A Regional Model of Nuclear Non-Proliferation between Argentina and Brazil

A Regional Model of Confidence Building Measures on
Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Clovis Brigagão
Silvia Alessandra

Norwegian Nobel Institute, Research Fellowship 2009-2010
“The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: Past Experiences and Future Challenges


For forty years, Brazil and Argentina pursued nuclear programs. Both countries were critical of TNP´s regime, as discriminatory, and shied away from full adherence to the Treaty of Tlatelolco. Both had civilian nuclear activities and secret military projects that sought to be the first to develop a bomb. However, little over a decade, both countries came to terms, and through a series of bilateral agreements stepped back from the abyss. They consistently built robust and confident measures for nuclear mutual verification: The Common System of Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials (SCCC), and Brazilian-Argentine Agency for the Accounting, Control of Nuclear Materials (ABACC). As a Joint venture they enlarged their control system with the Quadripartite Agreement (Brazil, Argentina, ABACC + IAEA), eventually fully embracing the Tlatelolco and the TNP. It is a unique and sui generis regional system of non-proliferation. This is a success story that could provide inspiration to other belligerent regions such as Asia and Middle East, but still it has not been adequately addressed. This proposal, an empirical research of public policy nature, aims to review the Argentine-Brazilian case on nuclear non-proliferation, to bring out the lessons worth learning on this inspiring passage from conflict to full cooperation.


The end of the Cold War made up a historical step in to the hope of a new perspective on international relations at the entrance to the twenty-first century. It seems that a seed was planted at the end of the old order of possibilities to overcoming the specter of a nuclear holocaust as well as encouraging a renewed diversity of viewers, with new actors and a more open and plural agenda. It certainly represented an attempt to keep up with the international dynamics who is growing with complexity and brings about the current knowledge transformation. Clearly, it has been necessary to reorganize the supply of cognitive maps that legitimize the Cold War’s political and ideological context.

The new global themes involving security includes: terrorism, environmental security, transportation of atomic garbage, toxic and radioactive substances, nuclear smuggling, etc. Along with technological revolution and innovation, came the dilution of new mechanisms of supervision via satellite, reducing the state’s absolute supremacy and its exc1usive military power. States are now interdependent, requiring greater cooperation amongst each other, opening the way for forums and inter-governmental institutions to obtain greater effectiveness and power in the management of international affairs. We are now observing the conception in a world where states yield their political and military absolutism when confronted with collective instruments of security such as the UN´s Security Council, or those of the new global order; as in the case of proliferation control and detection procedures of parallel and clandestine programs of the “dual” technologies use.

Due to the globalization, limited resources and the loss of control and power of the nation-State that manage them, the participation of a growing number of International actors in the debate and the planning-practice of common solutions has become utterly necessary. This is not a matter of quantity, but rather of seeking quality in the assessment of risks in the global nature. Foremost among these, the spread of nuclear weapons and the search of policy alternatives confines to the hands of a few. The increasing participation of directly responsible multiple actors reveals a situation in regional policies on nuclear non-proliferation has become a critical parameter for peace and international security. This supports the claim that international democratization and multilateral accountability has been developing, substantiated by the political tripod as:
i. Greater transparency in the administration of global resources, nuclear resources among them;
ii. Greater effectiveness in mechanisms of control and verification promoting substantial building of confidence;
iii. Greater responsibility concerning the linkage between regional and global affairs such as stability, development and social commitment to democracy.

Cooperation seems to be a common factor in congregation and communion of the new world order. This is a challenge that must be sought and accomplished. It is in such a sense the “contiguous confidence building,” developed by Argentina and Brazil in the nuclear security area, makes an innovating model that is harmonious with the universal regime of nuclear non-proliferation established by IAEA and the TNP´s regime.

The Nuclear Paradigm

The development of nuclear energy was the confirmatory symbol of the international power’s supremacy, glorifying atomic bipolarity and transforming the four powers into an exclusive Atomic Club. The condominium created an atmosphere of suspiciousness, distrust and freezing of world power, legitimizing the very core of the “international regime of nuclear non-proliferation”. By 1967, the Atomic Club invited other countries to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as a measure concerning nuclear non-proliferation. It must be remembered that in 1964, the People’s Republic of China exploded its first atomic bomb and ten years later, India also exploded its first atomic weapon. From this point on, the exclusiveness of the stable Atom Club was forever broken.

