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Digital Archive International History Declassified

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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)

  • 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.

  • October 19, 1971

    Brief Study of Scientific Agreement on Nuclear Research between CNPq and the Nuclear Research Center of Jülich

    A document issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, this special agreement sought to deepen the scientific and technological cooperation between the two nations. This document differed from the Scientific and Technological Agreement previously celebrated in that the CNPq-KFA agreement was more specific, as it indicated which areas would be explored. It was signed directly with a center of nuclear research, clearly demonstrating Brazilian interest in the nuclear field.

  • 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.

  • April 11, 1972

    Cable from the President of Brazil of the National Commission of Nuclear Energy to the Secretary-General Confirming the Arrival of Dr. Klaus Scharmer of the Jülich Research Center

    This document was sent to the Secretary-General, confirming the arrival of Dr. Klaus Scharmer to Brazil. Dr. Klaus Scharmer was the head of the International Bureau of the Nuclear Center of Jülich, and his visit was part of an exchange program between Brazilian institutions and universities and the research center. Dr. Scharmer came to Brazil to discuss the implementation of the Special Agreement between CNPq and KFA, in addition to an analogous CNEN-KFA agreement. Dr. Scharmer toured nuclear research institutions in Belo Horizonte, Sãp Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

  • June 05, 1972

    Brief Study of the Agreement Permitting the Entrance of West German Nuclear Ships into Brazilian Waters and their Permanence in Brazilian Ports

    This document deals with the issue of the entrance of German nuclear-propelled ships into Brazilian waters, as well as their stay in Brazilian ports. This is yet another agreement in the wake of the Scientific and Technological Agreement of 1969. It states the Brazilian interest in the development of nuclear technology and its commercial marine uses.

  • 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.

  • May 21, 1974

    Report from the Brazilian Foreign Ministry to President Ernesto Geisel, 'Subject: The Indian nuclear test'

    This is a note from the Brazilian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Antonio Azeredo da Silveira, to Brazilian President Ernesto Geisel, regarding India’s nuclear test in 1974. It indicates the main consequences of the Indian test to both the world and Brazil, and suggests that Argentina has the necessary incentives to follow India’s path.

  • 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.

  • 1975

    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 18, 1976

    Memorandum from Ambassador Figuerero to Castro Madero

    This memo, produced by the Argentine Ambassador in charge of the Scientific and Technical Affairs Division of the Argentine Foreign Ministry, alerts the Director of the Argentine Nuclear Commission Carlos Castro Madero that the new Carter administration will attempt to exert pressure on Brazil’s nuclear program and hinder its nuclear deal with West Germany. It notes that regardless of Carter’s nuclear policy, Brazil would “try by all means confirm its right to nuclear development.”

  • 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.”

  • November 24, 1976

    Notes from President of Nuclebrás Paulo Nogueira Batista to the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Relations

    Meeting among the members of the Ministry of Foreign Relations, the Ministry of Energy, the National Commission of Atomic Energy and the Council of National Security on a nuclear cooperation agreement proposed by CNEA. The objective of the agreement was to steer away doubts about a hypothetical nuclear competition between Brazil and Argentina, after Jimmy Carter was elected president in the US. Most participants of the meeting were contrary to a nuclear cooperation with Buenos Aires.

  • 1977

    Brazil Scope Paper: Implications of the Argentine Visit

    Cyrus Vance - apparently unintentionally - left behind this document while meeting with Brazilian President Geisel. It lays out US negotiations with Argentina to ratify the Treaty of Tlateloco, to accept full scope safeguards and to delay the construction of a reprocessing facility in exchange for US nuclear assistance and Brazil’s acceptance of a moratorium on the construction of a reprocessing facility.

  • February 11, 1977

    Telegram on Argentina's Stance Regarding a Brazil-West Germany Nuclear Cooperation Agreement

    A telegram received from the Brazilian Embassy in Ottawa, detailing Argentina's stance regarding a nuclear cooperation agreement between West German and Brazil.