Argentina and Brazil team up for nuclear

25 February 2008

Nuclear energy and cooperation were at the heart of discussions between the two largest countries and greatest powers in South America. The result was an agreement to jointly develop nuclear power reactors, uranium enrichment as well as nuclear naval vessels.


The Presidents of Argentina and Brazil, Cristina Fernandez and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva respectively, held talks in Buenos Aires, during which the first two days primarily concerned energy. The principal agreement to come from the talks was a deal to make the proposed Garabi hydroelectric dam a reality.


It has been widely reported that the two sides also agreed to build a new nuclear power plant to supply both countries and 'develop a program of peaceful nuclear cooperation that will serve as an example in this world.' A joint venture company is to be set up by both countries to undertake uranium enrichment. Brazil developed that capability in recent years and started its own small enrichment program in 2006.


Both Argentina and Brazil already use nuclear energy on a small scale. They both operate two power reactors each, while plans for a third were aborted. Nuclear energy has since risen up the priority list, and in July 2007 Brazil announced a $540 million budget for nuclear power over eight years. The Brazilian nuclear industry hopes the new impetus could lead to the construction of up to eight new reactors by 2030.


Brazil also agreed to export electricity to Argentina, to secure supplies in case of natural gas shortage. This is a regional issue, since both nations import natural gas from neighboring Bolivia - a country that favours Brazil for gas exports. Bolivia's President, Evo Morales, is to join the talks to address these natural gas supply issues.


Other high-tech elements to the deal were a project to jointly launch a satellite and to pool resources to develop nuclear propulsion for navy vessels.