Since then, the guarantees of NPT have increased, limiting the access to ´sensitive´ technologies, controlling the installations, and nuclear materials that started to spread out around the world. The creation of the London Club came with the intent of universalizing the USA’s Non-Proliferation Act (1980) in order to control the nuclear trade while restricting the Atomic Club obligations in terms of assumed cooperation within NPT itself. Internationally, during the context of The Cold War and under the preponderance of the national security doctrine, it seemed as though the Atomic Club was consolidating itself. The Atomic Club is reaffirming, consequently, the perception of the freezing of the world power and its ambiguous non-proliferation international policy, according to the Resolution 1722, adopted by the XVI regular session of the General Assembly, 20, December 1961.

Despite the nuclear control regime created by the atomic powers and the TNP, countries such as Argentina and Brazil already had delineated. By the 40s, there some evidence of aims for their independent nuclear energy program. They began their autonomous nuclear energy program soon after the World War II: Argentina in the late 1940´s, Brazil in the early 1950´s. What reasons made the two countries proceed with their national programs of scientific and technological-nuclear development? At least three purposes reflected the mystic of controlling the complete cycle of atomic production.

First, it guaranties an effective energy support for the process of national industrial development. Second, within the context of regional balance of power around the Plata Basin, each country perceived the other with suspicion concerning peaceful use of the nuclear development programs. Third, it was a chance to enter the Atomic Club elite and sit itself at the negotiation table with greater bargaining power, as some Brazilians (military as well as nationalist civilian elites) and, certainly, Argentineans have claimed.

Realistica1ly speaking, Argentina and Brazil sought a certain degree of autonomy in their nuclear programs that would allow them to complete the cycle of nuclear fuel. In the atmosphere of West and East confrontation, such programs provoked an attitude of mistrust and isolation on behalf of the international community. This suspicion reflected the belief that the two countries sought the construction of the atomic bomb, destabilizing the nuclear “freezing”, particularly in terms of their refusal to join the TNP. Both countries endured military dictatorships, and both saw secret, the so-called ´paralel´ military nuclear program, kept under wraps from the eyes and controls of both the Congress and civil society. The international isolation worsened through the violation of human rights by the military, restricting even further the possibilities of access to modern technologies — an absolute necessity for the continuation of the ´pararel´ nuclear-fuel cycle program. Consequently, there was a break of the programs, a delay in the projects, irrational expenditures and a posture of attacking, by Brazilian military, the so-called “technological apartheid.”

Confidence Building for Nuc1ear Non-Proliferation: A Regional Model

The Plate Basin, due to its politica1, economic, and security means, always represented a true macro-region border of shared resources. The contiguity context of the Plata Basin caused a geopolitical impact on the regional diplomacy. Nevertheless, in the scope of these more ample experiences of regional integration, there were enterprises that provided for political and diplomatic development between Argentina and Brazil – together with Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay- resulting in the signing of the historic Cooperation Treaty of the Bacia do Prata (1969). Its formulation occurred during Arturo lllia’s, last Argentinean democratic president, before the 1966 Military Coup. Its intention was to institutionalize the dispute within a nature of economic and military cooperation. The fulfil1ment of the Treaty finally allowed the creation of the first step of a real approximation between both countries, in the context of macro-region and complex inter-dependency.

The Technical-Cooperative Multilateral Agreement of Itaipu and Corpus, followed in October 1979. It expressed the mitigation of tensions accumulated during decades of regional rivalry, made worse by the military ambitions. It clarified, and largely resolved, the divergences between the two countries concerning the use of shared energetic water resources, removing one of the most prominent underpinnings for justification of the quest for military ascendancy. The highly elaborate, new sub-regional diplomacy relies on the strategic f1uvial bay shared by several states, and allowing the energy use of water resources.

The outbreak of the Falklands War promoted a new diplomatic and political relationship between Argentina and Brazil. The United Kingdom intervention (a NATO member) in the South Atlantic´s region was a warning against the nature of the north-south conflict. Eventually, Brazil held Great Britain’s intervention as a threat to the South America´s security, which propitiates Brazil’s support to Argentina. In the context of the inter-American agenda of the 80’s, the USA carried out a unilateral policy centered on the Central-American and South Atlantic conflicts and the Latin-American external debt. This unilateralism deepened the comprehension of the crisis of the inter-American security system with an orchestrated answer on behalf of the Latin-American countries vis-à-vis Washington. In such an atmosphere, it is possible to become aware of the whole process of the political, economic, diplomatic, and nuclear cooperation between Argentina and Brazil. Both countries perceived the crisis in the relations of the inter-American security system and the isolation to which they were subdued by this North-American unilateralism.

