Nuclear Proliferation - Brazil

(See here) a Jerusalem Post article which reports that as Iran faces international opposition to nuclear enrichment, Brazil is quietly preparing to do the same thing.

There is a wealth of opinion and reporting on Brazil's nuclear history and possible intentions available on the internet, all you have to do is google.

Should Brazil be allowed to develop an enrichment program, because Brazil "can be trusted" while such a program would be denied Iran because Iran "can't be trusted"? Then what if other nations seek to obtain nuclear enrichment because Brazil was allowed to do so?

My own opinion is that what is good for Iran (and North Korea) should be good for Brazil. We can not have two different standards, one for those we consider the good guys and another for those within the "axis of evil". This double standard would force each attempt to develop a nuclear enrichment capability on the court of international opinion. Even in cases where some nations are considered "good enough" to be trusted with the capability, what happens if there is an upheaval in that nation? Brazil serves as a good example. Right now, with Lula in control, perhaps Brazil could be trusted. But what happens if there is a military coup? As late as the 1980s Brazil was actively seeking to develop a nuclear weapon. What is to prevent some new "untrustworthy" governmental power within Brazil from quickly seeking to exploit the enrichment capability to obtain a nuclear weapon?

It is important to note that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (the NNPT) does allow for the peaceful exploitation of nuclear technology. It does not specifically prevent signatures of the treaty from developing an enrichment capability. Brazil became a signature in 1997.

However if wide spread enrichment capability is allowed to expand, what is to prevent other nations from following the path blazed by North Korea? Developing the enrichment capability under the umbrella of "only for peaceful purposes" and then after this capability is exploited to develop a nuclear weapon, from withdrawing from the treaty?

My fear is that by allowing "any nation" to exploit loopholes in the NNPT, we will end up with every tin pot dictator on earth eventually developing his own pocket nuclear arsenal. I do not think the world will be a better place with the likes of Idi Amin armed with an atomic bomb.

While "peaceful nuclear enrichment" might not be prevented by the NNPT, the risk to world security is too great to allow "any nation" to develop this capability. It is indeed hypocritical for the world to demand Iran cease and desist while giving the green light to Brazil. While the NNPT might not specifically bar the development of such a capability, this still does not prevent the international community from adopting a common policy that such development is not desirable, and that there will be costs for doing so.

If the IAEA can come up with safeguards that allow Brazil to "safely" develop a peaceful enrichment capability, then Iran will have to be allowed to adopt these same safeguards. What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

Personally I think the risk of diversion of a nuclear enrichment capability to weapons development is too great to be risked.


Blogger Michael said...

It is important to note that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (the NNPT) does allow for the peaceful exploitation of nuclear technology.

I think that is putting it mildly. The development of civilian nuclear technologies is one of the key pillars of the NNPT and why countries would want to be a signatory in the first place. Nuclear enabled nations are meant to assist fellow signatories of the NNPT to develop their civilian nuclear programs if they so choose to pursue it.

Enrichment is a key part of a civilian nuclear program. To prevent "back door" conversion to a weapons program there needs to be open and vigorous monitoring by the IAEA and little incentive for nations to pursue nuclear weapons -- which is what the NNPT was all about.

The other pillars of the NNPT was the gradual disarmament of the current nuclear enabled nations and the prohibition of further development of nuclear weapons. Of these two parts of the NNPT, the "big players" have not been entirely compliant themselves.

The biggest drive to nuclear proliferation is if it provides a nation with political authority. If the signatories to the NNPT followed the spirit of the treaty, nukes were more of a liability (cost to produce, keep safe and maintain and then dispose). This is the reason why South Africa voluntarily disarmed.

However, in the current political environment, nukes give authority - as clearly shown by India, Pakistan and North Korea.

Michael Tam
vitualis' Medical Rants

4/23/2006 06:25:00 AM  
Blogger Little David said...

