Brazil nearing nuclear enrichment

Some worry Brazil may be rethinking commitment to nonproliferation.

By
April 22, 2006 05:33
2 minute read.
Brazil nearing nuclear enrichment

brazil nuclear 298.88. (photo credit: AP)

 
X

Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief

UPGRADE YOUR JPOST EXPERIENCE FOR 5$ PER MONTH Show me later

As Iran faces international pressure over developing the raw material for nuclear weapons, Brazil is quietly preparing to open its own uranium-enrichment center, capable of producing exactly the same fuel. Brazil - like Iran - has signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and Brazil's constitution bans the military use of nuclear energy. Also like Iran, Brazil has cloaked key aspects of its nuclear technology in secrecy while insisting the program is for peaceful purposes, claims nuclear weapons experts have debunked. While Brazil is more cooperative than Iran on international inspections, some worry its new enrichment capability - which eventually will create more fuel than is needed for its two nuclear plants - suggests that South America's biggest nation may be rethinking its commitment to nonproliferation. "Brazil is following a path very similar to Iran, but Iran is getting all the attention," said Marshall Eakin, a Brazil expert at Vanderbilt University. "In effect, Brazil is benefiting from Iran's problems." Still, Brazil's enrichment program - and its reluctance to allow unlimited inspections - has raised suspicions abroad. "Brazil is beginning to be perceived as a country apparently wanting to reevaluate its commitment to nonproliferation, and this is a big part of the problem," said Jon Wolfsthal, deputy director for nonproliferation at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. The government-run Industrias Nucleares do Brasil S.A. has been conducting final tests at the enrichment plant, built on a former coffee plantation in Resende, 90 miles west of Rio de Janeiro. When it opens this year, Brazil will join the world's nuclear elite. Brazil has the world's sixth-largest uranium reserves, but until the plant becomes operational, it can't use the fuel for energy without shipping it to and from URENCO, the European enrichment consortium. Brazil says its plant will be capable of enriching natural uranium to less than 5 percent uranium-235, an isotope needed to fuel its two reactors. Warheads need ore that has been enriched to 95 percent uranium-235, a material Brazil says it can't and won't produce. "If you can enrich to 5 percent, you're decades away from enriching to 90 percent," Odair Dias Goncalves, president of the Brazilian Nuclear Energy Commission, told The Associated Press. "You need a whole new technology that we don't have." But former UN inspector Albright said he worked with Goncalves at the Brazilian Physics Society on a project to show that the Brazilian centrifuges could be used to produce highly enriched uranium, even if that wasn't their intended use. "Centrifuges are very flexible," he said. "Reconfiguring the cascades or recycling the enriched uranium multiple times can allow for the production of weapons-grade uranium." Brazilian leaders insist the fuel will be used for the nation's US $1 billion nuclear energy industry. Already Latin America's biggest nuclear power provider, Brazil plans up to seven new atomic plants to reduce its dependence on oil and hydroelectric power and plans to export enriched uranium to provide energy for other countries. Brazil initially refused inspections by the International Atomic Energy Association, arguing that providing full access to its state-of-the-art, Brazilian-designed centrifuges would put it at risk of industrial espionage. Since then, IAEA inspectors have visited the plant many times, monitoring the uranium that comes in and out, but they're still prevented from seeing the actual centrifuges, which are covered with opaque screens. The IAEA inspectors have said they're satisfied no material is being diverted. Brazilian physicist Jose Goldemberg said Brazil won't be able to produce enriched uranium for export until 2014.

Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>

Related Content

U.S. President Donald Trump addresses a news conference following Tuesday's midterm congressional el
November 17, 2018
New elections and the Trump peace plan

By HERB KEINON