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Nuclebrás, state holding company created in Brazil in 1975 during negotiations with the West German firm Kraftwerk Union (KWU), a subsidiary of Siemens, to manage nuclear industrial activities. The comprehensive agreement signed with KWU and associated firms established five joint ventures under the Nuclebrás umbrella: Nuclen (75 percent Nuclebrás, 25 percent KWU) was responsible for nuclear engineering; Nuclep (75 percent Nuclebrás, with the remaining 25 percent in the hands of KWU, GHH, and Voest Alpine) became the largest producer of heavy components for nuclear plants in the third world; Nuclam (51 percent Nuclebrás, 49 percent Urangessellschaft) specialized in uranium mining; Nuclei (75 percent Nuclebrás, 25 percent Steag and Interatom) was responsible for an isotopic enrichment demonstration plant; and Nustep (50 percent Nuclebrás, 50 percent Steag) engaged in isotopic enrichment research and development. In addition to these joint ventures, Nuclebrás managed two other subsidiaries: Nucon, in power-plant construction, and Nuclemon in extraction and processing of heavy minerals, as well as a nuclear technology research and development center, a fuel element fabrication plant, and yellowcake production facilities. Eight 1,100-megawatt pressurized water reactors were to be built in Brazil under this structure.

The nature of the joint ventures, in which the foreign partners preserved substantial control over operations, provoked considerable opposition within the Brazilian scientific community and segments of engineering and capital-goods producers, who felt excluded from the large-scale program, estimated at between $12 billion and $18 billion in 1975. Critics of Nuclebrás denounced the overall cost of the ambitious program, as well as its tendency to rely on newly created state rather than private-sector firms. Nuclebrás became a symbol of the military-technocratic regime's modus operandi, a pattern that developed after the 1964 takeover from civilian President João Goulart.

Following intense political pressures, budgetary contractions, and the turn toward privatization, Nuclebrás was dissolved in 1988. The two power plants under construction, Angra II and Angra III, and the engineering subsidiary Nuclen were transferred to the jurisdiction of the state utility Eletrobrás. Nuclep and Nuclemon were privatized, Nustep and Nuclam dissolved, and the yellowcake and fuel-element facilities were placed under a new enterprise, Industrias Nucleares do Brasil S.A. In 2000 Angra II was completed. Because of environmental concerns and the inefficiency of nuclear plants, the Brazilian government is still debating the funding of Angra III.

See alsoEnergy; Nuclear Industry; Privatization.


Etel Solingen, "Macropolitical Consensus and Lateral Autonomy in Industrial Policy: The Nuclear Sector in Brazil and Argentina," in International Organization 47, no. 2 (Spring 1993): 263-298.

Additional Bibliography

Malheiros, Tania. Histórias secretas do Brasil nuclear. Rio de Janeiro: WVA, 1996.

Solingen, Etel. Industrial Policy, Technology, and International Bargaining: Designing Nuclear Industries in Argentina and Brazil. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1996.

                                            Etel Solingen