The Ministry of Defense wants to speed up tens projects that for years have been carried out at the research institutes of the Navy, Army and Air Force. Amongst them, there is the Uranium Hexafluoride Production Facility (Usexa), for converting the mineral into gas, which after the stage of enrichment will be converted into powder for producing the fuel used at Angra I and II. At the moment, this process is carried out in Canada. “This will mean that Brazil will master the whole cycle of nuclear fuel”, says Commander Leonam dos Santos Guimarães, the coordinator of the Nuclear Propulsion Program of the Technological Center of the Navy, in São Paulo (CTMSP).
To implement these projects, the defense ministry is counting on the release of R$ 37 million from the sectorial funds, provided for in a protocol signed with the Ministry of Science and Technology (MCT). They also expect the support of companies like Avibrás, which will be a partner in developing a low power turbine for propelling unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and funds from the Ministry of Communications, which promises o sponsor a third project, one to construct the Brazilian geostationary satellite, according to Admiral Ricardo Torga, the president of the Advisory Commission on Science and Technology for Defense (Comasse), the coordinating body of the new system.
The expectation is for the ten programs to represent the initial step for consolidating the Science, Technology and Innovation in the Interest of National Defense System (SisCTID), created in December last year. The objective of the Ministry of Defense is to integrate military research and development with the National Science, Technology and Innovation System, guaranteeing access to new forms of funding and incentive policies, besides placing the research institutes of the three Arms under the umbrella of Law on Innovation, which is going through the channels of the National Congress.
Relying basically on budgetary funds – more and more under constraint -, the Armed Forces have faced serious difficulties for researching, developing and nationalizing technologies and run the risk of losing qualified personnel. So as not to interrupt its activities, the Navy, for example, has implemented occasional partnerships and transformed its four investigation centers into service providing organizations and created a “virtual bank”, into which flow funds from various sources, including budgetary endowments.
The costs of the researches are deducted from the “virtual credit” of each one of the institutes. This was how the Technology Center of the Navy in São Paulo, in partnership with the Nuclear Research Institute (Ipen), managed to get funds to develop the technology for ultracentrifugation that will allow Brazil to start producing enriched uranium on an industrial scale for use in the Angra I and II power stations. Nowadays, the uranium extracted from the mine at Catité, in Bahia, is transformed into gas (uranium hexafluoride) in Canada, and enriched in Holland, at a cost of US$ 19 million, every 14 months (see page 20).
The Army and the Air Force have not adopted the service provider model. They opted for programs for associating with government bodies and companies. The Research and Development Institute (IPD) – responsible for the Army’s applied research -, for example, assesses the impact of irradiation in the expansion of the useful life of food and feeds, in partnership with the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa), the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and the Fluminense Federal University. Along with Avibrás, they are studying alternatives for developing new models of armored vehicles. The prototype of the vehicle, baptized as VBR-LR, is now ready and is at the stage of technical assessment.
This year, to reinforce its cash, the Technological Institute of Aeronautics (ITA) is creating a fund for financing research projects and modernizing laboratories. The funds will be raised from private companies, and include donations from private individuals. The fund now enjoys a budget of US$ 1 million, according to the rector, Michal Gartenkraut. It will be managed by the Casemiro Montenegro Filho Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports technological research and development. The ITA has also enjoyed the support of such companies as El Paso, the world-wide natural gas giant, which has invested R$ 365,000 in installing a center of excellence and qualification of human resources in gas turbines, and Embraer, which has invested over R$ 3 million in implanting a professionalizing master?s degree course in aeronautical engineering.
The integration that the new system wants to foster has as its objective the consolidation of the partnerships with universities and private companies around projects for developing technologies for civil and military application, or, in the military jargon, dual projects. These projects should be funded with resources from the sectorial funds and venture capital investment funds raised with the support of the Innovate program, of the federal agency, the Financier of Studies and Projects (Finep). “The geostationary satellite will be used both in aerial navigation and in telecommunications, and the unmanned aerial vehicles will be of great usefulness in monitoring and inspecting pipelines”, are examples given by Admiral Torga. The expectation is that this convergence of interests will expand the technological content of the defense ministry’s products and services, qualify human resources, and strengthen domestic industry, amongst other benefits.
