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close this bookScience and Technology in the Transformation of the World (UNU, 1982, 496 p.)
close this folderSession IV: The control of space and power
close this folderNuclear energy in Latin America: The Brazilian case
close this folderLuiz Pinguelli Rosa
View the documentI. The Brazilian nuclear programme and the treaty with the federal Republic of Germany
View the documentII. Perspectives on nuclear energy in Brazil
View the documentIII. Nuclear energy and the prestige of national power
View the documentIV. The possibility of latin american nuclear co-operation
View the documentV. The position of brazil regarding nuclear proliferation
View the documentAppendices
View the documentReferences

I. The Brazilian nuclear programme and the treaty with the federal Republic of Germany

The Brazilian nuclear programme includes the construction of eight light-water PWR-KWU reactors of 1,300 MW each by 199O, besides the 627 MW Westinghouse reactor in final stage of construction, and the establishment of nuclear industry in Brazil in association with West German companies. The industry includes a heavy equipment factory for reactors, already in the last stage, and the nuclear fuel enrichment and reprocessing plants, which are still in design stage. With such purposes the Nuclear Treaty with the Federal Republic of Germany was signed in 1975.

According to the originally announced conception of the Brazilian programme there would be approximately 60 reactors operating in the year 2000, totaling 75 GW of electric power. This prediction is not officially confirmed any more, and now even the Government admits that this programme was over-dimensioned.

Brazil has a hydroelectric potential of 200 GW, of which only 25 GW is presently utilized, and it is expected that 150 GW will be used by the year 2000. In spite of the great distances between many waterfalls and the big cities, it is possible to transmit the electric energy, with the final cost of the hydroelectric KW less than half that of the nuclear-KW cost. Besides, there is coal in the southern parts of the country. Therefore, nuclear energy is not yet an economic necessity to Brazil.

The question is: Why does Brazil go on with such an ambitious nuclear programme? What reasons lead developing countries to search for nuclear technology at any cost? Certainly there are reasons related to the security of the energy supply of a country in the long term, after the exhaustion of the hydroelectric potential and other sources. It is assumed that the construction of reactors would assure the possession of nuclear technology, which is necessary to a country's autonomy in the electric energy supply in the future. Other reasons are related to the myth of nuclear energy as a magic key to national progress and the allure it exerts on governments as a symbol of influence and national power.

We will try to discuss these two aspects, by analysing the Brazilian case, which is more familiar to us, thereby formulating some general conclusions. We will address ourselves to the following points:

a. Nuclear energy may be necessary to the economy of less developed countries in the future, but it requires a very delicate political appreciation and balance of the risks and benefits.

b. Nowadays the acquisition of sophisticated equipment from developed countries may not be the most appropriate way to assure control of nuclear technology in the future.

c. No matter how remote the military use could be, the prestige of the national power associated with the pacific employment of nuclear energy is undeniable. Indeed, this has been stimulated by the attitudes of the nuclear developed countries.

d. Regional co-operation among less developed countries in the execution of nuclear projects would not only increase the bargaining power of these countries in negotiations with the technology owners, but this might also avoid a foolish nuclear race. It would allow at the same time a reasonable internationalization of some stages of the nuclear industry, and a greater regional technical and economic autonomy.

e. The problem of nuclear proliferation related to armaments cannot be solved by the simple blockade of nuclear technology from less developed countries.