Western intelligence assessments (and not just US and Israeli, but British, French, German and Belgian for example) are that Iran IS trying to develop nuclear weapons, along with the capability to deliver them. While attempting this covertly, Iran insists on her rights for overt peaceful exploitation.

As for Brazil (see here) a fairly comprehensive, although slightly dated, background of the Brazil's nuclear history. (See here) a Washington Times article that discusses more recent developments and possible implications of these developments. Note the mention of how IAEA inspectors will not be allowed unrestricted access. As for implications, quoting from the article: "Others voiced concerns that nations like North Korea and Iran will see Brazil's reluctance to meet all requests as a means of concealing clandestine weapons programs."

My guess is that other nations will insist on similar levels of secrecy should they decide they too want to enrich uranium, and there goes your "open and vigorous monitoring by the IAEA".

One of the concerns I have heard put forth by anti-proliferation advocates is that allowing a country like Brazil to develop large scale uranium enrichment allows a "breakout" potential. It would not be hard to switch from enrichment for fuel to enrichment for weapons if that nation should later change its mind.

Please note the Washington Times article mentions a campaign speech Brazilian President Lula made. In it he called the NNPT unfair, stating: "If someone asks me to disarm and keep a slingshot while he comes at me with a cannon, what good does that do?"

Apparently Lula later changed his mind, but what is to prevent him (or a successor of his) from changing it again?

As for disarmament, (see here) a Wikipedia graph that shows the number of US nuclear warheads has fallen from well over 30,000 in the 60's to just over 10,000 in 2002 where the graph ends. I have read elsewhere the present day total described as "almost" 10,000. I do not forsee the US ever agreeing to disarm 100% as there would always remain the danger of clandestine development by an adversary. But, perhaps, one day the number of US warheads could number a couple thousand.

As for the current political environment, Pakistan and India never were signatures of the NNPT. As for North Korea developing them, thus far this has only earned North Korea problems and I do not see how you describe this as "authority".

4/23/2006 10:32:00 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

I think you are entirely naieve.

The US is currently developing new and better nuclear weapons on the basis of "replacing the old". This is entirely contrary to the NNPT. Bunker busters? Again, contrary to the spirit of the NNPT if not the letter.

As for North Korea, its nukes give it political authority and it is ridiculous to suggest otherwise. Every time NK rattles the nuclear sabre, we have yet another round of talks between NK, Japan, China, Russia and the US which generally ends in a generous aid package to the NK regime. If not for its nukes, NK would be an essentially harmless despotic nation - safe for the US to warn with open threats of military intervention.

Of the nations in the "axis of evil", which is the most dangerous? It is NK. Which is also the one that the US almost never directly antagonises?

The US invaded Iraq on the rumour of nuclear development and has given underhanded warnings of using tactical nuclear weapons in Iran for their audacity to consider developing nukes (remember, even if they have an active program, nukes are still 5-10 years away).

NK's nukes give it a political authority on the local and world arena that it otherwise does not have.

Michael Tam
vitualis' Medical Rants

4/23/2006 07:50:00 PM  
Blogger Little David said...

I am naive?

So you argue we should invade North Korea then? Will Australia please lead the charge?

America has not proposed giving North Korea any more generous an aid package then North Korea was offered and even enjoyed prior to developing nuclear weapons. In fact, the US was going to assist North Korea in developing two new nuclear reactors before she developed nuclear weapons and the question of whether or not she will still get these reactors is one of the main sticking points now in negotiations.

The US did not directly antagonize North Korea prior to the development of nuclear weapons. Well, there was one exception, and that was when Bill Clinton considered invading North Korea to prevent her from developing the weapons.

As for the US's development of new nuclear weapons, I stand against the development of the small "bunker buster" weapons. However I see nothing wrong with developing the RRW (Reliable Replacement Warhead) as the development of this warhead could lead to an overall decrease in the actual number of warheads in the US arsenal. Please note that the only real advantage to the RRW would be that it is more reliable. It would actually be larger and heavier then current warheads when measured against the destructive potential.

