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Digital Archive International History Declassified

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

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    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.”
    "Minutes of the Tenth Session of the Brazilian National Security Council, Alvaro Alberto’s proposal to establish a Brazilian Atomic Energy Program," August 27, 1947, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, National Archive (Brasilia). Obtained and translated by Fundação Getúlio Vargas. http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/116912
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Minutes of the Tenth Session of the Brazilian National Security Council – August 27 1947 – Rio de Janeiro

Minutes of the Tenth Session

On August 17 1947, at 10 AM in the city of Rio de Janeiro, at Catete Palace, the National Security Council met under the presidency of the President of the Republic, General Eurico Gaspar Dutra, with the presence of the following Ministers of State: Dr. Benedito da Costa Neto, Interior and Justice; Admiral Silvio de Noronha, Navy; General Pereira da Costa, War; Dr. Dias de Figueiredo, Labor, Industry and Commerce; Dr. Daniel de Carvalho, Agriculture; Dr. Clovis Pestana, Transports and Public Works; Dr. Clemente Mariani, Education and Health; General Armando Figueira Trompowski, Air Force; Dr. Pedro Luiz Corrêa e Castro, Finance; General Milton de Freitas Almeida, Chief of the Army Staff; General Gervasio Duncan Rodrigues, Chief of the Air Force Staff; Admiral Adalberto Lara de Almeida, Chief of the Navy Staff. The Minister of External Relations was represented by Minister Antonio Camilo de Oliveira, Acting Secretary-General of the Ministry of External Relations. General Marcio Santos, Secretary-General of the Council, acted as Secretary of the meeting. Also present were Colonel Decio Palmeira de Escobar and Dr. José Leal de Mascarenhas, respectively Head and Technical Advisor to the Office of the General Secretariat of the Council, and Colonel Bernardino Corrêa de Matos Netto, President of the Commission on the Study and Surveillance of Strategic Minerals (C.E.F.M.E.).

After opening the Session, the President stated that the Council had been convened at the request of the Minister of External Relations, to advise about the points of view argued by Commander Alvaro Alberto at the Atomic Energy Commission (C.E.A.) of the United Nations (ONU) and to draft instructions to guide his action on the issues under examination at that Commission. Itamaraty had sent to the Secretariat of the Council a copy of the reports dated 19 July and August 1 of the current year presented by Commander Alvaro Alberto to the Head of the Brazilian Mission to the United Nations, as well as a copy of the Opinion of the Acting Head of the International Organizations Commission of Itamaraty about said reports. All those documents were submitted to the Commission on the Study and Surveillance of Strategic Materials, whose Opinion will be read by the Secretary General of the Council. Taking the floor, General Alcio Santos asks permission to read first the Opinion of the Acting Head of the International Organizations Commission of Itamaraty, which clarifies the matter under examination. In his July 30 report the Brazilian representative to the CEA informs that:

The United States is bent on the creation of an international organ with exclusive rights for the acquisition of raw materials for the production of nuclear fuels, distribution of said fuels and the resulting energy, by means of a quota system;The Brazilian delegate has been defending the following four points:Compensatory price for the raw materials supplied;Improved quota for the fuels and electric energy derived from them for the countries supplying raw materials;Priority for the setting up in Brazilian territory of a metalwork plant for the processing of thorium and uranium and  reactor facilities;Finally, a permanent seat for Brazil in the directing body of the international control agency;Fundamental questions, such as the nuclear fuel quotas and the location of nuclear energy plants will come up, for practical purposes, after the end of Brazil’s term at the U.N. Security Council and at the C.E.A;The only point which Commander Alvaro Alberto believes was favorably received by the U.S. delegation was the one pertaining to the permanent representation of Brazil at the directorate of the international organ.  