Decades of watching the game played by the hegemonic powers over the region (mainly Great Britain and the USA), created an external atmosphere to the tensions and rivalries between Argentina and Brazil. It seems that the Falklands War ended this undefined game. The Falklands episode made possible an alliance between Argentina and Brazil over regional security matters. Furthermore, with the economic embargo on Argentina declared by the CEE (today European Union), Argentina’s products obtained access to the international market via Brazilian ports and, thus, the bilateral commerce experienced a significant increase. After the breaking of diplomatic relations between Buenos Aires and London, Brazil became the representative of Argentina’s interests in the Great Britain and even in other multilateral forums. The historical and political-diplomatic affairs showed that the resolution of the bilateral political and economic problems of the Plata Basin helped to found the present Argentine-Brazilian nuclear cooperation. At the same time, steps towards nuclear cooperation also produce a closer relationship between them on economic and trade cooperation.

Nuclear Cooperative Diplomacy

First, the development of confidence building measures showed willingness and political intention on both sides to overcome old conflicts and to create reliability. Second, it determined diplomatic instruments involved in preliminary negotiations, distinguished the contingency’s essential parameters, and accomplished compromises that would concretely substantiate the very existence of confidence building diplomacy. Hereupon, the verification instruments, and finally, the criteria was established.

The first steps were in place towards a broader understanding between former antagonists at the ending period of the military regimes. In 1980, both governments co-signed the Agreement for the Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy. This agreement established cooperative mechanisms in the field of applied to nuclear technology research, physical protection of radioactive materials, and reached out to the exploration and mining of uranium, with cooperative activities in terms of training, qualification and exchange of technical-scientific information on the nuclear reactors of each country. Through the agreement, Argentina had access to the Centro de Informação Computadorizado do Brasil (Brazilian Centre of Computerized Information), exchanging Argentinean zirconium for Brazilian enriched uranium. Argentina would use the enriched uranium for some Argentinean research reactors.

An important second agreement set by the Brazilian Nuclear Company (Nuclebrás) subsidiary, Nuclear Heavy Equipment (Nuclep) begins by building parts of the pressure recipient for the third Argentinean reactor supplied by the Federal Republic of Germany. A third agreement referred to a common coordination of nuclear policies in international forums, allowing both countries to better face the conditions of growing difficulties present in the international supply of nuclear materials and equipment. All these diplomatic compromises represented a transcendental measure of institutionalized cooperation in the face of the traditional rivalry perceptions. The new policy eased the tensions still further, and made possible the reciprocal supply and technical cooperation.

Democratic Argentina and Brazil demilitarized their central Nuclear National Commissions (the Brazilian Nuclear Energy National Commission, CNEN and the Argentinean Atomic National Energy Commission, CNEA), and then signed a formal diplomatic compromise to the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Truly, this second cycle acquired an unprecedented political dimension in Argentinean-Brazilian relations: presidential visits between Alfonsin and Sarney to the each country nuclear installations became frequent. By signing the Nuclear Policy Joint Declaration on Foz de Iguaçu (1985), both countries ended military nuclear competition, reaffirming willingness for further cooperation.

The Bilateral Nuclear agreement led to the following steps: the implementation of political documents, The Iguaçu Declaration, along with the Memorandum for the Brazilian-Argentinean Integration. These became an immediate antecedent for the Integration and Bilateral Cooperation Program (1986), followed by a Joint Dec1arationon Nuclear Policy and the Brazilian-Argentinean Friendship Memorandum. Twenty-four separate protocols signed from 1986 to 1989, further defining the terms of mutual verification and representing a densification of mutual nuclear confidence. It is worthwhile to mention the Brasília Declaration (1986), which cleared the way to transparency concerning other regional and international actors. The Viedma Declaration (1987) and the Iperó DecIaration (1988) opened the most sensitive installations to reciprocal verification, representing a remarkable progress of the legal and technical aspects. Finally, the Ezeiza Declaration (1988) established a unified technical-scientific verification regime on both countries.

The Permanent Committee established itself – formed by chancellery and Atomic Energy Commissions officials – that unified international positions for a system of mutual security before the International Agency of Atomic Energy (IAEA), the Organization for the Proscription of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America, and Caribbean countries (OPANAL). It was a clear way of demonstrating the transparency of peaceful aims of both countries’ nuclear programs to the international community. The programs largely carried out at the regional level, through international, technical, scientific, and financial cooperation. That meant a new aspect of foreign policy, which would respond to a double challenge. First, establishing scientific, technological, and commercial relations with knowing multilateral authorities (such as IAEA, OPANAL and EURATOM) and with private exporters of nuclear materials and equipment’s. Second, to adopt the rules established by the dual nuclear equipment (under MTCR´s scrutiny) and by the regime of nuclear weapons non-proliferation (TNP).

