Parallel power play: building nuclear cooperation in Argentina and Brazil

William J. Perry Conference Room
Encina Hall, Second Floor, Central, C231
616 Jane Stanford Way, Stanford, CA 94305
  • Christopher Dunlap

Abstract: In the fifty years following World War II, Argentina and Brazil constructed advanced nuclear energy programs that far outpaced those of other countries in Latin America. However, their more memorable and lasting contribution to nuclear energy history may well be diplomatic, rather than technical. Beginning in 1974 with an Argentine delegation’s tour of carefully selected Brazilian nuclear facilities, and vice versa, the two countries – under military rule and in a centuries-long competition for regional influence and dominance – began a rapprochement around nuclear energy as gradual as it was unlikely. A watershed presidential summit in 1980 pledged the neighbors to cooperation in specific areas of nuclear energy. It took until 1991, however, for a growing system of informal inspections to coalesce into the world’s only bilateral nuclear safeguards organization, known as ABACC. This talk will focus primarily on the contributions of the scientific and technical communities, and their close work with the two foreign ministries, within this delicate seventeen-year process.

Speaker bio: Chris Dunlap is a Nuclear Security Postdoctoral Fellow at CISAC. His research is funded by the MacArthur Foundation. His book project, developed from his dissertation, focuses on the fundamental role of nuclear energy technology and diplomacy in shaping modern Brazil and Argentina and their bilateral relationship. The paths taken to develop nuclear energy in the South American neighbor countries also illustrate the impact that these nations and their key actors, often left out of global energy history, made upon the physical, legal, and diplomatic structures of the Atomic Age. By 1995, both nations had ceased early-stage efforts toward a nuclear explosion, accepted full safeguards and international verification of all fuel cycle activities, and transformed the "imported magic" of nuclear technology into their own. How this happened, and why, is the history at the heart of the parallel power play that defined Brazil and Argentina's engagement with Atomic Age diplomacy and technology.  

Chris received his Ph.D. in history from the University of Chicago in 2017, and also holds a B.A. in history with high distinction, B.S. in biochemistry, and M.A. in history from the University of Virginia.