Drawing closer to civilian sectors started right from the drawing up of the SisCTID’s guidelines. In the course of last year, the Ministry of Defense brought together researchers and businesspersons from São Paulo, Campinas, São José dos Campos and Rio de Janeiro, to form working groups and to debate the draft of the proposal. They assessed partnership models adopted by other countries, before proposing a national model for integrating civilian and military research. They also analyzed the affinities of the three Arms and the potential for taking advantage of researches for the Armed Forces and society, until arriving at a list of 23 technologies that will be given priority by the system, amongst which nuclear reactors, space systems, sensors, microelectronics and hypervelocity.
Having ensured the funds – and having these 23 technologies as a backcloth -, the SisCTIDis going to work along similar lines as a development agency, inducing strategic projects – which, in this case, will have secret nature and will be protected by safeguard legislation – and incorporate spontaneously presented technological innovation researches. In both cases, the system is going to operate with a network of cooperation, using as a tool the Strategic Projects Management System (SGPE), a web-based software, developed by the National Industrial Apprenticeship Service (Senai).
The use of this program, incidentally, is in itself the result of a partnership between the Ministry of Defense and the National Confederation of Industry (CNI). The system’s project portfolio will be managed by the Advisory Commission on Science and Technology for Defense.In the range of the technologies chosen as a priority, the Ministry of Defense has selected the first ten projects that it intends to implement before the end of this year.
Besides the Hexafluoride Production Facility, the geostationary satellite and the UAV, it will also set aside funds and seek partners for the development of advanced nuclear fuels, like gadolinium uranium, used in the generation of electricity; the construction of a gyrometric block for the Anti-Radiation Missile; the creation of infrared and optical-mechanical sensors for night vision and inertial navigation; a vertical wind tunnel for training parachutists, and a pseudo-satellite, which should confer greater precision on global positioning by satellite systems (GPS).
The Ministry of Defense is betting on the success of this model. “Without an integration of efforts, it would be difficult for us to respond to the challenge of making Brazilian society more just and balanced”, explains Minister José Viegas Filho, at the presentation of the document Strategic conception , where the guidelines of SisCTID are detailed. There are positive expectations also on the civilian side. “The new system may be an inflection point in military research and development”, foresees Michal Gartenkraut, the rector of the Technological Institute of Aeronautics (ITA), who took part in the group of debates.
For him, the strong point is the intersection between the Ministries of Defense and of Science and Technology, which congregate, respectively, the innovation developed in the three Arms and the knowledge generated at the universities and research institutes. If well managed, this drawing closer together may repeat the success of the partnership that resulted in the development of the aeronautical industry in Brazil, Gartenkraut reckons. “Aeronautics, historically, has always had this dual vision”, he recalls. The ITA, the Aeronautics Technological Center CTA) and Embraer, created 20 years after the ITA, are a result of this. He raises the point, though, that the resources from the sectorial funds “cannot replace” the money from the budget. “Its merit lies in being new money.”
But integration with the universities will not be easy. “The great challenge will be to put themes of interest to the Ministry of Defense on the agenda of the universities”, observes José Roberto Arruda, from the College of Mechanical Engineering of the State University of Campinas (Unicamp), who also took part in the group of debates promoted by the Ministry of Defense. He believes that partnership with the universities may be possible around “non-belligerent” projects, involving education or food defense. “Defense is not militarism”, he points out. But he does recognize that a series of initiatives will be needed to attract talents to this kind of investigation, such as, for example, the creation of doctoral scholarships or awards for theses, he suggests. “This is a stimulus much used abroad”, he says.
