RIO DE JANEIRO, May 18 (RIA Novosti) - Brazil may build its first nuclear-powered submarine in 12 years, the Estado news agency said Monday, citing military sources.
The Brazilian military, which has five conventionally powered submarines in service with the navy, has been seeking to build a nuclear submarine for decades amid worries about the security of its offshore oil reserves.
According to the Brazilian navy, a decision has been made to construct a new submarine base and a shipyard capable of building diesel-electric and nuclear-powered submarines on one of the islands near the coast of Rio de Janeiro state.
Brazil has been closely cooperating with France on the project. In line with a bilateral agreement announced in December last year, France will help Brazil build the base and four modified Scorpene-type diesel-electric subs under a French license. The first submarine is to be delivered in 2014, and the rest of the class is to follow at two-year intervals.
The same agreement envisions a massive technology transfer from France, which is essential to Brazil's hopes of building a nuclear submarine.
"We need a nuclear submarine because Brazil has a long coast and deep water and we need a submarine with the capacity to go to any part of our waters with agility," Antonio Carlos Frade Carneiro, head of the navy's re-equipment program, said earlier.
While France will participate in designing the nuclear submarine, the official said, the nuclear plant will be an all-Brazilian design. A land-based prototype is set to become operational in 2014, and the submarine's reactor is planned to be ready for installation in 2019, he said.
Brazil, with its nuclear power plants, vast reserves of uranium, advanced refinement capabilities, trained nuclear scientists and various research facilities, and Argentina are the only Latin American countries with significant nuclear capabilities.
If the project succeeds, Brazil will become the first Latin American nation to possess a nuclear-powered submarine.