RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) —
Three UN nuclear experts discussed terms with Brazilian officials for the inspection of a nuclear facility to which Brazil
has refused access for fear of revealing trade secrets.
The inspectors from the International
Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), already locked in a battle with Iran over its nuclear ambitions, arrived at the Rio de Janeiro
office of the National Nuclear Energy Commission (CNEN) early Monday.
On Tuesday, they are to visit
the Resende nuclear plant in Rio state where Brazil wants to enrich uranium.
Brazil, which has one of
the world's largest uranium reserves, denied IAEA inspectors access to the facility in February and March.
The South American nation
opposes a visual IAEA inspection, claiming it has a novel method of enriching uranium that it wants to protect.
"This uranium enrichment
process is extremely efficient because it saves a lot of energy," Science and Technology Minister Eduardo Campos told Folha
de Sao Paulo in an interview published Monday.
"We do not believe it to
be necessary (for inspectors) to visualize the physical format of the centrifuges and the way they are supported on the floor,"
Campos told the daily.
IAEA inspectors want to ensure
that Brazil is respecting the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). IAEA director general Mohamed ElBaradei has said Brazil
should not be an exception to the organization's norms.
Uranium enrichment makes
fuel for civilian reactors but can also be used to make the explosive core of atomic bombs. The IAEA is mandated under the
NPT to make sure member states do not divert nuclear material for military purposes.
The US government said in
April that it was confident Brazil was not developing nuclear weapons.
Earlier this month, US Secretary
of State Colin Powell discussed Brazil's nuclear program with President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and said Washington had
no proliferation worries.
In contrast, the United States
has accused Iran of pursuing a nuclear weapons program, and the IAEA has set a November 25 deadline for Iran to suspend uranium
enrichment activities and answer all questions about its nuclear ambitions.
Campos rejected any comparison
between Brazil and Iran or North Korea, which kicked inspectors out of the country in 2002 and claims to have a nuclear weapon.
"There is no Iran syndrome"
in Brazil, he said in an interview published Monday in Correio Braziliense. "There is no atomic mystery. Brazil does not represent
a nuclear threat."
CNEN's spokesman, Luis Machado,
told AFP the IAEA inspectors had asked that their names not be released and that no press conference was planned.
Resende's centrifuges would
produce 60 percent of the needs of the Angra I and Angra II electric power plants located 180 kilometers (110 miles) south
of Rio, according to Brazilian plans. They would produce two million kilowatts of power.
"Monday we will discuss the
technical details for the inspection of the three IAEA technicians," Laercio Vihnas, a top official at CNEN, said Friday.
"Tuesday there will be a
visit at the Resende plant to check whether the practical application of these technical details is possible," he said.