An atomic bomb as powerful as those dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, was almost built in Brazil at the beginning of the nineties under the supervision of the Brazilian armed forces.
The news was revealed by nuclear scientist José Luiz Santana who was president of the Brazilian National Atomic Energy Commission under former President Fernando Collor de Mello, 1990/92.
According to Mr. Santana, who was the guest star in the program “Fantástico” of the Globo television network, his team not only found uranium, but a detonator and other elements including a special sphere to lodge the nuclear explosive.
On finding the evidence Mr. Santana was ordered to immediately deactivate the Brazilian Navy’s atomic bomb program, and ended with police protection following three attempts on his life.
However the Brazilian National Atomic Energy Commission in an official release this week tried to dismiss Mr. Santana’s statements arguing that “no documents or information in the institution’s archives have been found to support the claim”, adding that all Brazilian nuclear material is stored under supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Two weeks ago former Brazilian President José Sarney (1985/90) revealed on the same program that in 1986 he was informed that the Armed Forces had deep drilled in the north of the country with the purpose of testing an underground nuclear explosive.
“We found out the military wanted to test a bomb, but I immediately ordered the hole to be refilled and all atomic weapons experiments stopped”, said Mr. Sarney. The then Brazilian President admitted keeping the entire incident secret so as not to offend neighboring Argentina.
The two revelations would confirm that the Brazilian Armed Forces disobeyed a civilian president and ignored the 1988 constitution which specifically bans all nuclear development which is not specifically for peaceful purposes.
According to Mr. Santana part of the uranium to be used as fuel for the bomb was stored for some time in the University of São Paulo campus, possibly in the Nuclear Research Department.
“I took office in April 1990, but only in August was the Atomic Energy Commission able to get hold of the container,” added Mr. Santana who said the enriched uranium was sent by a country with which Brazil had secret nuclear cooperation agreements. Mr. Santana refused to name the country.
Nationalist sectors of the Brazilian Armed Forces had the entire project under strict secrecy and it was not easy to dismantle it, since over fifty different teams of scientists and experts were involved, all working independently.
“I guess most of the scientists involved had no idea that the final objective was an atomic bomb”, Mr. Santana said.
When asked how powerful a bomb, he replied like “those in Japan”.
Apparently Brazilian intelligence services were aware of what the Brazilian Navy was up to, but the Sarney administration was too involved in restoring democracy and civilian control to a country which had experienced 21 years of military rule (1964/85).
Pedro Paulo Leoni Ramos, former head of the Strategic Affairs Office revealed that on taking office President Collor de Mello he ordered the arrest of a van which was leaving government house packed with documents, and “among the many papers we found some with clues leading to the atomic bomb project”.
The van belonged to government intelligence, at the time under control of the military, which had an office next to the president’s desk.
It was finally former President Collor de Mello who in a public act dropped lime into the Amazon drilled well which he ordered destroyed thus symbolically ending Brazil’s nuclear arms race.
In November 2003, the first year of ruling President Lula da Silva, Science and Technology minister Roberto Amaral surprised the world revealing that “Brazil has the largest uranium reserves in the world, so instead of enriching it in Canada, we’ll do it here in Brazil; we have the necessary capacity, and it’s a far more effective system”.
He went on to say that “whether you are responsible or if the material could end in terrorist hands are questions never asked to Canada, but why to they ask those questions to South Americans?”
The original Brazilian atomic energy development project included three nuclear plants for electricity generation, of which two are operating, and building a nuclear powered submarine which still remains in the blue prints.
This article appeared originally in Mercopress – www.mercopress.com.