With respect to the request for instructions made by Commander Alvaro Alberto, the Ministry of External Relations instructed him to maintain the reservations he raised, until receiving final instructions which would be sent after reception of his second report to the Ministry. In his March 1 report, Commander Alvaro Alberto presents the progress achieved on the Brazilian requests. The United States delegation agreed that the question of quotas be discussed still in the current year, and moreover that as a concession to the Brazilian point of view, that the following wording be included in the second C.E.A. report: “The international agency will provide fair and equitable compensation for the supply of raw materials in accordance with the agreements entered into with interested nations”. Commander Alvaro Alberto considers that there is no harm in agreeing with this language which he deems quite satisfactory. He therefore consults whether he could withdraw the reservation previously raised and commented on the basic report of the Working Group where the following footnote appears: “The Brazilian delegation requested that it be recorded that in its opinion nations possessing raw materials should, after contributing their quota to serve the needs of the rest of the world, be allowed to utilize additional quantities as they wish, for the development of their own economy and for peaceful purposes. The Brazilian delegation agrees that the use of such additional fuel be subject to all safeguards of the international agency”. The Acting Head of the International Organizations Commission of Itamaraty advises that the withdrawal of the reservation should be authorized since the Brazilian representative considers that formula to be perfectly acceptable. About the instructions, the same Acting Head advises that the Brazilian delegate should continue to press for the formula suggested by him as a criterion for the distribution of quotas of nuclear fuels and installation of plants “until a result is achieved that satisfies at the same time the doctrine adhered to and the documentation included in the second report to be submitted by the C.E.A. to the Security Council on the one hand and the safeguard of the legitimate producers of raw materials on the other”. The following decisions were taken about the opinion just read: “Fully agree. I submit the matter to the Head of the DPC. Respectfully, (signed) Carlos Silvestre de Ouro Preto. “Agree. To the Secretary-General.” (signed) C. Oliveira. “Agree. Reply to be sent to Cmdr. Alvaro Alberto as suggested in paragraph 6. The National Security Council should be consulted”.

H. Accioly. Next, General Alcio Santos reads the Opinion from CEFME, signed by its president, which, after brief references to the origin of the matter and the nature and contents of its parts, states:

“There are two issues to consider regarding international measures on atomic energy:

The problem of the control of nuclear fuels in order to prevent their  concealed diversion for weapons purposes;The problem of the use of these fuels in the industrial production of energy for peaceful purposes.

Obviously, regarding item a), all nations should cooperate by submitting to general measures of collective interest deemed necessary to an effective international control. Admitting the possibility of such control, as an indispensable condition to the realization of any international agreement in this field, the question of the use of nuclear fuel in peaceful endeavors remains to be solved. In this case, nothing justifies the thesis of a restrictive international policy, capable of summarily depriving nations possessing the raw materials from which nuclear fuels are extracted from the right to utilize them in a peaceful manner, since a similar policy does not apply to other natural sources of hydro energy, also unequally distributed in the several regions of Earth. Even if one admits that in order to make the control of nuclear fuels more effective it is deemed necessary to give to an international agency exclusiveness in the elaboration of the respective minerals, as well as in the production and distribution of those fuels, it is obvious that this distribution should be made by means of preferential quotas taking into account the contributions in minerals from the different nations. To advocate another criterion for that distribution would amount to depriving nations better endowed with fissionable materials from such vital resources for their economic development end their industrial progress. If anyone  intended to attribute to an international agency the redistribution of other natural resources, such as fuels, fertilizers and economic significant minerals, certainly the possessor nations would not agree with such a criterion, which would prevent them from using that wealth for their own benefit. Any international commitment to be assumed by our country in order to ensure the effectiveness of measures of a collective character, aiming at preventing diversion of “nuclear fuels” for weapons purposes, must therefore explicitly state that we will not the deprived of the right to utilize, as energy sources, the thorium and uranium existing in our deposits in order to compensate for our shortcomings in fuels. This point of view was skillfully advocated by the Brazilian representative at the Atomic Energy Commission of the United Nations as seen in the text of communications exchanged, particularly paragraphs 1, 9, 11, 19, 32, 37, 50 of the July 19 report and more especially paragraph 3 of the August 1 report. We thus believe that such a point of view should be vigorously argued for the benefit of the vital interests of our country. The change introduced on July 30 in the wording of paragraph XII of the already mentioned international document, which I call international despite it already represents a partial victory of the Brazilian argument, is still far from the desired scope, which is to provide the guarantees specified in our representation’s proposal, included in paragraph 32 of the July 1 report, the more so in view of suppression of the footnote mentioned in paragraph 9 of said report. It would be of real importance for Brazil that in the international document the wording adopted could clarify with precision that the compensation mentioned in paragraph XII is not limited to the question of “price” but also encompasses the conditions mentioned in paragraph 32, already referred to. We are therefore of the view that it is wise not to abandon the opportune reservations formulated by the Brazilian delegation to the C.E.A. (Atomic Energy Commission), especially those contained in paragraph 32 mentioned above, since in that case it would be very likely that our points of view would no longer be defended with the presence of our representative in future meetings to which the discussion of that issue is proposed to be entrusted, as disclosed by Commander Alvaro Alberto. It is also important to stress that in the prospection of minerals to be performed by the international agency the country possessing deposits is granted the right to follow the proceedings. Moreover, we believe that the initial treatment of the minerals, as well as the separation of the useful elements, should be made in the national territory, without prejudice to international control. In case this is not possible, the non-fissionable elements present in the thorium and uranium minerals should be returned to the nation having supplied the raw material”.