There is one valid reason to be against the RRW. After it is developed, there is going to be a tremendous motivation to test one of the things to be 100% sure they actually work. If this were to happen it could lead to a wide scale resumption of nuclear testing.

4/24/2006 08:22:00 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

I think that you are missing the point.

Nobody threatens NK with any sort of military intervention (be it serious or not) and the only reason for that is that it holds nukes. This is in stark contrast to what the US does to any number of "unfavoured" nations. This clear difference in behaviour does not go unnoticed in the rest of the world though it seems that Americans are blinded to it.

Another example is Pakistan. It is little more than yet another developing nation controlled by a militaristic despot. Nukes, however, make it a regional power.

As for the "US" not giving any more aid, please. The United States is not the only country in the world that gives "aid".

Michael Tam

4/24/2006 11:26:00 PM  
Blogger Little David said...

Nobody seriously considered invading North Korea before it had nukes other then when Bill Clinton considered invading to stop it from developing them.

Since North Korea developed the nukes, the aid she received in the past has been cut off. The nuclear reactors she was to receive she is no longer going to get. Nukes have not won North Korea anything more then headaches.

Before North Korea had nukes she was safe from the threat of invasion. Even after North Korea developed the nukes, she will not be allowed to invade South Korea.

As for Pakistan, did you notice how after 9-11 Mushariff was quick to switch sides? One way or another America (backed up by the entire world) was going to get into Afghanistan. Pakistans nukes were not going to prevent the US from engaging Pakistani forces if Pakistan was difficult about it. Even with nukes, Mushariff decided it was wiser to engage in cooperation rather then confrontation.

4/25/2006 07:39:00 AM  
Blogger Little David said...

Oh, as for aid to North Korea, America does still provide some aid. We still provide food aid. We will not use food as a weapon.

China has no such qualms however. China has suggested we should cut off the food aid (I do not know how serious a suggestion this was) and starve them out.

4/25/2006 07:41:00 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

I think that the NK leadership will disagree with your assessment on the benefits of being a "nuclear power". People take NK much more seriously with Kim holding onto a fistful of nuclear weapons.

In addition, I think that you are viewing Pakistan from an extreme Americo-centric angle. Frankly, Musharraf could't give a damn about Afghanistan. It is Pakistan's relationship with India and China that is important - and Pakistan is now a much bigger player with nukes than without.

Michael Tam

4/25/2006 08:35:00 AM  
Blogger Little David said...

Pakistan is a much bigger player with India that is for certain. However the problem with having nukes is that you can not use them.

America could have used nukes to win the Korean War instead of just accepting a stalemate. America, under the leadership of Harry Truman, declined to use them even though at the time America had overwhelming nuclear superiority.

America then set the standards for use of nuclear weapons. While the nuclear weapons were available, Harry Truman decided their use would be too problematic. He accepted the deaths of large numbers of American warriors and even gave up territory won rather then yield to the motivation to employ nuclear weapons.

This is amongst the reasons I am against the use of tactical nuclear weapons in the dispute with Iran. I am torn as to whether ANY military force should be used, however I am steadfast in my resolve not to resort to nukes. Many courageous American (and other nations') warriors lost their lives to set the standard that nuclear weapons would not be used in warfare. I do not want to waste the sacrifices these warriors made in order to settle any other dispute.

As for North Korea, watch and see how America and the world under American leadership treats her. A vast arsenal of nuclear weapons did not prevent the USSR from losing the cold war. North Korea's nuclear arsenal is insignificant in comparison.

In fact I would argue that North Korea's nuclear weapons actually do more to threaten her security then enhance it. If terrorists happen to get ahold of a nuclear device and explode it within one of America's cities, America is going to be looking for a target for retaliation. Pyongyang now is pretty close to the top of the list as a possible target.

The device would have had to come from somewhere, and North Korea has proven herself willing to sell advanced weapons technology to even the most unsavory types.

4/25/2006 10:46:00 AM  

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