Brazil Will Build Nuclear Submarine in 2016 with Franco-Brazilian Technology

By Dialogo
August 31, 2009

BRASILIA, 27 August 2009 (AFP) - Brazil will begin building its first nuclear submarine in 2016 and complete it in 2021, the Brazilian Defense Minister announced on Thursday. The submarine will be an adaptation of the Scorpene conventional submarine purchased from France in a multi-million-dollar deal to be sealed in September with the visit of President Nicolas Sarkozy. “Brazil already has the capability to build a nuclear reactor and the complete uranium-enrichment cycle” to manufacture nuclear fuel, Nelson Jobim affirmed during a Senate appearance. What Brazil needed was the technology for manufacturing a modern submarine to which to adapt the nuclear components, technology that will be provided by France, he indicated. With this project, Brazil hopes to join the select group of nations with the capability to design, build, and operate nuclear-powered submarines, a group that now includes only the United States, Great Britain, France, China, and Russia. The agreement with France, for a total value of 6.69 billion euros, covers the purchase of five Scorpene submarines, four of which will be manufactured in a shipyard to be built in Rio de Janeiro and one in France. Jobim announced that the operation of the shipyard and the building and maintenance of the submarines will be turned over to a binational joint enterprise with the participation of the Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht (50%), the French shipbuilder DCNS (49%), and the government (1%), which will have a “golden share” that will allow it to have key decision-making power. The agreement with France came about because “it was the only country that was willing to transfer the technology” for building the submarines, he explained. The minister specified that “the negotiation with the French” does not include the manufacture of the nuclear submarine, which will be a Brazilian adaptation of one of the conventional submarines. Brazil has been in the process of announcing a restructuring of its military apparatus and defense industry, accompanied by multi-million-dollar purchases from other countries in the region, such as Venezuela. The premise, according to Jobim, is that the selling countries accept the transfer of technology in order to develop the defense industry in the country. In this project the Navy will receive special attention for the defense of 3.5 million square kilometers of ocean, where Brazil’s three principal oil-producing areas are located and where the country has discovered new multi-million-dollar fields that could turn it into a giant producer and worldwide exporter. The agreement on the submarines, which needs only Senate approval for the financing, along with another agreement to purchase and build in Brazil fifty EC-725 transport helicopters, was announced in December and is to be ratified on 7September with the visit of French President Nicolas Sarkozy. For its part, France is also interested in selling to Brazil its Rafalle airplane, one of the contenders in the final phase of the competition for a multi-million-dollar contract. In his turn, Jobim refuted criticism that has appeared in the Brazilian press about the decision not to buy submarines from Germany, as Brazil had done previously. In fact, the 1983 agreement to build five conventional submarines “did not entail the transfer of technology.” The Scorpene is a conventional attack submarine manufactured by the French shipbuilder DCNS, in cooperation with the Spanish firm Navantia. Work on the Brazilian contract will begin in 2011, and all the submarines should be ready in 2021, including the nuclear one, Jobim announced, giving details about the agreement and the deadlines for the first time. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva gave the green light in 2007 for the resumption of Brazil’s nuclear program and announced the budget that will enable the completion of the Navy’s nuclear program.