|No 59 Em Português|
Twenty years ago the Commission for Evaluating the Brazilian Nuclear Program, that became know by the name of its chairman, professor José Israel Vargas, presented its report to the President of the Republic José Sarney. The report was officially made public in 1990 by the Brazilian Academy of Sciences and by its permission it is available in the portal of this periodical.
The report was an important milestone in the transition between the civil regime, that was then reestablished, and the military period when there were two nuclear programs in Brazil, both object of intense public debate: the Brazil - Germany Nuclear Agreement and the so called “Parallel Program” secretly developed by the Brazilian Nuclear Energy Commission in cooperation with military ministries.
The Commission for Evaluating the Brazilian Nuclear Program had as vice-chairman professor Oscar Sala. It was integrated by: Alberto Pereira de Castro (IPT), Caspar Erich Stemer (UFSC), Eduardo Penna Franca (UFRJ), Fernando Cláudio Zawislak (UFRGS), José Ephin Mindlin (Metal Leve), José Pelúcio Ferreira (FINEP), Luiz Renato Caldas (UFRJ), Paulo Francini (FIESP), Marcelo Damy de Souza Santos (IEA e USP), Ramayana Gazzinelli (UFMG), José Leite Lopes (CBPF e representando o MCT), José Guilherme Araújo Lameira Bittencourt (IBQN), Luiz Augusto de Castro Neves (Secretariat of CSN), Roberto Rodrigues Krause (MRE), José Wanderley Coelho Dias (Nuclebrás). Representatives of the Planning Secretariat of the Presidency of the Republic, of the Ministry of Finance and of the Ministry of Urban Development and Environment were also invited to the Commission as observers. It had also the support of a technical secretariat appointed by professor Vargas, that carried out several specialized studies that gave support to the Commission’s deliberations.
Among its recommendations, almost all of them implemented or to be implemented, some should be pointed out (in a summarized form):
1 – Continue the Brazilian Nuclear Program due to the strategic importance that the complete and autonomous mastering of nuclear energy will have regarding electric energy supply and amplification of the benefic application of its peaceful uses.
2 – Adapt the Program’s pace to the actual national energy needs and to the reality of the calculated costs, maintaining the cooperation with Germany but taking into account the proposed changes in the implementation of activities;
3 – Intensify cooperation between Brazil and Argentina and gradually establish a mechanism of mutual inspection concerning the nuclear activities of both countries;
4 – Support the research and development efforts aiming at the growing nationalization of the Nuclear Program;
5 – Postpone the decision of constructing a new nuclear power plant, maintaining the new sites selection process for the next plant;
6 – Continue the construction of the Angra II and Angra III power plants, maintaining the fabrication of heavy equipment in a pace compatible with the construction of power plants and finding new complementary markets for components through cooperation with the private sector;
7 – Continue the implementation of the nuclear fuel cycle adapting it to the probable demand of nuclear-electrical generation and promoting its progressive nationalization;
8 – In the mining sector, give resources to Poços de Caldas in order to adequate its production to demand; continue studies regarding the technical viability of the Itataia and Lagoa Real mines where public and private resources will be used and the investments will be remunerated by the uranium commercialization in the international market, following the legislation in force and concurrently reactivating the nuclear ores prospecting sector;
9 – In the nuclear fuel area, re-examine the existing contract with “Pechney-Kuhlmann” in the uranium oxide conversion area aiming at examining the possibility of implementing the technology developed by IPEN; finish the construction of the experimental enrichment cascade using the jet-nozzle process and postpone the demonstration plant; support research of other enrichment methods already under way; promote the evaluation in a three-year period of the adopted enrichment methods to support decision concerning industrial units; finish the construction of the separation elements plant for the jet-nozzle process; implement the 2ª and 3ª phases of the Fuel Element Plant (FEC); postpone the implementation of the fuel reprocessing project due to its high costs ineffectiveness in the medium term; implement an integrated program for radioactive waste disposal, particularly in what concerns the selection of disposal sites;
10 – In the area of human resources, change the profile of the specialists who were trained to cover the needs of the Program, promoting a larger participation of universities and research centers; stimulate graduation at the MSc and PhD levels, re-establishing the previous values of scholarships; open the discussion of technical and scientific questions regarding technology transfer;
11 – In what concerns institutional aspect, promote the separation of the present functions of the Brazilian Nuclear Energy Commission into two Commissions: one for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety and the other for Nuclear Research and Development, while the coordination of basic research activities would be coordinated by the Ministry of Science and Technology; create a subsidiary of Eletrobrás to manage the construction and operation of nuclear power plants; transfer NUCLEN to the Eletrobrás system as a subsidiary company or as part of a construction and operation of nuclear power plants company; transform Nuclebrás into a company specialized in activities of the fuel cycle and extinguish NUCLAN, NUCLEI and NUCLEP and privatize NUCLEMON.
The Commission also recommended the performance of tests and experiments, particularly in the nuclear quality assurance area, for strengthening the basic infrastructure of the sector, promote basic research in the physics, nuclear chemistry and radiobiology areas; promote research and development of mixed thorium and uranium fuels and of heavy water to be used in the future in test reactors. A series of intermediary implementation actions and others more general ones (such as energy conservation stimulation) was also presented.
The Vargas Commission adopted a dynamics of intense articulation among its members and governmental authorities, it has contributed to a better understanding and evaluation of the so called parallel program as members of the Commission have visited almost all installation that are still classified. Even though not explicitly reported, the Commission has assimilated in its recommendations a good part of the progress achieved by the so called parallel program.
Analysis of the recommendations shows that they were almost integrally implemented (some with much delay) specially those referring to the fuel cycle of which that concerning completing the test of the jet-nozzle technology test were not carried out mainly due to the lack of financial resources and the success of the enrichment by ultra-centrifugation. The mutual inspections between Brazil and Argentina were implemented through the signature of the Tripartite Agreement between the two countries and the Brazilian-Argentine Agency of Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials – ABACC. The Angra II power plant was constructed and the construction of Angra III is practically agreed.
The recommendation regarding the separation of CNEN’s function should be implemented as subsequently corroborated by the Safety and Radioprotection area of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The Commission’s recommendations formulated in a delicate moment of the national life made possible the continuation of the Program as well as the establishment of exemplary relations with Argentina ending a long and dangerous practice of “war games” between the two countries.
Graphic Edition/Edição Gráfica:
Thursday, 05 May 2011.