Saturday, May 08, 2010

Will Brazil Bring Nuclear Weapons to South America?

Brazil is a full member of the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia?, India and China) said to be the emerging economic superpowers of the 21st century.

There's now concern that Brazil is secretly working on its own nuclear weapon not because of any legitimate threat but to bolster its position on the world stage:

Why all this secrecy? What is there to hide in the development of small reactors to power submarines, systems that several countries have had for decades? The answer is as simple as it is unsettling: Brazil is probably also developing something else in the plants it has declared as production facilities for nuclear submarines: nuclear weapons. Vice President José Alencar offered a reason when he openly advocated Brazil's acquisition of nuclear weapons in September 2009. For a country with a 15,000-kilometer border and rich offshore oil reserves, Alencar says, these weapons would not only be an important tool of "deterrence," but would also give Brazil the means to increase its importance on the international stage. When it was pointed out that Brazil had signed the NPT, Alencar reacted calmly, saying it was "a matter that was open to negotiation."

How exactly could Brazil go about building nuclear weapons? The answer, unfortunately, is that it would be relatively easy. A precondition for the legal construction of small reactors for submarine engines is that nuclear material regulated by the IAEA is approved. But because Brazil designates its production facilities for nuclear submarine construction as restricted military areas, the IAEA inspectors are no longer given access. In other words, once the legally supplied enriched uranium has passed through the gate of the plant where nuclear submarines are being built, it can be used for any purpose, including the production of nuclear weapons. And because almost all nuclear submarines are operated with highly enriched uranium, which also happens to be weapons grade uranium, Brazil can easily justify producing highly enriched nuclear fuel.

Read more here.

And, as though Brazil's nuclear ambitions aren't bad enough, the American journal Foreign Policy warns Burma, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, Venezuela and the United Arab Emirates could soon join the nuclear club.

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