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)
February 25, 1977
Memorandum from Brazilian Foreign Minister Silveira to President Geisel, US Threats and Promises and Brazilian Responses
This memo outlines “possible American approaches” and “possible Brazilian reactions” as the US attempts to compel the Brazilians and Germans to cease their nuclear cooperation.
March 21, 1977
Brazilian Embassy Cable, Brazilian Ambassador to Bonn Reports on Soviet Pressure on West Germany
The Brazilian Ambassador in Bonn reports on a Der Spiegel article, which states, “After the United States, it is now the Soviet Union’s turn to exert pressure for Bonn to revise its controversial atomic agreement with Brazil.” The article shows US-Soviet solidarity against Brazil and Germany’s cooperation in developing nuclear weapons.
March 22, 1977
Letter to Hugo Abreu on a Conversation between Vice-Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces Admiral José Calvente Aranda and the Argentine Ambassador Oscar Camilión
Abreu reports a conversation in which ambassador Camillión revealed President Videla’s desire to visit Brazil, implying that Itaipu was a sensitive issue, but of domestic nature. The Argentine government suggested a joint declaration on nuclear issues to turn away international suspicions on "the production of the bomb."
September 07, 1977
Report, Brazil, 'Official Mission to Washington, DC, While Representing Brazil at the Treaty Signing Ceremonies on the New Agreements Over the Panama Canal'
Vice-President Adalberto Pereira reports on a meeting with Republican Congressman Paul Findley, who proposed, on a personal basis, the creation of a nuclear mutual surveillance system between Brazil and Argentina, with a view to allaying doubts about a possible arms race. Findley had already presented the proposal to Ambassador Geraldo Holanda Cavalcanti, (aide to Minister Silveira) on the occasion of the visit to Brasília on August 23 1977. According to the agreement he proposed, Brazil and Argentina would renounce the intention to develop a nuclear device and would accept mutual inspections of their respective nuclear facilities.
November 30, 1977
Ministry of Foreign Affairs Information to the President, 'Secretary of State Cyrus Vance's Visit'
According to a US document left behind by Cyrus Vance, Argentina had agreed 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. Commenting the paper, Foreign Minister Silveira defines US strategy as “irresponsible” and considers it as an encouragement to the rivalry and confrontation between Argentina and Brazil.
February 23, 1978
Memorandum, Foreign Minister Azeredo da Silveira, Information for the President of Brazil, 'Nuclear Issues. Meeting at 13/02/78. Alvorada Palace.'
Report of a meeting between President Geisel and his top nuclear advisors on the eve of President Carter’s visit to Brazil and Geisel’s trip to West Germany. Issues discussed include: the delay in the construction of the Angra I, II and III nuclear plants; the unreliability of the US and Urenco (mainly due to Dutch reticence) as suppliers of nuclear fuel; the rising costs of the German deal; and the dissatisfaction with the jet nozzle enrichment technology and the possibility of renegotiating with Germany for the purchase of ultracentrifugation technology. Both Foreign Minister Silveira and President Geisel admitted the possibility of acceding to the NPT if necessary to get the technology.
April 05, 1978
Telegram from the Brazilian Embassy in Buenos Aires to the Foreign Ministry, 'External Policy. Argentina. Nuclear non-proliferation. Issue no. 132.'
This telegram made by the Brazilian Embassy in Buenos Aires, verifies U.S. pressure on Argentina’s nuclear program, especially through Canada, with whom Argentina had a strategic partnership in the nuclear field. The telegram goes into depth on factors that underlie Argentina's decision not to sign the NPT, and its efforts to import the materials necessary for its nuclear program.
January 17, 1979
Memorandum, Shigeaki Ueki, Brazilian Minister of Energy on Nuclear Energy Cooperation with Iraq
Minister of Mines and Energy, Shigeaki Ueki, reports to the Secretary-General of the National Security Council, General Gustavo Rego Reis, and to the Foreign Minister, Azeredo da Silveira, the requests made by Iraqi officials in 1978 and the stage of negotiations on the subject. He emphasizes the high value placed by Iraq on the matter and the increased relevance of Iraq as an oil-supplier and recommends that Brazil should satisfy Iraq’s demand.
January 30, 1979
Aviso no. 025/79, Response from Minister Antonio Francisco Azeredo da Silveira and General Gustavo Rego Reis
In separate replies regarding Iraq's overtures, both Foreign Minister Silveira and Secretary-General of the National Security Council Gustavo Rego Reis suggest that Brazil should not decline explicitly, but avoid making commitments on this issue. General Reis emphasizes Saddam Hussein’s “leftist inclinations” and his ties to the socialist camp and the extensiveness of the proposed agreement. He notes that Brazil had already rejected proposals by Uruguay, Chile and Libya. Silveira merely requested additional time to study the proposal.
May 16, 1979
Cable from Brazilian Embassy in Bonn to Brasilia, 'Nuclear Energy. Hamburg Congress: South African Program'
Report of a meeting between an official from the Brazilian Embassy in Bonn and the scientific attaché of the South African Embassy on the occasion of a nuclear congress in Hamburg. The South African official informed the Brazilian diplomat about the advancement of the Pretoria nuclear program with regard to uranium enrichment.
