Brazil Shielding Uranium Facility

WaPo: Brazil Shielding Uranium Facility

The Brazilian government has refused to allow U.N. nuclear inspectors to examine a facility for enriching uranium under construction near Rio de Janeiro, according to Brazilian officials and diplomats in Vienna, home of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The IAEA and Brazil are at an impasse over the inspections, the diplomats said. Brazil maintains that the facility will produce low-enriched uranium for use in power plants, not the highly enriched material used in nuclear weapons. Nonetheless, Brazil refuses to let IAEA inspectors see equipment in the plant, citing a need to protect proprietary information.

The diplomatic standoff plays into fears that a new type of nuclear race is underway, marked not by the bold pursuit of atomic weapons but by the quiet and lawful development of sophisticated technology for nuclear energy production, which can be quickly converted into a weapons program.

Brazil’s project also poses a conundrum for President Bush, who has called for tighter restrictions on the enrichment of uranium, even for nuclear power, as part of a new strategy to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.

Nonproliferation specialists say that if the United States and the United Nations do not act to curtail Brazil’s program, or at least insist on inspections, the lack of action could undermine White House calls for Iran and North Korea to halt their efforts to enrich uranium.

Annoying, to be sure. Still, Brazil is hardly Saddam’s Iraq, Kim’s North Korea, or even post-Khomeini Iran. Different situations call for different responses; it’s not like military coercion is on the table here.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.