As a sign of regional comprehensive policy on nuclear disarmament, Latin America adopted the Treaty of Proscription of Nuclear Weapon, known as the Tlatelolco Treaty (1967): it established a region free zone of nuclear weapons. Although a very positive tool for nuclear non-proliferation, the Treaty sustained, over a considerable period, an ambiguity concerning the nuclear powers interpretative declarations. Although most of Latin America, Argentina and Brazil (as well as Chile) adopted Tlatelolco, they did not completely ratify the main additional Protocol II, leaving open the doors for potential nuclear growth nuclearization. One of the objections was that Tlatelolco set up distinctions between the signatories, creating an adverse position to the principle of juridical equality of the member states. These arguments caused Argentina and Brazil, despite their active participation in the creation of Tlatelolco, to spend twenty-seven years without complete and unrestricted adhesion to the Treaty.

Only in the 90s did both countries fully adhered to Tlatelolco. In 1992, Argentina and Brazil (as well as Chile) presented at the OPANAL Conference (at Mexico City), a number of amendments, quickly approved, with the purpose of allowing the functioning of the regional regime. By means of the adhesion to the Tlatelolco Treaty, the two countries showed political will towards the peaceful use of nuclear energy in the region. On the other hand, the Tlatelolco Treaty required that both signatory countries fulfill safeguards agreements with AIEA ratifying it in 1994.

Reaffirming previous compromises signed by Presidents Alfonsin and Sarney, the new Presidents Menem (Argentina) and Collor (Brazil) raised the process of reinforcing confidence building in the nuclear area to a new level. On 28 November 1990, they signed the Joint Declaration of Brazilian-Argentinean Nuclear Policy, before the IAEA’s General Director and OPANAL’s General Secretary. Giving substance to the declaration, they established the Common System of Nuclear Materials Accountancy and Control (SCCC), a formal commitment and verification mechanism, which went hand in hand. SCCC insured that all materials employed in the nuclear activities, are exclusively for peaceful ends, and used as such. With the creation of SCCC, it announced the start of negotiations with the IAEA towards an agreement on full scope safeguards and confidence building measures to update and upgrade the text of the Tlatelolco Treaty with a view to its coming into force for both countries. That represented the end of the unilateral-autonomous nuclear development policy for military purposes and inaugurated a new cycle of cooperation relations, transparency, and confidence building.

This cooperation went originally further. Both countries signed, in July 1991, the Bilateral Agreement for the Exclusively Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy in Guadalajara (Mexico), implemented in December of the same year. It established a compromise on the peaceful use of the atom before the international community. Both countries committed themselves to refrain from the following: (i) carrying out, encouraging or authorizing tests, and the usage or fabrication of complete nuclear weapons, (ii) receiving, depositing or creating installations for nuclear weapons. Most importantly, (iii) they recognized there was no technical distinction between explosive nuclear devices for peaceful ends and/or for military ends, renouncing, to any nuclear explosion.

ABACC: Peaceful Bilateral Nuclear Cooperation

To manage and apply the SCCC, it was formally set up, in December 1991, the Brazilian-Argentinean Agency for the Accountability and Control of Nuclear Materials (ABACC), an international juridical agency formed by a joint Argentinean and Brazilian technicians. Both Brazil and Argentina, since the 60s and the 70s, have had safeguards agreements enforced with IAEA: Brazil had signed cooperation agreements with the USA and with Germany (Bilateral Nuclear Agreement, 1975) and Argentina signed with the USA, Germany, Switzerland and Canada. These agreements recognized situations of cooperation and did not cover nuclear materials involved in each country´s autonomous programs. After the ABACC foundation, all those programs became full scope safeguards set out in the Bilateral Agreement, under the SCCC, verified, and controlled by ABACC.

ABACC represented a solid guarantee for the peaceful use of atomic energy held that the nuclear installations and materials in both countries would be under both ABACC and AIEA jurisdiction. The Bilateral Agreement and ABACC meant two other diplomatic convergences, showing a new model of bilateral cooperation: (i) The signing of the Four Party Agreement – the Quadripartite Agreement (December 1991, which entered into effect by march 1994) – between Argentine, Brazil, ABACC and the International Agency of Atomic Energy (IAEA); (ii) the ratification of the Tlateloco Treaty, creating legitimacy, transparency and confidence building, within the non-proliferation international regime.

