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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)

  • June, 1981

    Secretary's Talking Points: US-China Relations

    This is a document containing talking points for Secretary of State Alexander Haig's meeting with Deng Xiaoping. Topics addressed in the document include: Chinese exportation of uranium and heavy water to South Africa and Argentina; the intention to suspend the prohibition of arm sales to China; greater nuclear and security cooperation; the increase in Chinese arm sales to countries dependent on the Soviet Union; and the desire to open a new consulate in Shenyang.

  • September 30, 1981

    Memorandum of Conversation, Brazilian Foreign Minister Guerreiro and US Secretary of State Haig

    Brazilian Foreign Minister Guerreiro and American Secretary of State Alexander Haig meet in Washington D.C. Haig illustrates a shift in American nuclear policy from that of the Carter administration to a more lenient approach.

  • May 27, 1982

    Memorandum, Minister Saraiva Guerreiro, Information for the President of Brazil, 'Protection to Brazilians. Mendes Junior Workers Detained by Iraqi Authorities'

    Memo to President Figueiredo dealing with the arrest and inadequate treatment applied to three employees of Mendes Jr., a Brazilian company operating in civil construction projects in Iraq, and efforts—mostly frustrated—by Brazilian diplomats to resolve the issue.

  • August 26, 1982

    Memorandum, Information for the President, 'Trade Promotion. Brazil-Iraq. Economic-Commercial Relations'

    Memo to President Figueiredo highlighting the 1,000% increase in Brazil-Iraq bilateral trade between 1971 and 1980, but also points to a non-conducive environment for Brazilian companies in Iraq despite their heroic decision to remain there during the war, unlike other foreign companies. Attached to the document we find a draft of a letter from President Figueiredo to his “great and good friend” Saddam Hussein, in which he is seeking Hussein’s solidarity and understanding the necessity to resolve the issues on the bilateral economic agenda.

  • September 08, 1982

    Special National Intelligence Estimate, SNIE 91-2-82, 'Argentina's Nuclear Policies in Light of the Falklands Defeat'

    The document reports that Argentina did not have a military component in its nuclear program and evaluates Argentina’s capacity of developing a nuclear program with military purposes.

  • December 13, 1982

    Note from Brazilian Congressman Herbert Levy

    This is a letter written by Brazilian Congressman Herbert Levy which reveals the content of his meetings with high U.S. governmental officials regarding his concern about Argentina’s nuclear activities less than a year after the Falklands/Malvinas War. In these conversations, Levy states that Argentina might develop a nuclear artifact.

  • November 18, 1983

    Letter, Argentinian President Bignone to Brazilian President Figueiredo

    Argentinian President Bignone informs Figueiredo of the Argentine capacity to enrich uranium.

  • November 19, 1983

    Letter, Brazilian President Figueiredo to Argentinian President Bignone

    In his answer to Argentinian President Bignone, Brazilian President João Batista Figueiredo expresses satisfaction for the result achieved by the neighbor country.

  • January 18, 1984

    Note, Argentine Ambassador Garcia del Solar to the Argentine Foreign Ministry, on US Secretary of State George Shultz's Visit to Brazil

    On the eve of the trip of American Secretary of State George Shultz to Brazil, the American officer responsible for the Brazilian desk at the Department of State conveys to the Argentine Embassy in Washington that the United States would appreciate an initiative toward the implementation of a system of mutual inspections or a joint declaration in which both countries would renounce the development of a nuclear device, the same two points proposed by American Congressman Paul Finley in 1977.

  • April 04, 1984

    Memorandum, Minister Saraiva Guerreiro, Information for the President of Brazil, 'Brazil-PRC. Nuclear Energy'

    Memo from Foreign Minister Saraiva Guerreiro to President João Batista Figueiredo on the current state of, and potential for the future of nuclear cooperation with China, in the follow-up to the presidential visit to Beijing. Guerreiro recalls that, since China was also not a party to the NPT, nuclear cooperation and purchase of material, like the uranium acquired in 1982, would not be subjected to full-scope safeguards, preserving the “sovereignty of Brazil’s nuclear program.” Guerreiro mentions a study by the National Security Council, the Nuclear Commission, Nuclebrás and the Foreign Ministry on the commercial and technological potential for an agreement with China, similar to the ones that Brazil had already signed with “other developing countries, namely those that are not members of the NPT.” One such agreement, Guerreiro suggests, could be signed during President Figueiredo’s upcoming visit to Beijing.