SisCTID started to be drawn up at the end of the Fernando Henrique Cardoso government. On November 26, 2002, a little more than one month before the new government taking office, the Ministry of Defense – then under the command of Geraldo Magela Quintão – organized a seminar where the guidelines of the system were proposed. “In the following year, Ministers Viegas and Roberto Amaral, of Science and Technology, took on this proposal in an extraordinary way”, says Admiral Torga. These guidelines were detailed in the course of the first year of the government of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and SisCTID was officially created on December 10 of last year.
The Strategic conception document, a sort of birth certificate of the new system, justifies its implantation: it describes a world scenario of “uncertainties” marked, on the one hand, by selective globalization and by the “condominium of power” made up by a few countries, and, on the other, by the deterioration of the concept of national sovereignty in some regions of the planet. He denounces the fact that, in the name of defense and world peace, “acts of war have been perpetrated without the necessary legal backing of law and institutional support”.
And he proposes that the countries that “value democracy, freedom and mutual respect should keep themselves prepared for “sustaining their own self-determination”. It so happens that the Armed Forces have encountered technical and commercial barriers from countries of the first world that are trying “to avoid any progresses that may come to permit rival countries to draw closer”, as the document points out. The way out is to create a system, along the lines of SisCTID, to liaise between the various sectors of society, to make the country advance with its own resources and knowledge. “We have to free ourselves from imports”, insists Admiral Torga, citing as an example the difficulties the country has encountered to buy components for the unmanned aerial vehicle, which, if it works out all right, will begin to be developed by domestic partnerships.
Three decades afterwards, SisCTID is updating the old project of the Brazilian Armed Forces, implemented in the 1970’s, of investing in cutting edge research infrastructure and in linking together a national industrial military complex. “The principles are the same”, observes Admiral Torga. At the time, the concept of “major power” was the theoretical benchmark for Brazilian military thinking, and technological qualification, a strategic target.
“The project did not prosper, except in the case of the AMX project, of the Air Force, which, supported by the civilian arm of Embraer, made the Brazilian aircraft market advance”, according to the analysis by Geraldo Lesbat Cavagnari Filho, a researcher from Unicamp?s Strategic Studies Nucleus. The “major power” project aborted, but it did make it possible for the military institutes to incorporate new technologies that made strategic research advance, as materialized in the Integrated Space Program, in the Nuclear Program, and in the Frontiers Program.
SisCTID also provides for the Armed Forces sharing their laboratories with universities and private companies. But carrying out common projects will call for legal cover for questions like, for example, the ownership of the innovations and clear rules for any licensing or researchers’ leave from their institutes of origin. The expectation is that these and other snags may be sorted out with the approval of the Law on Innovation. “We have now forwarded a few suggestions for the bill that is being analyzed by Congress”, observes Admiral Torga.
In the Navy, where the research institutes operate as service providing organizations, this process of opening up for civilian research is already under way. It is run by the Naval Projects Management Company (Emgepron) – linked to the Ministry of Defense and coordinated by the Navy – created in 1982, when the country was exerting itself to develop a military naval industry. The company had autonomy to negotiate and to contract foreign currency loans and thereby to get round obstacles to the re-equipment of the naval industry. “At the time, we had military projects, and we were trying to motivate the private sectors to be partners. Now we have changed the focus. We sought out various research companies and asked them: what do you want to research?”, explains Admiral Wilson Montalvão, a technical advisor with Emgepron. The target, he explains, is to ensure the research institutes their self-management and their own income.
The great majority of the “customers” still belong to the government. Casnav, for example, has developed a document management system that is being adapted to meet the demands of the Presidency and Vice-Presidency of the Republic. “There is now interest from the Ministry of the Treasury and from Petrobras and Furnas as well”, reveals Commander José Augusto de Carvalho Benoliel, the head of Casnav’s Administrative Department. Some partnerships with the private sector have now become concrete”, says Admiral Montalvão. One of them is Inbrafiltro, a company connected with the area of armoring autos.