The full functioning of the Quadripartite Agreement provided ABACC with the time necessary to constitute itself with a similar role of EURATOM, without the binding ties that the European organization maintained with the IAEA. EURATOM failed, as Argentina and Brazil succeeded with ABACC verification system, in finding the peaceful use of atomic energy. France was against supranational supervision of its nuclear program and finally, exploded its atomic bomb. According to the Milanese, EURATOM inspection system failed, losing its supranational status and ignored in the new areas of cooperation and nuclear integration. EURATOM’s failure and ABACC success, in terms of the control system, was EURATOM´s entangled structure. Meanwhile ABACC is a very simple one. Finally, ABACC is, at the same time, a safeguard verification´s and a non-proliferation´s bilateral organization. Originally built around the inspiration of EURATOM, ABACC works in terms of function, verification and safeguards. EURATOM is not an organization that supports non-proliferation, something that ABACC was..

Together with the Four Party Agreement follows the institutionalization of trilateral verification system: (i) the ABACC verification process over the Brazil-Argentinean nuclear material and installations; (ii) the IAEA over the installations of both countries (iii) over the verification and control activities of ABACC. Both countries pay verification costs of both IAEA and ABACC. Nevertheless, Brazilian nationalists viewed the Quadripartite Agreement as restraining way of both ABACC´s responsible originality and relevance. To complete the whole safeguard regional´s regime, at a special session of the OPANAL General Conference (México City, August 1992), Brazil and Argentine proposed amendments to Tlatelolco´s arts. 14, 15, 16 and 19. They were approved during the last OPANAL General Conference (May 93), designed to update reporting requirements, procedures and special inspections mechanisms.

ABACC Verification Index (AVI)

Officially, ABACC entered into effect on July 1992, its headquarter set up on December 9, 1992 at the same time its staff was recruited. ABACC Verification Index (AVI) visualized as the following process:

First AVI´s Accountability Process
. ABACC receives initial inventory declaration of all nuclear material from National Authorities (NAs)- the Brazilian CNEN and the Argentinean CNEA;
. the inventory is input into a data bank which was set up a systematic procedure consistent with Code 10 of the general part of the IAEA Subsidiary Arrangements, ratified by the Quadripartite Agreement, and the inventory verification is planned and performed;
. ABACC convenes Brazilian technicians to carry out inspections in Argentina and Argentineans to inspect Brazil facilities;
. ABACC received information on the design of facilities provided by a Technical Questionnaire (TQ) of each facility;
. ABACC examines the TQs and carried out verifications;
. The National Authorities (NAs) notify any inventory variations which are input into the ABACC´s data bank;
. After initial verification is completed, ABACC plans and performs verification periodically of the nuclear material, using specific equipment and samples of nuclear materials later examined at laboratories (chosen by ABACC) outside the samples´ country of origin.
. Periodically ABACC sends verification results to the NAs;
. On the basis of the TQs and the results of the design verification inspection results, ABACC drafts Implementation Manuals (IMs) for each of the facilities.
Source: ABACC Annual Report, Brazilian Argentinean Agency on Accountancy and Control, ABACC (Rio de Janeiro, 1993), p. 12

Three distinguished phases observed are:

First phase (1992-1994), the Brazilian Argentinean Agency on Accountancy and Control started to implement the SCCC control of all nuclear materials in all nuclear facilities not covered by the IAEA safeguards. After the entry into effect of the Quadripartite Agreement (1994), ABACC and the IAEA began to apply full scope safeguards jointly. By the end of 1992, the Agency had received Technical Questionnaires (TQs) from 53% of Brazilian and Argentine facilities and by the end of 1993, 94% of the two countries facilities had been verified. During that period, the ABACC Verification Index (AVI) relied on the following measures:

Second phase (1995-1999), represented the efforts devoted to implementing coordination mechanisms between ABACC and the IAEA. The improvement of the application of safeguards under the aegis of the Bilateral and Quadripartite Agreements included the Accounting, Operations, Planning, Evaluation and Technical Support sectors. Two assigned experts to each of these sectors, one of each nationality. In its fifth anniversary (1997), AVI became better coordinated. In 1998, technical cooperation was signed with IAEA (The Guidelines for the Coordination of Routine and Ad-hoc inspections, 25/5/1998) and in 1999 with EURATOM (10/02/99)

From 1995 to 1998, a new verification index was added: the unannounced verification started to be applied only in Brazil, at the Laboratory of the Isotopic Enrichment (LEI), under the Bilateral Agreement, which had included verification in the Cascades Hall. 1999 represents a decisive year in ABACC activities. The world safeguards were changed, Brazil and Argentina went to a difficult economic time and ABACC received from the national authorities the reaffirmation of its work. The Additional Protocol of the Quadripartite defined a relevant and growing participation of ABACC in the related activities. A new Agreement was signed with the CEE (European Economic Commission), formalizing the comprehensive technical cooperation with EURATOM. The Department of Energy of the USA (DOE) also signed with the important support from the USA Non- Proliferation Fund. Other technical cooperation signed with France, Republic of Korea, and an ABACC technician indicated to be part of the IAEA Committee. It advised the General Director in the field of safeguards integration. ABACC participated in meetings on regional safeguards system aiming at the implementation of TNP in non-signatories countries of the same international regime.

