The Brazilian-Argentine verification agency ABACC is a great achievement that brought transparency to both countries’ nuclear programmes, which have since grown significantly and would benefit from a commensurate safeguards approach, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said at an event to mark the 30th anniversary of the institution in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Created in 1991, the Brazilian-Argentine Agency for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials (ABACC) is a bi-national safeguards agency set up following the signature in Guadalajara, Mexico, of an agreement between the two countries for the exclusively peaceful use of nuclear energy. “ABACC is a unique mechanism that helped end a potential disastrous nuclear arms race between Brazil and Argentina in the 1990s,” Mr Grossi said. “It reflects a common value in the world of diplomacy: a technical solution to a political challenge.”
Verification activities, such as inspections, are implemented by the IAEA in Argentina and Brazil under an agreement between the two countries, the IAEA and ABACC, and cooperation extends also to support the development and testing of equipment and training.
The nuclear programme in both countries has evolved significantly since that time, Mr Grossi added: Brazil plans to increase its nuclear power capacity in the next decade, and Argentina exports research reactors. “Such growth asks for a strengthened ABACC and commensurate safeguards verification.” The conclusion of Additional Protocols with the IAEA would be a move in this direction, he said, adding that the IAEA stands ready to work with the two countries when they are ready to take this step.
“Today we commemorate bold ideas,” Brazil’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Carlos Alberto Franco França said in remarks at the event. “ABACC is the result of successful technical and diplomatic engineering and can serve as an inspiration to countries.” The nuclear material under ABACC verification corresponds to around 4 000 nuclear weapons – “a great responsibility,” the Argentinian Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Worship Felipe Solá said at the event. In 1991, he continued, a visionary political and strategic decision was taken. “We saw a future together and its potential – a more humane and intelligent one,” he said, in reference to the mutual trust and transparency in nuclear matters between the two countries.
Mr Grossi visited Brazil’s National Nuclear Energy Commission (CNEN) later in the day, where he met with CNEN’s President Paulo Roberto Pertusi and discussed activities such as the fight against zoonotic diseases, plastic pollution and improving access to nuclear and radiation medicine to fight cancer. “We can show Brazilian know-how in this area and also use this expertise to help other countries,” Mr Grossi said. They also discussed issues related to nuclear safety and security. Brazil has recently created a new independent regulatory authority, the Autoridade Nacional de Segurança Nuclear (ANSN), which will replace CNEN as the country’s nuclear and radiological regulatory authority once fully established. “The IAEA stands ready to help Brazil in this transition,” Mr Grossi said.
DG Grossi will also visit the Brazilian Association for the Development of Nuclear Activities (ABDAN) – a non-profit that brings together the most important actors and manufacturers in support of the nuclear sector in Brazil. IAEA and ABDAN are signing a practical arrangement to cooperate in areas such as energy planning, long term operation of nuclear power plants, technology development and deployment of small and medium-sized or modular reactors (SMRs), among others.
Given the strong commitment of the Brazilian government to elaborate a new energy plan up to 2050, Mr Grossi welcomed growing contacts between the IAEA and ABDAN in the area of nuclear energy. “Cooperation with the industry can make an important contribution to the enhancement of Brazil’s nuclear power programme.