“They looked us up because they intend to extend their activities to personal security, making bulletproof vests, helmets, etc.”, he says. The agreement that is being negotiated provides for the development of a new product, the patent for which will belong to Inbrafiltro, and the royalties, to the Navy. Another project under way, requested by Petrobras, is the implantation of artificial reefs, to attend to the fishing villages close to the Campos basin. Some municipal governments are now interested, because the increase in the supply of fish will make possible the exploitation of ecological tourism.
The policy for opening up carried out by the Navy is also going to make it possible for researchers to access four institutes of the Navy: besides the Technological Center of the Navy in São Paulo, also to the Naval Systems Analysis Center (Casnav), to the Admiral Paulo Moreira Sea Studies Institute, and to the Research Institute of the Navy, all in Rio de Janeiro.
Brazil is negotiating with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) ways for inspecting the ultracentrifuges for uranium enrichment that are being installed in Indústrias Nucleares do Brasil (INB), a company from Resende, in Rio de Janeiro. The first attempt at an agreement, last year, ended up being suspended, when the IAEA asked for a more intrusive inspection, including visual access to the machines. The IAEA’s proposal opens up a precedent in inspection procedures, and agreement on this procedure ended up being postponed.
In this negotiation with the IAEA, Brazil is represented by the National Nuclear Energy Commission (CNEN), linked to the MCT and Nuclear Regulatory Authority; by the Navy; by the INB; and by the Ministry of Foreign Relations. The visualization of the machines, the assessment goes, may reveal information of intellectual property. The ultracentrifuges developed by the Technological Center of the Navy in São Paulo (CTMSP) and by the Nuclear and Energy Research Institute (Ipen) use innovative technology.
The ultracentrifuge is equipped with a cylindrical tube that spins in a vacuum at a supersonic speed, to separate uranium 235, used as fuel, from uranium 238. In the traditional model – used by Urenco, a consortium made up by Germany, the United Kingdom and Holland -, the tube is supported on a mechanical bearing, sustained at the top by magnetic bearings. The Brazilian ultracentrifuge works by levitation: both the upper bearing and the lower one are magnetic. The height and the diameter of the machine, is technologically pertinent information.
Besides the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), signed in 1997, Brazil is also a party, together with Argentina, the Brazil-Argentina Agency for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials (Abacc) and the IAEA, of the Quadripartite Agreement for the Application of Safeguards, in force since 1994. The agreement provides for all the nuclear installations in the country to carry out an accounting of the nuclear material and to send a report to the two inspection agencies.
Periodically, these installations are inspected in visits, announced or otherwise, which check the accounting, confirm the information, and gather records of images captured by cameras, amongst other things. The inspection procedures at each nuclear installation are negotiated case by case. “In the power reactors, for examples, there are surveillance systems”, says Laércio Vinhas, CNEN’s general coordinator for International Affairs. But, in any case, the Quadripartite Agreement provides for the interests of the country having to be taken into account as to the preservation of technological secrets, for the application of safeguards, Vinhas recalls, betting on a good outcome for this understanding. “The inspection agencies try to get the greatest amount of information possible, and the country tries to preserve to the maximum its technological and commercial secrets. The parties have to arrive at an equilibrium”.
Physicist Rogério Cerqueira Leite, emeritus professor of the State University of Campinas, says that there are no technological risks in the visual inspection. “The technological differences are not important. What they want is to control Brazilian production”, he concludes. One other problem should be on the agenda for negotiation with the IAEA. The Agency expects – in the assessment of some sources from the sector, is actually pressing for – Brazil to sign an additional protocol to the Safeguards Agreement that gives the inspectors access to any place in the national territory, and not just to nuclear installations.
“The Agency is not pressing Brazil. Signing the protocol is voluntary. It is up to each country, in a sovereign manner, to take its decision in this regard”, Vinhas counters. Brazil, he says, is analyzing the technical and political implications of the additional protocol. And he adds that the Brazilian position referring to the additional protocol should be broader and carried out in the context of the initiatives not only for the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, but also of disarmament.Republish