After the reading of the Opinion, General Alcio inquires whether the Council wishes that Cmdr.  Alvaro Alberto’s reports be read, which was not deemed necessary. The President opens the discussion of CEFME’s Opinion. General Cesar Mirim says he did not understand well the difference between the points of view of Itamaraty and those of the Strategic Minerals Commission. Colonel Bernardino is given the floor and explains that there is no difference between Itamaraty and the Commission. The latter understands that Brazil cannot oppose the idea, already accepted, of the creation of an international agency charged with the control of atomic minerals. But because Brazil is poor in current fuels, it believes that it should not relinquish the right to utilize its own raw material for peaceful purposes and under the control of the international agency after having supplied the quota assigned to it for world distribution. Another point argued by the Commission, he states, is that the initial treatment of the minerals, as well as the separation of the fissionable elements, be performed in the producing countries or, if this is not possible, that the non-fissionable elements resulting from the separation be returned to these countries. He mentions the importance of cerium and tantalum, found in the monazite sands from which thorium is extracted. Brigadier Duncan Rodrigues defends the same view, stressing the importance of tantalum in the manufacture of jet propulsion engines. Minister Daniel de Carvalho states that the Secretariat, in the last analysis, supports the point of view previously expressed by Cmdr. Alvaro Alberto. Colonel Bernardino, given the floor, clarifies that the distribution of preferential quotas had been agreed. Minister Daniel de Carvalho replies that this is what Cmdr. Alvaro Alberto had argued for. The question is whether the convention proposed by  CEA should make explicit the compensation demanded by the producers or whether its clarification should be subject of agreements to be concluded later. Col. Bernardini says that it is of the greatest interest that the convention establishes the compensations because Brazil, a producer country, is not strong enough to make its demands ultimately prevail. Minister Daniel de Carvalho states that he is precisely looking for the clarifications needed for a decision. He asks for a second reading of the section of the information from Itamaraty regarding the formula proposed at the CEA to satisfy Cmdr. Alvaro Alberto’s point of view on the compensations. General Alcio Santos reads: “and moreover that, in an official document drafted by the working group and whose entire contents will make up the body of the 2nd report, a special concession was made to the Brazilian point of view related to item b) above, according to which “the international agency will accord a fair and equitable compensation for the supply of raw materials, in accordance with the agreements concluded with interested nations”; this supersedes the idea previously prevailing within the CEA to consider as sufficient condition just an appropriate price.” Minister Daniel de Carvalho declares himself fully enlightened and agrees that Cmdr. Alvaro Alberto’s previous viewpoint should be maintained. Minister Camilo de Oliveira, justifying Itamaraty’s opinion, says it will be difficult for us to obtain agreement for the use of the amount of nuclear fuels we wish. The international control agency certainly will assign us a quota and nothing more. An interesting part of the opinion of CEFME is the requirement of the initial processing of the minerals in the country. Summing up, Brazil has already obtained: the promise of an additional quota, the initial processing in the country and permanent representation in the international control agency. Minister Corrêa e Castro agrees with total adherence to CEFME’s Opinion. We accept control, he adds, but we want the right to supply the processed raw material and to use, for peaceful purposes, the quantity of our own mineral that we deem necessary. Col. Bernardino affirms that the control can be perfectly performed by the international agency in the case of initial processing of minerals in the country. On the question of the compensation he says that in this connection, the price, by itself, is not interesting for the country that exports the mineral, because the metals obtained with the separation of uranium and thorium are extremely valuable. He also highlights the advantages of nuclear fuels over current ones. Minister Daniel de Carvalho declares that the clarifications given by Col. Bernardino are exact. Minister Morvan de Figueiredo suggests the acceptance of the Opinion under discussion. Brazil does not possess coal deposits, and for this reason it is not fair to relinquish atomic fuels that exist in its soil and are necessary for the development of its economy. Col. Bernardino says that the era of coal is not over due to the large world reserves, that is, that the era of atomic energy has not yet begun.  He mentions the current efforts for the extraction of underground coal to stress the backwardness of the coal industry. He recalls the price of kripton and remarks that the energy of the future will come from the fission of the atom. Minister Marvan de Figueiredo supports Col. Bernardino’s arguments and highlights the difficulties with which the coal industry is struggling.  The last surveys in New Wales, England, show that the mining families do not wish that their children follow their parents’ profession. There is a lack of labor. General Duncan Rodrigues expresses the opinion that the documents just read evaluate perfectly all the facts. The points made by Cmdr. Alvaro Alberto were better defined by the CEFME report. According to the information given by Cmdr. Alvaro Alberto the situation of the issue at CEA is as follows:

