Carlos Feu Alvim(*)
The statement of the Science and Technology Ministry Roberto Amaral in the first week of the new Administration has again posed questions here and abroad about one of the most significant Brazilian conquers regarding national and international public opinion: the non existence of consistent doubts about the peaceful character of the Brazilian nuclear activities.
Ambassador Azambuja, who was one of the first governmental articulators of the measures that gave transparency to our nuclear activities, used to say at the opportunity that in opposition to the countries that tried to disguise illicit activities under a licit form, Brazil preferred to present an illicit feature to perfectly licit activities. Certainly we did not relapsed and the Minister, in his first week on the job, was a victim of the journalist’s “trap”. Those who work in the area know that the use of nuclear energy is a delicate subject, always prone to scrutinizing and malicious interpretations.
Brazil has pledged, since the Sarney Administration, to remove internal and external suspicions about the matter. Brazil and Argentina have organized a series of mutual visits to their nuclear installations and have signed the Iguaçu Declaration regarding the use of nuclear energy exclusively for peaceful purposes, whose terms are reflected in the 1988 Brazilian Constitution.
Since 1992 Brazil has put all its nuclear installations and material under the safeguards of ABACC (Agência Brasileiro Argentina de Contole e Contabilidade de Materiais Nucleares – Brazilian-Argentine Agency for the Control and Accountability of Nuclear Materials) that from 1994 on were carried out together with the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency).
Brazil has signed and has brought into force the important treaties in the nuclear non-proliferation area: a) the Bilateral Agreement with Argentina of Exclusively Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy; b) the Tlatelolco Treaty amendments (in coordination with Argentina and Chile) that brought into force this Treaty that prohibits the use of nuclear weapons in the region; c) the Quadripartite Agreement that establishes the safeguard regime with the IAEA and d) the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty – NPT.
In the last years Brazil has made considerable progress in the peaceful use of nuclear energy: it has successfully concluded the commissioning of the Angra II Nuclear Power Plant, it has consolidated all steps concerning the nuclear fuel elements fabrication, and the most sensitive of them, namely enrichment, has been recently transferred from the Navy to the INB (Industrias Nucleares Brasileiras – Brazilian Nuclear Industries). The formalities relative to the construction approval of the Angra III Nuclear Power Plant are under way. In other words, the safeguards agreements have not hindered the peaceful developments in this area.
In what concerns the present Administration, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Celso Amorim had an important role in the implementation of the peaceful uses of nuclear energy policy. Furthermore, he has in his curriculum an efficient and exemplary achievements in the disarmament and non-proliferation areas. The current President of Eletrobrás Luiz Pinguelli Rosa has also a historical opinion, recently reiterated, against the involvement of Brazil in non peaceful nuclear activities.
The Lula Administration has already reaffirmed its commitments with the exclusive peaceful use of nuclear energy. It will probably have to continue demonstrating in words and actions this intention. This is particular important since the non proliferation issue was again raised by North Korea’s revoking (hopefully temporarily) of the NPT, by nuclear explosions carried out by India and Pakistan and by the recent unilateral change in the United State policy, not excluding nuclear retaliation against threats of other types of mass destruction weapons.
I do not believe that there is now any motivation for changing the Brazilian stand against nuclear weapons in the country and in the region. Any change in this policy would increase our vulnerability. However, it is necessary that the countries that posses these weapons should advance their NPT commitments regarding gradual disarmament and should not menace the countries of the region with nuclear weapons according to what is established in the Tlatelolco Treaty. It is also necessary to be continuously attentive so that our economical development is not penalized by technological restrictions based on false non proliferation grounds.
(*) Ph D in Physics and Secretary and Deputy Secretary of ABACC for more than ten years.
Graphic Edition/Edição Gráfica:
Tuesday, 11 November 2008.
Brazil has consolidated the confidence, vis-à-vis the international community and the national public opinion, on its intention of using nuclear energy only for peaceful purposes. Some statements by authorities of the new Administration were incorrectly interpreted as a change of attitude. This has no support from previous actions of several prominent members of the present Administration. Furthermore, there are presently no reason for changing direction. However, the nuclear weapon states have commitments that cannot be forgotten.