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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)

  • October 10, 1985

    Memorandum from the Argentine General Directorate for Nuclear Affairs and Disarmament, 'Overflight by Brazilian Military Plane at Pilcaniyeu Uranium Enrichment Plant'

    In this memorandum, General Director for Nuclear and Disarmament Affairs Adolfo Saracho reports on a Brazilian airplane's flight over the uranium enrichment plant at Pilcaniyeu.

  • October 24, 1985

    Telegram, Argentine Embassy in Brasilia, Brazil and China Deny Charges of Nuclear Proliferation

    Telegram from the Argentine Embassy in Brasilia reports on US Senator Alan Cranston’s claim that China was proliferating nuclear technology to countries like Argentina, Brazil, Iran, Pakistan, and South Africa. The telegram reports that both Brazil’s Foreign Ministry and China’s Embassy in Brasilia denied the charges. Part of the telegram is hand-highlighted , where a Brazilian diplomat says that the only deal between China and Brazil was the one signed by President Figueiredo during his visit to Beijing in 1984.

  • October 29, 1985

    Memorandum from Foreign Minister Olavo Setúbal to President Sarney, 'Brazil-Argentina. Cooperation on Nuclear Energy'

    The document presents the proposal to create an Argentina-Brazil working group to discuss nuclear energy.

  • November, 1985

    Brazil-Argentina Foz do Iguaçu Joint Declaration on Regional Nuclear Policy

    President Alfonsín of Argentina and President Sarney of Brazil declare their commitment to peaceful nuclear energy cooperation and mutual guarantees.

  • November 08, 1985

    Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Relations, 'Information for the Meeting on Nuclear Issues with Argentine Authorities'

    Information for a meeting between José Sarney and Raul Alfonsín and as a guide to the joint declaration on the peaceful character of nuclear programs and for the creation of a working group to promote cooperation between the two countries. Itamaraty recognized Argentina’s achievements in the nuclear realm. The last two paragraphs suggests the rejection of a possible Argentine proposal to create a system of mutual inspections.

  • December, 1985

    Special National Intelligence Estimate SNIE 93-83, 'Brazil's Changing Nuclear Goals: Motives and Constraints'

    This SNIE analyzes Brazilian nuclear politics in the light of the return of civilian rule in the country after 21 years of military rule. It demonstrates a profound knowledge of the military's involvement in the nuclear program.

  • December, 1985

    Memorandum to Holders of Special National Intelligence Estimate, SNIE 93-83, 'Brazil’s Changing Nuclear Goals: Motives and Constraints'

    The SNIEs from 1983 and the 1985 update emphasize Brazil’s quest for technological-industrial autonomy which in nuclear terms meant developing an indigenous program to master the fuel cycle, including uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing capabilities. In seeking those objectives, Brazil did not want to face any constraints, and its leaders were unresponsive to US or other pressures for safeguards on nuclear facilities. According to the 1985 report the prominent role of the military in nuclear activities, “the direction of Brazil’s nuclear r&d,” and the CNEN president’s “reputation of favoring a nuclear option” posed a “danger to US interests in Brazil.”

  • August 08, 1986

    Newspaper Article, 'Serra Do Cachimbo May Be Nuclear Test Site'

    This newspaper article discusses an underground nuclear test site being built at Serra do Cachimbo for the Brazilian military and claims that production of a nuclear weapon was "already under way." President Sarney denied the report.

  • September 08, 1986

    Central Intelligence Agency, Directorate of Intelligence, 'President Sarney and Brazil’s Nuclear Policy'

    A Directorate of Intelligence analysis, prepared in 1986, provides an interesting contrast with excisions in the NIEs on the indigenous program; it includes details on the major Navy, Air Force, and Army components of the indigenous program, including the nuclear submarine objective. As with the NIEs, the authors of this report saw no “political decision” on nuclear weapons and further noted President Sarney’s public statements against a weapons program. But a piece of political intelligence initially excised from this report suggested, rightly or wrongly, that Sarney may have been personally ambivalent.

  • September 08, 1986

    Memorandum by Director of Global Issues, 'President Sarney and Brazil´s Nuclear Policy'

    This is a CIA assessment of Brazilian nuclear politics a few weeks before President Sarney's visit to the U.S.

  • September 04, 1987

    Cable on Ambassador Rubens Ricupero’s Meetings with President Alfonsín and Ambassador Jorge Sabato about Nuclear Cooperation

    This cable summarizes Ambassador Ricupero’s mission to Argentina, where he conveyed a report that Brazil had mastered uranium enrichment. President Alfonsín’s letter of reply is included.

