Brazil Initiates Talks with International Atomic Energy Agency for Nuclear Submarine Fuel
Brazil Initiates Talks with International Atomic Energy Agency for Nuclear Submarine Fuel

Brazil Initiates Talks with International Atomic Energy Agency for Nuclear Submarine Fuel

Brazil has initiated discussions with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) aimed at clearing the way for it to use nuclear fuel in a submarine for the first time. So far no party to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, such as Brazil, has a nuclear submarine, other than the five permanent (P5) members of the U.N. Security Council, also known as nuclear-weapon states: the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain. Brazil is developing a nuclear-powered submarine under a contract with French defence company Naval Group. Brazil is designing its reactor. Brazil is a party to Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and has no nuclear weapons until now. Nuclear submarines, which can remain at sea far longer than other submarines, pose a proliferation challenge because they operate beyond the reach of IAEA inspectors.

Another important development is that related to Brazil’s formal communication to initiate discussions with the (IAEA) Secretariat on an arrangement for Special Procedures for the use of nuclear material under safeguards in nuclear propulsion and in the operation of submarines and prototypes. The IAEA commend Brazil for its transparent approach and decision to work closely with the Agency on this important project. U.S., U.K. and Australia, collectively known as AUKUS, initiated a similar discussion with the IAEA on plans for Australia to acquire nuclear submarines through a transfer of U.S. technology. Australia is also a party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty . AUKUS is a trilateral security pact between Australia, U.K., and U.S., announced on 15 September 2021 for the Indo-Pacific region. Under the pact, the US and the UK will help Australia to acquire nuclear-powered submarines.

President Bolsonaro and the prototype of the naval nuclear reactor, October 2020
President Bolsonaro and the prototype of the naval nuclear reactor, known internally as the Brazilian Multipurpose Reactor or LABGENE. (Photo by Marcos Corrêa/PR)

The Brazilian submarine Álvaro Alberto is a nuclear-powered attack submarine under construction for the Brazilian Navy by the Brazilian state-owned naval company ICN. The name is a reference to the Navy vice admiral and scientist Álvaro Alberto da Motta e Silva, who was the responsible for the implementation of the Brazilian Nuclear Program.He also served as President of the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission between 1946–47, and as President of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences for two terms, from 1935–37 and 1949–51. The construction is part of a strategic partnership signed between France and Brazil on 23 December 2008 by then presidents Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Nicolas Sarkozy, which also included the total transfer of technology and support for the construction of four enlarged conventionally-powered Scorpène-class submarines.

Brazil will be the seventh country in the world, after the United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France, China and India, to field nuclear submarines, and will become the first since 1987 to join the group of nuclear submarine operator’s, when India began its use of the INS Chakra, a former Soviet Navy Charlie-class submarine. Álvaro Alberto has many similarities to his conventional predecessor of the Scorpène class. The first Brazilian nuclear submarine will have a beam of 9.8 m (32 ft) to accommodate the pressurized water nuclear reactor (PWR). Its 100 m (330 ft) length and 6,000-ton displacement will be propelled by a 48 MW (64,000 hp) fully-electric propulsion system. The advantages of an SSN over a conventionally powered SSK are much longer endurance (a nuclear submarine can stay submerged for months and does not need refueling), and higher speed.

Brazil Navy Launches Second Locally-Built Scorpene Submarine
On Friday 11th December 2020 and in the presence of the President of the Federative Republic of Brazil, Jaír Bolsonaro, the Marinha do Brazil launched the Humaitá, second Scorpene submarine made in Brazil. (Photo by Naval Group)

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