1. Everyone agrees with the control of atomic fuels;

2. The delegates of the United States lean toward accepting the Brazilian bid for a permanent seat in the Atomic Energy Commission;

3. The use of fissionable fuels for peaceful purposes is not expressed in as positive and precise terms as wished by CEFME;

4. The initial processing of the minerals in the producing countries was not considered by the CEA;

5. The return of the non-fissionable components of ores containing atomic minerals was not expressed either in the Convention proposed by CEA.

6. It is not convenient that Brazil abandons such demands, because it is necessary to prepare the ground for future wars. Minister Trompowski expresses agreement with CEFME’s Opinion and asks permission to raise an issue. When Cmdr. Alvaro Alberto was appointed to CEA he had already elaborated with other personalities’ cooperation a draft proposal for the creation of the National Atomic Energy Council, which he submitted to the government. He asks, then what (…) this project? Col. Bernardino informs that he knew about this proposal and that maybe the government had decided to take it up at another time because it was too forward looking with regard to the state of atomic energy among us. But the government created the Commission of Study and Surveillance of Strategic Minerals which replaces, to a certain extent, the proposed Council. He explains what exists and what is being done in Brazil regarding atomic energy, mentioning, among other examples, the accomplishments of the Department of Nuclear Research of the São Paulo Faculty of Philosophy. Taking advantage of the opportunity, he appeals to the President of the Republic to establish the full time regime for the illustrious researchers who are unselfishly devoted to the study of nuclear energy.  Minister Clemente Mariani clarifies that Cmdr. Alvaro Alberto had suggested to him the creation of an Institute of High Studies for the guidance of our researchers in the field of atomic energy and selected the most promising among them to be sent to Canada and the United States. The Minister adds that he had not yet submitted the matter to the consideration of the government because Dr. Oswaldo Aranha had promised elements for the organization of the Institute, which he was still awaiting. Minister Silvio de Noronha informs that Cmdr. Alvaro Alberto also asked him to support the movement in favor of nuclear studies at the Navy and states that he had even prepared instructions for the dispatch of officers to special courses in American universities. He stresses that it was not a question of sending students, but rather personnel who already knew the matter and could acquire abroad the practice that cannot yet be provided in our midst. The President of the Republic closed the debate and put for the vote the proposal by Minister Corrêa e Castro in favor of the adoption of CEFME’s Opinion. The Opinion was unanimously approved and the President asked the Secretary-General of the Council to reply urgently to Itamaraty and send it the instructions just approved. Since there were no other matters to deal with, he closed the Session.                                 

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