The promotion of nuclear disarmament should hold priority
position on the international community agenda. More than forty years after its entry into force in 1970 the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) has achieved great success in preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons among countries other than those which already held them. However there was little progress in regards to the elimination of nuclear arsenals kept by the nuclear armed States.
It is estimated that more than 17 thousand nuclear warheads (of which more than 4,000 are actively deployed) still exist in the world today. The expenses of the nuclear-weapon States to maintain these arsenals, and in some cases, to modernize them, surpass $USD100 billion annually. Brazil understands that there is clear compliance gap as regards the implementation of the nuclear-weapon States' commitment to nuclear disarmament. Besides representing a permanent threat to humankind, these arsenals aggravate tensions and undermine peace efforts.
Brazil has actively participated in the NPT review conferences and other multilateral forums that deal with the subject, such as the I Commission of the United Nations General Assembly and the Conference on Disarmament. In these discussions, Brazil acts in coordination with the New Agenda Coalition – a group of six non-nuclear weapon States actively engaged in defense of nuclear disarmament (Brazil, South Africa, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico and New Zealand).
The high level of attention that should be given to nonproliferation should not hinder the research, development, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
Brazil is strongly committed to nonproliferation. In addition to the NPT, it is also party to the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America (Tlatelolco Treaty) and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. The Federal Constitution determines that "all nuclear activity within the national territory shall only be admitted for peaceful purposes and subject to approval by the National Congress" (Article 21). Since December 1991, all activities within the Brazilian Nuclear Program take place under the safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Brazilian-Argentine Agency for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials (ABACC).
ABACC has particular relevance to the Brazilian nuclear policy. On July 18, 1991, Brazil and Argentina signed the agreement for the Exclusively Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy, jointly renouncing to develop, possess, and use nuclear weapons, and stating their unequivocal commitment to the exclusively peaceful use of nuclear energy. ABACC was created to verify the fulfillment of these commitments. The experience accumulated by the Agency over the years has greatly contributed to the building of trust and to the approximation between Brazil and Argentina, which led to increasing cooperation between the two countries in the area of peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The most notable example of such cooperation is the joint development of research reactors that will have important applications in the field of nuclear medicine.
In the realm of nonproliferation, it is important to note that Latin America and the Caribbean were pioneers in putting limits to the nuclear arms race. The 1967 Tlatelolco Treaty led to the establishment of the first nuclear-weapon-free zone in a densely populated region. All 33 Latin American and Caribbean States are parties to the Treaty and members of the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (OPANAL).
On the occasion of the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons (26 September 2018), OPANAL member states issued a Joint Declaration in which they draw attention to the adoption and the opening for signature of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which includes a set of prohibitions on the possession, development, production, acquisition, testing, stockpile, transfer, use or threaten to use nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. They also reaffirm that a world without nuclear weapons is fundamental to the fulfillment of the primary objectives of humanity: peace, security, development and protection of the environment.
The TPNW was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in July 2017. The treaty is an outcome of a series of three Conferences on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons convened in 2013 and 2014 and of its resulting movement. These elements were crucial to draw the international community's attention to the complete incompatibility of nuclear weapons with international humanitarian law and international human rights law. The TPNW closes existing legal loopholes in international law, which did not have an explicitly prohibitive legal norm for nuclear weapons. Brazil was the first country to sign the Treaty, which is currently in the ratification process.