Third phase (2000-2007)

The Reports have changed in its format, colorfully written in three languages (portuguese, spanish and english). Technical international cooperation multiplied and unannounced verifications reinforced by methods and techniques under the ABACC/IAEA arrangements for swipe sampling during announced and unannounced inspections. In 2002, ABACC had completed 10 years of its activities and Resende Enrichment Plant was beginning to build. For that reason it was initiated the exchange information between IAEA authorities, the National Authority, the Brazilian Nuclear Industries (INB) and ABACC for analysis. In respect to the Resende Enrichment Uranium Plant, the IAEA presented an initial project for the safeguards approach of the first module of the facility. The method took into consideration the boundary conditions established by both agencies the year before. In April 2003, IAEA suggested the inclusion of new boundary conditions in the accomplished procedure, enlarging the scope applied before only to Module I. As a result, a safeguards approach applicable to the first two cascades of the Module I established the main question was to verify whether there was not any accumulated material behind the panels.
In May 4 2004, the Washington Post journal stated that the American government and the IAEA were pressuring the Brazilian government to sign the Additional Protocol of the Treatment for Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. The additional protocol would allow specialists from the IAEA/ABACC to carry on non-announced inspections to any facility that produces nuclear energy. The IAEA proposed to have access to complete information regarding available technologies to enrich uranium and irresticted 24 hours access to any place in the national territory considered suspicious. Including public offices and the residence of technicians involved in the nuclear program. President Lula refuted the inspection alleging that the technologies available in the country should it be copied in case of inspection. To the IAEA the naval project of the nuclear reactor (Marinha – Aramar) and the Brazilian government´s option of enriching uranium below 5% ruled out any possibility of using enriched uranium for war purposes.
With the transference of the uranium enriching project with ultra centrifugal machine from Aramar to the Resende Nuclear Plant (INB – Brazilian Nuclear Industries) it adopted the solution the public French ´bath´: where double ultra centrifugal machines are arranged in lines and it functions between screens allocated thirty centimeters above ground where it can be seen and monitored during the entry and exit of uranium hexafluoride (UF6). The approval of The public French ´bath´, by the IAEA allowed for installation of cameras to monitor the vents 24 hours a day. It also guaranteed the right to annual inspections, previously arranged, and non-announced inspections in all Brazilian nuclear facilities. The successful Brazilian experience helped to reduce production costs of the centrifugal machine and to increment energy efficiency. Nonetheless, when the US government became aware of the Resende Nuclear Plant, pressured the AIEA to postpone or even avoid the ending of the construction site. The central aspect to have in mind is that Brazil has enough credentials to be a global player in the billionaire world market of nuclear fuel and not only exporter of ore. Brazil and Argentina are carrying on a project, signed between presidents Lula and Cristina Fernandez Kirschner aiming to create a bi-national company that will enrich uranium and compete in the global market.
The suspicions aroused by the refusal of the Brazilian government to allow inspections made necessary to the national government to seek internal political support. According to the Itamaraty, the access of inspectors from the IAEA to the Resende Nuclear Plant may imply in copy of industrial technology. Therefore, limited access is argued in order to avoid non-announced inspections. There are no viable explanations to level the technological procedures carried out in Brazil with the safeguards demanded by the IAEA to countries with clandestine production of nuclear energy. With the terrorist attacks of 9/11 the Additional Protocol emphasizes on cases where there are non-declared nuclear facilities. In the technological arena, everyone protects its knowledge and the Brazilian efficiency is bigger, compared to other countries. Especially regarding equipment resistance: normal centrifugal machine have a support axel and since they rotate in supersonic velocity, wearing of the axel is huge. The Brazilian centrifugal machines do not use this support axel but levitate in the magnetic field reducing friction and giving more resistance to the equipment.
According to navy Commander, Admiral Roberto de Guimarães Carvalho, the position of the Brazilian government regarding AIEA´s inspections should have respect. The Navy-Aramar Technological Center is the only military institution in the country associated to the nuclear sector inspected by the AIEA. The aim of the Brazilian negotiations is that the inspections do not jeopardize the researches carried out so far. The inspectors can verify the quality of the uranium and not the equipment where it produced. The government justified that the safety of technological secrets was the priority. After speculations, would bring the signing of a new treaty, and the Resende Nuclear Plant was re-opened to inspection and the program for peaceful means was carried on with the safeguards of the AIEA and the ABACC.
Despite the fact the public French ´bath´ episode generated some mistrust; the application of safeguards continues to play a fundamental role. According to Peixoto, Gonzalez and Elias Palacios “the principle of applying safeguards with efficiency and efficacy, the requirements of both countries and agencies to use the minimum effort while applying safeguards and the requirement that each agency should reach its own conclusion, makes coordination complex and sometimes difficult.” Significant advance made in the coordination between the organizations. During the period 2005-2007, ABACC continued to create newer and more sophisticated mechanisms to verify the nuclear systems in both countries. New approaches and progress in the application of safeguards, such as the Short Notice Random Inspections (SNRI), applied at the fuel manufacturing and conversion plants, implementing communication media, thus optimizing the availability of the inspectors during the safeguards missions and providing a faster way for the discussion of verification activities. Also new methodologies and equipment units for safeguards are used. ABACC has developed short picture taking interval (PTI) surveillance system in cooperation with the USA Department of Energy (DOE).

