The Brazilian government says that Brazil will start working jointly with Argentina in the construction of a nuclear submarine, the first in Latin America, to be built using French technology, according to reports in the Buenos Aires press.
For that purpose, a binational company would be formed, to develop a small-size reactor already created by Argentina's INVAP technology institute and to be installed in conventional French designed Scorpene class submarines.
Earlier this month, France had agreed to provide Brazil with technology to build an attack submarine, but dismissed the possibility of any nuclear technology transfer. Brazilian Defense Minister Nelson Jobim said that this project would also be useful in the construction of nuclear energy plants.
During a visit to Argentina, Brazilian Defense Minister, Nelson Jobim, said that "we have talked with Defense Minister, Nilda Garré, and three Argentine commanders with whom we agreed to create a binational company to develop the compact nuclear small-sized reactor" to be used in a locally made submarine, said the minister in an interview with Argentina's daily newspaper Clarín.
Before returning to Brazil from last week's energy summit the minister said that the military project also has civil purposes: "This technology will allow us to build energy plants with the capacity to supply big cities."
Jobim mentioned that Brazil has discussed a strategic alliance with French President Nicolas Sarkozy "to build a non-nuclear part of the submarine in Brazil. Meanwhile, the power plant would come from the Argentine-Brazilian binational company."
Sarkozy had stated earlier this month that France was willing to transfer technology to allow the Scorpene French attack submarine and Rafale fighter planes to be built in Brazil, but he stopped short of any nuclear technology transfer.
The Scorpene class submarine is a conventional attack submarine, but Brazilian officials have said they want the diesel-powered vessel to serve as a model for the development of a Brazilian-Argentine nuclear submarine that would be the first in Latin America.
The nuclear technology would come from CAREM, a small-sized-reactor prototype developed by INVAP Argentine state-run technology institute. INVAP was created in 1976 through an agreement between the National Atomic Energy Commission and the Río Negro government.
A pioneer in nuclear technology in the region, INVAP has exported nuclear technology to Peru, Algeria, Egypt, and recently a 20 MW power plant to Australia. It is the only Argentine company acknowledged by the NASA to construct satellites in Argentina, and is now in charge of building radars to supply local airports.
Last Monday the Argentine government agreed to create a commission on pursuing joint uranium enrichment for peaceful nuclear energy purposes, including the joint construction of a nuclear-powered electricity generator and of a satellite.
Brazil's President, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Argentina's leader, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, had instructed their governments to begin negotiations over the next 120 days toward creating the binational commission. Jobim said that Argentines will provide experience in the nuclear sector.