BUENOS AIRES, Jan. 18 (UPI) -- Argentina has resumed a global marketing campaign to boost exports of its nuclear industry, which lay dormant since the 1980s military dictatorship and subsequent economic meltdown and sovereign default.
The Latin American country's nuclear program dates back to the 1950s and, under military rule, drew U.S. ire amid suspicions the dictators planned to produce weapons of mass destruction. U.S. pressure forced the generals to tone down the program which, however, was never abandoned.
President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner gave the nuclear program new life in 2011, declaring Argentina was the world "leader in the use of nuclear power for peaceful purposes."
Fernandez said, "Argentine scientists have never used their neurons to destroy the lives of other beings. We are peaceful people, good people, not everyone can say that."
This month Argentina announced agreements with the United Arab Emirates that Buenos Aires hopes will reopen markets for Argentine exports in nuclear technology.
"The agreement constitutes a framework which governs and facilitates cooperation in the area of peaceful nuclear energy and related applications between the two countries," senior UAE official Hamad Al Kaabi said. "It allows the transfer of knowledge, technology and nuclear material to the UAE."
Al Kaabi praised Argentina's "well-developed nuclear sector with multiple nuclear power plants in operation, as well as a strong industry base for nuclear research, human resources development and training, which the UAE is interested to benefit from."
The Argentine-UAE accord was a culmination of diplomatic efforts by Fernandez to find investors and customers for the country's nuclear industry.
Argentina has two nuclear reactors in operation in Buenos Aires and Cordoba since 1974 and hopes to launch a third reactor this month after tests begun last year.
Fernandez says his government wants to sell nuclear products and materials and hire out experts and technicians. Details of the accord with the UAE were not revealed.
The Arab state is vying with northern neighbor Iran to build a nuclear capacity it says will be for peaceful civilian purposes only. Saudi Arabia and other neighboring Arab states in the Persian Gulf have also announced plans for nuclear development programs.
All say the programs are for peaceful purposes to harness nuclear technology for energy generation and medical science.
In less than five years of launching its strategic nuclear development, the UAE has reached agreements with the United States, Russia, Japan, South Korea, France, Canada, Australia and Britain.
Critics say the UAE program will make excessive demands on the country's natural resources, a criticism also faced by government officials in Buenos Aires.
Fernandez is also anxious to advance Argentina's nuclear program to catch up with neighbor Brazil, which has developed uranium enrichment capability and is building a nuclear-powered submarine with French help.