Lessons worth Learning

The cooperation for confidence building measures on nuclear development has been satisfactorily. It has proved the foundations for international accountability, good enough to ensure access to refined dual technologies, such as the MTCR – Regime of Missile Technology Control – with new programs in the airspace, submarine and other nuclear areas. The positive output of this regional confidence building policy could serve as an inspiration for other regions (namely India and Pakistan, South and North Korea and even Iran and Israel) where there are the need for bilateral verification, transparency and confidence building devices exists.

The regional system acquires an effectiveness and transparence that, besides consolidating the Latin American Nuclear Free Zone Weapons, propitiates the region greater benefits and a balanced bargaining power vis-à-vis the global system on non-proliferation nuclear weapons. The fundamental point of the effectiveness of this regional policy will base itself upon the ABACC performance and application of bilateral safeguards in the nuclear facilities of both countries, in coordination with IAEA and with Nuclear National Regulatory Authorities. For the last fifteen years ABACC has performed 1,560 routine and systematic verification in the nuclear facilities of Brazil and Argentina nuclear activities (materials and installations) which demanded an effort of 4,138 ABACC inspectors-day in the field and an availability of 8,843 inspectors-day

ABACC Verification Index (AVI)


Brazil Argentina Total
Physical Inventory Verification (PIV) 341 395 736


 36  16  52
Provisional Verification 358 368 726
Unannounced Verification  45  01  46
Total Verifications 780 780 1,560
Verification Effort


1,419 2,719 4,138

(inspectors/ day)

3,322 5,521 8,843

*During 1993 and 1994 ABACC´s Reports, the AVI had not yet formally established as the follows years will be (after 1995).

**DIQ – Design Information Questionnaire; DIV – Design Information Verification

*** Verification Efforts include the maintenance activities on the safeguards equipment, which implied the dedication of 7 inspectors-day in Argentina and 5 inspectors-day in Brazil.   Note: From 2007 to 2015 the verification pattern continuous to be the same.   

The singularity of the AVI can be identified through the following characteristics: First of all, its application is carried out bilaterally in nuclear installations in Brazil and Argentina. Brazilian technicians examine the Argentinian nuclear sites and vice-versa. Secondly, there is no distinctions between civil and military installations. The examination of both is required. This fact is singular compared to the rest of the world. Third, the AVI is a permanent verification system with a specific technical body and infrastructure. It carries out four types of verification during a fifteen years period summoning up to 104 verifications a year. The basic criteria is (i) verification effort (in inspectors-day), including the maintenance activities on the safeguards equipment, which implied the dedication of 7 inspector-day in Argentina and 5 in Brazil and; (ii) availability (inspectors-day). Fourth, it is an intensive methodology and praxis transformed into technical and scientific policies of high responsibility and accuracy – in terms of quality assurance of nuclear verification. Finally, it is a coordinated effort between the ABACC, IAEA and the regulatory national authorities on nuclear installations in Brazil and Argentina, both in the civil and military spheres, which constitutes an unseen enterprise anywhere else in the world.