June 18, 1979
Notice No. 135/79 from the General Secretariat of the Brazilian National Security Council
In 1978 the National Security Council identified the most important shortcoming of nuclear cooperation with Germany: the non-transfer of technology for the production of uranium hexafluoride (UF6). The lack of this crucial phase for the production of nuclear fuel led Brazil to decide to develop this method by national means, in view of the unwillingness of France and Great Britain to export said technology without a full scope of safeguards. The document reports how the government decided to create an autonomous nuclear project with regard to cooperation with Germany and free from the international safeguards regime. Coordinated by CNEN and implemented by the Institute of Energy and Nuclear Research (IPEN), this project represented the first phase of the “parallel” nuclear program whose objective was the autonomous mastery of the nuclear cycle.
August 20, 1979
Memorandum DEM/89, Luiz Augosto de Castro Neves, Deputy Chief of the Energy and Mineral Resources Division, 'Brazil-Argentina. Possibilities for Nuclear Cooperation'
Conversations between Counselor Raul Estrada Oyuela, from the Argentine Embassy in Brasilia, and Luiz Augusto de Castro Neves, Deputy Chief of the Energy and Mineral Resources Division of Itamaraty, on the possibility of nuclear cooperation between Brazil and Argentina.
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.'
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.
September 19, 1979
Memoraundum, Minister Saraiva Guerreiro, Information for the President, ''Nuclear Cooperation. Brazil-Iraq'
In a memo to President Figueiredo, Minister Saraiva Guerreiro advises that Brazil should demonstrate receptivity to Iraq’s proposal but avoid a formal commitment, especially in “sensitive” areas that relate to the Germany-Brazil Agreement. Supply of uranium should be admitted as a possibility if mentioned by the Iraqis. The document emphasizes that the cooperation should be made public and become subject to all international safeguard agreements and regimes.
October 29, 1979
Cable from Brazilian Embassy in Bonn to Brasilia, 'Nuclear energy. South Africa: Uranium Enrichment'
In October 1979 the scientific attaché of the South African Embassy in Bonn met his Brazilian counterpart in order to propose an exchange of experiences in the nuclear field. The South African diplomat recalled the similarities between the Brazilian and South African enrichment processes and specified that the initiative of a possible cooperation had been taken by the South African Atomic Energy Board and not by the Pretoria Government, because of the cold relations between the two countries. In this cable the Brazilian Ambassador in Western Germany, Jorge Silva, asked for instructions from Minister Saraiva Guerreiro in order to reply to the South Africans.
November 05, 1979
Information from Brazilian Minister of Foreign Affairs Saraiva Guerreiro to President Figueiredo, 'Nuclear Energy. South Africa'
The Minister of Foreign Relations, Ramiro Saraiva Guerreiro, asks for instructions from the President of the Republic, João Baptista Figueiredo, in order to reply to a South African proposal of cooperation in the nuclear field.
December 10, 1979
Memorandum DEM/132 by Luiz Augusto de Castro Neves, Deputy Chief of Energy and Mineral Resources, for the Head of the Department of Economy, 'Possible Brazil-Argentina Nuclear Cooperation'
The document highlights the possibilities and advantages of a nuclear cooperation agreement between Buenos Aires and Brasília, particularly after the dispute over the Itaipu dam and the visit of the president of CNEA, Castro Madero, to Brazil. In the last two pages of the document, the Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Relations, João Clemente Baena Soares, Foreign Minister Saraiva Guerreiro and President Figueiredo react positively and they agree to invite Admiral Castro Madero to visit Brazil and to deepen the negotiations on nuclear cooperation.
January 28, 1980
Cable on Meeting Between CNEA President Carlos Madero and Brazilian Ambassador Carlos F. Duarte
A cable received from the Brazilian embassy in Buenos Aires, regarding the visit of Admiral Castro Madero, the president of the National Atomic Energy Commission, to Brazil. Ambassador Duarte and Madero discussed nuclear energy and the importance of an eventual cooperation agreement between Brazil and Argentina.
February 12, 1980
Telegram No. 146 from Brasília to Brazilian Embassy in Buenos Aires, 'Nuclear Energy. Brazil-Argentina Cooperation. Visit by President of CNEA'
The telegram reports the visit of Admiral Castro Madero to Brazil between 28 and 30 January 1980 and his meetings with the presidents of the National Nuclear Energy Commission, Nuclebrás, and with the representatives of the Ministries of Energy and Foreign Relations. During the meetings, they talked about possible areas of cooperation and the signature of an agreement.
March 23, 1980
Report from the President of Nuclebrás Paulo Nogueira Batista to Foreign Minister Saraiva Guerreiro, 'Trip to Buenos Aires'
The document reports that the presidents of CNEN, Hervásio de Carvalho, and Nuclebrás, Paulo Nogueira Batista, had an unplanned meeting with the Argentine Foreign Minister, Pastor, which said “to consider the Brazilian-Argentine understanding [in the nuclear field] a fundamental issue for a inductive strategy of strengthening political and economic stability in the region to the extent that both countries would be in a stronger position to collaborate with their neighbors”.