Brazilian Nuclear History
Drawn from Brazilian and US government sources, this collection documents the evolution of the Brazilian nuclear program from the first proposal presented to the government in 1947, through the decision to establish a secret civilian-military program in 1978, until the end of the parallel military program in 1989. The documents are presented in collaboration with Fundação Getúlio Vargas (FGV). (Image, Ernesto Geisel, Shigeaki Ueki, Paulo Nogueira Batista, at an exposition promoted by Nuclebrás in March 1977, Paulo Nogueira Batista Archive at FGV)
August 27, 1947
Minutes of the Tenth Session of the Brazilian National Security Council, Alvaro Alberto’s proposal to establish a Brazilian Atomic Energy Program
The minutes describe the internal discussion at the National Security Council of a proposal to establish a nuclear program sent from New York by Admiral Alvaro Alberto, who was representing Brazil at the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission (UNAEC). The Council approved the Admiral’s proposal and one of its members, Colonel Bernardino Corrêa de Matos Netto declared that “it is not convenient that Brazil relinquishes [nuclear energy], because it is necessary to prepare the ground for future wars.”
August 30, 1956
Minutes of the Twentieth Session of the Brazilian National Security Council, Second Brazilian Nuclear Plan
At this meeting the National Security Council decided to reform the Brazilian nuclear sector by placing it under the direction of CNEN (National Nuclear Energy Commission). The CSN suggested young technicians and academics should be instructed abroad in order to stimulate the development of professionals in that field. One of the objectives of the nuclear policy was the production of nuclear fuel from domestically-sourced minerals. The Brazilian government criticized the monopoly on nuclear fuel by the big powers.
October 04, 1967
Minutes of the Fortieth Session of the Brazilian National Security Council
Guidelines for the Brazilian nuclear policy in Costa e Silva’s government (1967-1969) and defines the diplomatic attitude of Brazil regarding the negotiations of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). During the meeting of the National Security Council, participants agreed on the need to cooperate with another country to start a national nuclear program. On the NPT negotiations, the members of the National Security Council agreed to establish a condition to adhere to the Treaty: the defense of the right to develop peaceful nuclear explosions. Several ministers defended the possibility of using nuclear energy in the future for international security reasons.
December 29, 1967
Letter, Director of the Argentinian National Atomic Energy Commission (CNEA) to the Foreign Minister on Nuclear Cooperation with Brazil
The Director of the Argentinian National Atomic Energy Commission (CNEA) writes to the Foreign Minister on a visit by a group of Brazilian officials and the details of a possible agreement for nuclear cooperation between the two countries.
Draft Argentinian-Brazilian Agreement in the Field of Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy
Draft of a nuclear cooperation agreement between Argentina and Brazil, very likely the same one given by Brazilian authorities to the Argentinian National Atomic Energy Commission (CNEA) mission during the latter’s visit to Brazil in March 1968.
April 19, 1971
Memorandum, Ambassador Paulo Nogueira Batista, Information for the President of Brazil, 'Enrichment of Uranium'
A secret report addressed to Minister of Foreign Affairs Mario Gibson Barbosa by Amb. Paulo Nogueira Batista (Brazilian Embassy, Bonn) describing alternatives for the establishment of comprehensive, long-term nuclear agreements between Brazil and a “country to be defined.” The report suggests that given the trends in uranium production in the US and Europe, Brazil needed to either associate itself with France to purchase gas diffusion technology or develop, together with Germany, ultracentrifugation or jet nozzle technologies. The notion was that “countries that decide to develop their own enrichment capacity will not only occupy a privileged competitive position but also will become part of an oligopoly with obvious political implications.” Nogueira Batista was worried, however, that Germany might not be able to offer Brazil centrifugation technology under existing obligations.
May 12, 1971
Telegram, Brazilian Embassy in Bonn, 'Relations Brazil/FGR. Visit of Minister Walter Scheel.'
Communiqué from Amb. Paulo Nogueira Batista (Brazilian Embassy, Bonn) to Brazilian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mario Gibson Barbosa. The communiqué reports the conversation between Batista and the Vice-chancellor of West Germany, Walter Scheel (who became president in 1974), during his visit to Brazil. Recalling the existing agreement between CNEN and Jüllich Center for Nuclear Research, Nogueiras Batista mentioned Brazil’s intention to establish an ambitious international project in the realm of nuclear cooperation, which “visibly impressed the vice chancellor” (p.151). The communiqué ends with Nogueira Batista’s handwritten notes and questions concerning the capacity of the proposed plant and the possibility of a French-Brazilian-German venture.
February 16, 1972
Note from the Director of Argentinian National Atomic Energy Commission (CNEA) on a Possible Agreement with Brazil
The director of CNEA, the Argentine National Atomic Energy Commission, summaries past unsuccessful attempts to organize an agreement with Brazil for cooperation in the field of nuclear energy research.
