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Digital Archive International History Declassified

August 23, 1979

MEMORANDUM, HéCTOR A. SUBIZA, HEAD OF THE LATIN AMERICAN DEPARTMENT OF THE ARGENTINIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY, 'COOPERATION WITH BRAZIL IN THE NUCLEAR FIELD.'

This document was made possible with support from the Leon Levy Foundation

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    In this memo, the Latin American department of the Argentine Foreign Ministry conveys its opinion on the Brazilian interest in including the nuclear issue in the agenda of the Special Brazilian-Argentine Committee on Cooperation (CEBAC), that the issue should be subordinated to the solution of the question of Itaipu.
    "Memorandum, Héctor A. Subiza, Head of the Latin American Department of the Argentinian Foreign Ministry, 'Cooperation with Brazil in the Nuclear Field.'," August 23, 1979, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, AMRECIC. Obtained and translated by Fundação Getúlio Vargas. http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/116861
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MINISTRY OF EXTERNAL RELATIONS AND CULT[URE]

MEMORANDUM 227

For information of: General Political Directorate   

Origin: Latin American Department

                                                                                               Buenos Aires, 23 August 1979

Subject: Cooperation with Brazil in the nuclear field

1. In the past few weeks officials from the Argentine Embassy in Brasília were consulted by different colleagues from Itamaraty on the possibilities of bilateral cooperation in the field of nuclear energy. Incidentally, with regard to the signing of the cooperation agreement between Argentina and Venezuela, the press provoked a reply from the spokesperson of the local Chancery that had considerable repercussions in the Brazilian newspapers. The scope of that manifestation was soon clearly explained by the Minister of External Relations himself in the interview given to “Clarín.” On Thursday 16 the official responsible for nuclear energy at the Energy and Minerals Division of Itamaraty suggested to a member of our Embassy the possibility of including an item on the agenda of the next meeting of CEBAC to allow for the adding to the final minutes of that meeting a paragraph  on the convenience of exploring the areas for cooperation in the nuclear electric industry.

2. A change in the willingness of the Brazilian Government to cooperate with other countries in the field of nuclear energy is clearly noticeable. This was expressly acknowledged by Brazilian officials during the above mentioned conversations. In general, Brazil has maintained a reticent attitude in this particular but after the conclusion of the agreement with the Federal Republic of Germany in 1975 this policy became more visible. This was clearly seen in September 1976, during the XX General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Rio de Janeiro. The acknowledged reason for such a position was the need to channel all the capacity available in the country to the realization of the ambitious program agreed with Federal Germany. Clear evidence of the change can be found in the signature of a “memorandum of understanding” with Venezuela on the occasion of the visit of Foreign Minister Saraiva Guerreiro to Caracas and in the inclusion of a paragraph of this matter in the joint communiqué signed in Brasília at the close of the visit of the Head of the Spanish Government.

3. This change, which coincides with the change in government that occurred last March, may be ascribed to several reasons:

a) The first one is that the slowing down of the Brazilian nuclear program will certainly  free human resources and facilities in this sector of activity. The retransfer to the National Nuclear Energy Comission of laboratories that previously had been placed under Nuclebras may be linked to this cause.

b)  Secondly, a large part of the internal criticism to the nuclear program is related to doubts about the actual transfer of technology from the Federal Republic of Germany. The intention to cooperate with Spain may mean, in fact, the search for another external source of technology.

c) Finally, since 1976 Brazil shoulders by itself the brunt of American pressure to change its nuclear program with Federal Germany. This pressure from Washington was initially supported by Venezuela through public utterances by President Pérez, followed by a certain indifference in the region where Brazil only found relative support from Argentina on account of the circumstantial communality of interests. The signature of the memorandum of understanding with Venezuela and the announcement of the possibility of cooperation with other countries in the region points to a trend to improve this relative situation.

4. The possibility of cooperating with Argentina in nuclear activities, including, if possible, specific aspects of the fuel cycle fits perfectly in this context.  The Brazilian Nuclear Energy Commission and the National Atomic Energy Commission of Argentina have kept informal contacts in the past few years. The excellent personal relations between Rear Admiral Dr. Carlos Castro Madero and Professor Hervásio Carvalho contributed to these contacts. Argentina achieved advanced development in the nuclear field and despite the fact that the fuel cycles chosen by both countries are different, there are innumerable points of contact. In the conversations that took place, for instance, there were indications of Brazilian interest in the circaloy technology and in the manufacture of fuel elements and it was mentioned that Nuclebrás has developed, independently from the German cooperation, technologies of prospecting and mining of uranium associated with phosphates that might be of interest to Argentina. Finally, the reciprocal support of both countries in many circumstances, for instance in what regards the IAEA safeguard system, provides the basis for a system of consultations aiming at joint positions to counter pressures from the London Club, when appropriate.

5. If both countries wish to obtain support from the region regarding nuclear energy issues that may arise in the global sphere, it is a necessary condition to raise the interest of Latin American countries in the possibilities offered by nuclear energy. Argentina has been carrying out methodical and efficient action in this field, to which the current Brazilian activity will now be added. Ostensible cooperation between the two countries could entail a relative reduction the margin of maneuver of recipients of technical assistance, which would otherwise be enlarged in the event of an apparent competition among such clients. Cooperation between Brazil and Argentina would also permit to present a more homogeneus image of the region before third countries whose policies discourage nuclear activity.

6. Nevertheless, it seems clear that as long as the existing differences regarding the use of hydro resources of the High Paraná are not settled it is advisable to highlight the importance of the relationship in other  fields, but it would not be useful to create a “new” area.

7. If the issue of nuclear cooperation is seen as linked to CEBAC, its impact could be so strong as to lessen the importance of the existing commercial relationship. In other words, the press stories would not be focused on the size of the exchanges but on the opening up of a field of cooperation.  

8. For the reasons mentioned above, the following course of action is considered advisable:

a) Not to include nuclear cooperation in the minutes of the next meeting of CEBAC.

b) To stimulate the exploration of concrete areas of cooperation which, even though they might be considered in the context of cooperation between developing countries (TCDC), should take up forms compatible with the level achieved by other countries.   

c) Eventually, and with great caution, to stimulate direct contacts among National Atomic Energy Commission officials with the purpose of identifying areas of cooperation.   

d) As soon as objective conditions are created within the global bilateral relationship, instruments permitting the development of cooperation could be signed at the appropriate level.

(Signed) Héctor A. Subiza – Ambassador, Head of the Latin American Department