  • August 24, 1990

    Cable from Brazilian Foreign Ministry to Embassy in Washington, 'Outer space. Complete Brazilian spatial mission. Launching of Brazilian data gathering satellite by foreign rocket.'

    In this cable addressed to the Brazilian embassy in Washington, the Brazilian Foreign Ministry summarizes the main goals and activities of the Brazilian space program. It reports the shortage of funds and personnel that the program suffered during the 1980s and indicates that they were the main cause of delay in the development of the Brazilian space launch vehicle (SLV) in tandem with the restrictions imposed by the MTCR.

  • October 18, 1991

    Letter from President Collor to President Bush on the Brazilian Space Program

    This letter sent by President Fernando Collor to President George H. W. Bush describes the importance of the first Brazilian made satellite to the country and communicates that the French-American consortium Orbital Sciences Corporation will probably be the enterprise chosen to put the Brazilian satellite in orbit. President Collor expected that this partnership paved the way for further cooperation in the space field and informed President Bush of his decision to create the Brazilian Space Agency (AEB), under civilian control.

  • March 07, 1992

    Cable from Brazilian Foreign Ministry to Embassy in Washington

    Barbara Tobias, scientific attaché to the US embassy in Brasília, visited the Brazilian Foreign Ministry to discuss Brazil’s inclusion in the list of countries subjected to a rigorous system of exports control (“validated license”). Tobias explained that the decision was not made by consensus and that it was largely a demand of the American Congress.

  • June 05, 1992

    Cable from Brazilian Foreign Ministry to Embassy in Washington, 'Brazil-USA. Access to advanced technology. High level mission. General evaluation.'

    This cable reports the outcome of the visit made by the Missile Technology Control Regime's mission to Brazil headed by Reginald Bartholomew, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs. Throughout the meeting, the Brazilian space program was described as the most sensitive issue in regard to the MTCR.

  • June 11, 1992

    Cable from Brazilian Embassy in Washington to Foreign Ministry, 'Brazil-USA. Access to advanced technology. MTCR. Supplementary regulation on missile technology exports.'

    This cable, sent from the Brazilian Embassy in Washington to Brasília, reports Brazil’s inclusion in the list of countries that might manufacture rockets. The inclusion was in the supplement number 6 section 778 of the “Export Administration Regulations.” The US administration’s report on the list also notes the importance of the Brazilian government’s recent steps towards non-proliferation and that its inclusion in the list is due to its rocket programs and the development of its SLV.

  • July 17, 1992

    Cable from Ambassador Ricúpero to Brazilian Foreign Ministry, 'Brazil- United States. Access to advanced technology. U.S. initiative on non-proliferation. Letter by President Bush.'

    This cable shows Ambassador Ricúpero’s reaction to Brazil’s inclusion in the list of “validated license.” Ambassador Ricúpero recommended that President Fernando Collor express Brazilian disappointment with this decision in a letter to President George Bush.

  • September 03, 1992

    Cable from Brazilian Embassy in Washington to Foreign Ministry, 'Brazil-USA. Access to advanced technology. MTCR. Interview at the Department of State.'

    This cable reports the meeting between Brazilian diplomat Sergio Amaral, Robert Einhorn, Deputy Assistant for Politico-Military Affairs, and Vahn H. Van Diepen, Director of the Office of Weapons Proliferation. Eihorn made clear during the meeting that space programs such as Brazil’s are a source of concern for the US administration because it could use the same technology developed for the SLV to build ballistic missiles.

  • September 25, 1992

    Cable from Brazilian Foreign Ministry to Embassy in Washington, 'Brazil-USA. COCOM. Strategic trade. Mission from USA. Report.'

    On September 14th-15th 1992, The Brazilian government received the US technical mission on strategic trade. Among the issues discussed during the meeting, the most important was Brazil’s export control legislation for sensitive goods and technologies, which was still to be voted on by the Brazilian Congress at the time.

  • February 08, 1993

    Cable from Brazilian Foreign Ministry to Embassy in Washington, 'Brazil-France. Science and technology. Visit of D. José Israel Vargas. Meeting with Minister Hubert Curien.'

    This cable describes the visit of Brazilian Minister of Science and Technology José Israel Vargas to France. Israel Vargas met his French counterpart Minister of Science and Space Hubert Curien. Israel Vargas asked the French minister about the possibility of a French contribution to the Brazilian space program by transferring technology. Curien answered that this is not possible because the French government respects its international commitments regarding the transfer of sensitive technologies.