Surprisingly, throughout the last two decades, Argentina and Brazil passed from a position of rivalry and tense relations concerning regional security conceptions to a gradual and balanced political and diplomatic cooperation creating a very sui generis architecture of non-proliferation. Thus, the concern with regional stability becomes a privileged goal of both countries foreign policies, in order to create a more solid and stable basis for its own development and, indirectly, for the regional development. The cooperation understood in the sense that independent and unilateral policies in the areas of nuclear and dual technology provoked doubt about the “peaceful” nuclear use’s access restrictions to the dual technology and isolation in the present global agenda.

The understanding that the development of confidence building mechanisms would serve to create an adequate environment for a greater cooperation between both countries seemed to be a guarantee to achieve regional stability, simultaneously working as a foundation for international credibility concerning their nuclear programs, making possible the access to refined technologies in the international market. Therefore, both Brazil and Argentina placed themselves in the position of either acquiescing to this regime and, consequently, participating in its benefits, or by remaining out of it, being subject to all its restrictions and sanctions. In terms of the process of consolidation of confidence building, one may say that Argentina and Brazil and, particularly, ABACC created a political, diplomatic and technical architecture through the development of very well articulated mechanisms. Such architecture became concrete both on the ABACC verification level and in the opening and transparency of the purposes of each nuclear program.

The Bilateral Agreement Argentina-Brazil for the Exclusively Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy institutionalizes the control and verification of all nuclear materials and installations overcoming the juridical scope of NPT’s safeguards. The fact is that some countries with military nuclear material, members of NPT, on1y submit the materials and installations declared by them. The Bilateral Agreement, with the Four Party’s clauses inaugurates an extremely effective and innovating ABACC´s verification model.

ABACC creates its own verification and control mechanisms, in the bilateral scope and, at the same time, approves the safeguards created in AIEA’s multilateral scope. It is a model, therefore, that distinguishes itse1f by a guarantee of a more efficient verification, to the extent that a neighbor can better verify its neighbor (neighbors watching neighbors.) Which is more universalistic, for it is more comprehensive in the inspection of safeguards than the present non-proliferation international regime. In this new global administration of shared resources, one may observe that the regional convergence policy, such as the one developed by Argentina and Brazil, is cooperative. That way of thinking suggests that with a good amount of realism, such a regime of regional confidence building would serve rival regions as the Hindu-Pakistan, as well as more complex conflict regions, such as the Middle East.

Regarding the Hindu-Pakistan rivalry, ABACC verification system, could see itself as a comparison to that Asian region experience. The Nuclear Agreement signed between the USA and India has become considerably critical. For Indian´s case the TNP safeguard system legitimizes a country that has not signed the TNP, it has atomic bomb and is at an on-going dispute with its neighboring Pakistan. Just the contrary what is happening between Brazil and Argentina: the mutual confidence policy built by both countries constitute a manifest mechanism, which could serve well to the Asian situation.

At present, the important thing is to guarantee the full functioning of the mechanisms consecrated in the agreements between Argentina and Brazil, and to examine in what ways these could extend to the entire Latino-American region. It would be valid, therefore, to consider ABACC as a model verification and accountancy institution of all the material and nuclear installations for a future “Latinatom” agency. In that way, such an agency would complement, with the verification and accountancy tasks of all the existing nuclear material in Latin America, the regional non-proliferation system, based on the Tlateloco Treaty and its execution organism, OPANAL. This regional system acquires an effectiveness and transparency that, besides consolidating the Latin-American Nuclear Weapons Free Zone, propitiates the region with greater benefits and bargaining power vis-à-vis the non-proliferation global system.

Some aims of this future regional organization, cooperative and integrated, may indicate a few benefits, such as: (i) permanent increase of the aspects related to nuclear security (industrial and radioprotection); (ii) permanent increase of the aspects related to the effectiveness, including the optimization of operational and maintenance costs and; (iii) mutual support in urgent situations and emergencies in nuclear accidents. Such a possibility assumes the existence of a more homogenous social idiosyncrasy in the region; contiguity and neighborhood are useful and pragmatic factors as to have not only a high degree of solidarity but also, particularly, a common transparency, verification and confidence building policy. This regional cooperation allows for the accomplishment of a greater integration compromise and offers a tool in order to fulfill common projects in the region.

About the author

Clovis Brigagão is a Political Scientist, Director, Centre of the Americas Studies (CEAs) and Coordinator of the Group of Analysis on International Conflict Prevention (GAPCon), Institute of Humanities, University Candido Mendes, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  My sincere gratitude to the Norwegian Nobel Institute, specially to Dr. Olav Njolstad, its Research Director, to Dr. Orpet, ABACC´s Planning Chief of Staff for their substanive contributions and to Maíra Segura, for her assistant.

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