May 10, 1973
Agenda, Brazilian Delegation to West Germany, 'Program of the Meeting on Nuclear Cooperation'
Schedule of the Brazilian delegation during a visit to various cities in West Germany (Bonn, Erlangen, Frankfurt) in February 1973. This mission is regarded as a critical step towards the establishment of the nuclear agreement with West Germany in 1975. The hand-written notes indicate the appointments and the sites to be visited by technical officials, engineers Carlos Syllus, who later became Director for Technology at Nuclebras, David Neiva Simon, who had been involved in the negotiations of the first Angra power plant with Westinghouse, and Ambassador Nogueira Batista, who would later become president of Nuclebras.
April 02, 1974
Memorandum, Foreign Minister Azeredo da Silveira, Information for the President of Brazil, 'Uranium Enrichment'
Confidential report identifying major trends regarding uranium supply. The document assesses US capacity to supply nuclear fuel after 1980, and describes European initiatives to manage the fuel cycle. The document underscores the convenience of defining guidelines, which “might ensure Brazilian leadership in Latin America” (p.105); then, it outlines the difficulties inherent to the establishment of a bilateral agreement with the US (taking into account the Brazilian position vis-à-vis the NPT), and suggests Europe (most notably West Germany) as a potential partner. The document recommends the establishment of a confidential working group formed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Mines and Energy in order to set up a strategy that would allow for the establishment of a nuclear cooperation agreement with the partner country, at the time still undefined.
July 01, 1974
Telegram, Brazilian Embassy in Buenos Aires, 'Visit of an Embassy Employee to the Nuclear Center [at] Atucha'
Report from the Brazilian Embassy in Buenos Aires about the visit of Brazil’s Superior War College to the Atucha nuclear plant. There its director, Jorge Cosentino, explained the Argentine nuclear program in detail and expressed interest in finding formulas for cooperation with Brazil in the nuclear field.
August 13, 1974
Memorandum, Information for the President of Brazil, No. 055/74 from the National Security Council
Outline of the government of Brazil’s decision to acquire all phases of the cycle of production of nuclear fuel through cooperation with a foreign government, in this case the Federal Republic of Germany. Reference is made to the need to develop uranium enrichment technology in accordance with the 1967 nuclear policy, which had not yet been implemented.
September 08, 1974
Explanatory Memorandum from the National Security Council to the President of Brazil
Secretary-General of the National Security Council send the president of Brazil a report on attempts to establishing nuclear cooperation with Argentina in the period 1968-1974. In July 1974, on the occasion of the visit of a delegation from the Superior War College to the Argentine Atucha nuclear plant, its director, engineer Cosentino, proposed a cooperation agreement between the two countries with the objective of defusing concerns of the international community about a possible Brazil-Argentina rivalry. Despite the cautious reception of the Argentine proposal by the National Security Council, which also pointed out its possible advantages, President Geisel, in a manuscript note, said that there were several pending issues to be resolved before the establishment of nuclear cooperation between Brasília and Buenos Aires would become possible.
September 11, 1974
Letter, Secretary-General of the National Security Council to the President of Brazil, on Nuclear Cooperation with Argentina
Cover letter from an explanatory memorandum on a possible agreement of mutual cooperation in nuclear energy between Brazil and Argentina. Contains President Geisel's response to the opinion of the National Security Council about nuclear cooperation between Argentina and Brazil. It concludes that the solution of pending issues with Buenos Aires should come before advancing in the nuclear field.
Cables between the Brazilian Embassy in Washington and the Brazilian Foreign Ministry on the Transfer of Nuclear Material
A series of correspondence between Brazilian Foreign Ministry and Brazilian Ambassador to the US about the transfer of nuclear material from France to Brazil. Myron Kratzer, Acting Assistant Secretary for Scientific Affairs in the US, expressed his concern over the fact the nuclear material was of American origin.
July 07, 1976
Memorandum for the President, 'Commercial Relations of Brazil with Petroleum Producing Countries'
This internal memo describes Brazil’s relations with oil producers as of 1976. It highlights the importance of Iraq as an oil supplier and the necessity of expanding exports to reduce the deficit in bilateral trade.
November 19, 1976
US Embassy Cable, Brazilian Public Reaction to US Nuclear Policies
The US Embassy in Brazil quotes a Brazilian ministry official who declares Brazil will continue its nuclear program “despite all the threats and reprisals” from the US. The unnamed official goes on to say, “The Americans, our allies, are behaving in a way worse than that of our common enemies, the Russians.”
February 25, 1977
Memorandum from Brazilian Foreign Minister Silveira to President Geisel, US Threats and Promises and Brazilian Responses
This memo outlines “possible American approaches” and “possible Brazilian reactions” as the US attempts to compel the Brazilians and Germans to cease their nuclear cooperation.
March 21, 1977
Brazilian Embassy Cable, Brazilian Ambassador to Bonn Reports on Soviet Pressure on West Germany
The Brazilian Ambassador in Bonn reports on a Der Spiegel article, which states, “After the United States, it is now the Soviet Union’s turn to exert pressure for Bonn to revise its controversial atomic agreement with Brazil.” The article shows US-Soviet solidarity against Brazil and Germany’s cooperation in developing nuclear weapons.