purposes. They note that Brazil's nuclear program is under the primary control of the military, which resents IAEA inspections. Brazil's Senate required a "supplementary adjustment" to the treaty that protects "industrial secrets," possibly the nation's Aramar centrifuge enrichment facilities, from on-site inspections.

Most observers, however, are more optimistic about Brazil's nuclear intentions. Argentine diplomat and nuclear expert Julio César Carasales has argued that Brazil's nuclear programs need to be understood in the context of Brazil's rapprochement with Argentina. In that context, he concluded that, "Extraordinary accomplishments already have been achieved and have been generally welcomed; there is no danger that the process will be reversed or undermined; the time has come to consolidate the bilateral arrangements; the nuclear control agency, the ABACC, is performing in a satisfactory matter; new substantial agreements are not to be expected; and some policy divergence is possible, as in the case of the NPT, although there are reasons to predict that in the long run Brazil will join that treaty." Indeed, in 1997, Brazil announced its adherence to the NPT. The Brazilian Government has announced its renunciation of nuclear testing even for peaceful purposes.

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Page last modified: 21-09-2012 16:30:00 ZULU