  • January 01, 1985

    Note from Argentine Ambassador García del Solar to the Argentine Foreign Ministry

    This document reveals an encounter between a U.S. State Department official and an Argentine diplomat in Washington D.C., in which the U.S. diplomat suggests to his Argentine counterpart that the U.S. government would warmly welcome an initiative by Argentina and Brazil regarding mutual inspections as well as a declaration renouncing the right to develop peaceful nuclear explosives.

  • January 10, 1985

    Memorandum from Brazilian Ambassador Roberto Abdenur to Minister Saraiva Guerreiro, 'Brazil-Argentina. Nuclear energy'

    Report on the bilateral nuclear relationship between Brazil and Argentina from the Alfonsín presidency until the end of the Figueiredo Administration. The main theme is a possible joint declaration on the renunciation of nuclear explosives. Alfonsín and Foreign Minister Caputo are in favor, but elements within the Brazilian government remain opposed.

  • February 11, 1985

    Guidelines for the Autonomous Brazilian Nuclear Program

    This document contains the main guidelines of the Brazilian Autonomous Program of Nuclear Technology, which seeks to master the necessary technologies for an autonomous nuclear program for peaceful ends. In it, one of its many components, named “Project Solimoes,” envisages the construction of peaceful nuclear devices.

  • February 21, 1985

    Memorandum, Information for the President of Brazil, No. 011/85 from the National Security Council, Structure of the Parallel Nuclear Program

    This top-secret document describes the secret parallel nuclear—or autonomous—program. The program resulted from the common effort of the three Branches of the Armed Forces—the Army, Navy and Air Force, plus CNEN and IPEN—under the coordination of the National Security Council. The objective was “to develop national competence to create conditions for wide-ranging use of nuclear energy, including naval propulsion and the production of nuclear explosives for peaceful purposes.

  • April 30, 1985

    Information to the Chief of DEC, 'Nuclear Energy. Brazil-Argentina Relations.'

    The document reports the Brazilian government’s concern in regard to President Alfonsín’s imminent proposal to create a mechanism of regional nuclear control in Latin America.

  • May 13, 1985

    Memorandum from the Argentine General Directorate for Nuclear Affairs and Disarmament, 'Cooperation with Brazil in the Field of Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy'

    This memo from the Argentine General Directorate of Nuclear Affairs and Disarmament to the South America Directorate proposes a joint Argentine-Brazilian declaration on the peaceful use of nuclear weapons. Rejecting the establishment of IAEA safeguards, the memo instead suggests a "mutual guarantee mechanism" based on cooperation and inspections on a case by case basis.

  • May 14, 1985

    Memorandum No 294/85 from Ambassador Saracho to the Secretary of State Jorge Sábato, 'Cooperation with Brazil on Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy'

    The memo produced by the General Directory of Nuclear and Disarmament Issues of the Argentine Foreign Ministry presents a strategy in regard to Brazil in the nuclear area, considering the meetings between Dante Caputo and Olavo Setúbal between 20 and 21 May 1985 in Buenos Aires. Argentina presented the regime of mutual inspections as the most important aspect.

  • September 02, 1985

    Cable from Rafael Vazquez, Argentinian Ambassador to Brazil, Requesting Meeting with the Brazilian Foreign Minister

    In this cable to Buenos Aires, Ambassador Vazquez reports that he requested a meeting with Minister Olavo Setúbal after General Leonidas Pires Gonçalves suggested that he would support a Brazilian nuclear weapons program. Vazquez also discusses a conversation with the Brazilian Foreign Minister's chief of staff, who told Vazquez that General Leônidas Pires refuted the reports of a Brazilian atomic bomb.

  • October, 1985

    Brazil-Argentina Joint Statement on Regional Nuclear Policy

    Proposed joint statement to create an Argentina-Brazil working group to discuss nuclear energy.

  • October, 1985

    Memorandum to President Sarney, 'Brazil-Argentina. Cooperation on Nuclear Affairs.'

    An Argentine delegation proposed a joint statement on regional nuclear policy and a mutual inspection system between Brazil and Argentina.