Brazil's government has discovered and stopped a secret military program to make an atomic bomb, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
Jose Goldemberg, Brazil's secretary of science and technology, told the Times the project was begun in 1975 under the presidency of army general Ernesto Geisel, who is now a high official of the state petroleum company.The report said the country's new president, Fernando Collor de Mello, received a 50-page classified report on the project in early September. Collor met the chiefs of the army, navy and air force and told them he was stopping the project, Goldenberg told the Times.
Collor flew photographers and officials to a secret air base in the Cachimbo mountain range of the remote central Amazon Sept. 18 and in a symbolic gesture, threw a shovelful of cement into a hole 4 feet across and 1,050 deep, the Times said.
Goldemberg told the paper the shaft, made of steel-reinforced cement, appeared to be designed for testing a nuclear explosive.
Brazilian physicists have concluded the military was one or two years away from having enough weapons-grade enriched uranium to make an atomic bomb similar to the one dropped on Hiroshima, the Times said.
A week after the symbolic sealing of the shaft, Collor visited New York where in a speech to the U.N. General Assembly Sept. 24 he said Brazil would not pursue atomic testing.
"Brazil today rejects the idea of any test that implies nuclear explosions, even for peaceful ends," he said.
Brazil has never signed the international treaty intended to limit the spread of nuclear weapons and previous Brazilian governments have denied nuclear weapons program existed in the country.