Throughout its long history of military dictatorship, Argentina actively pursued a nuclear weapons development program but never succeeded in building a weapon.
In 1968, Argentina refused to accede to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or to ratify the 1967 Tlatelolco Treaty, an agreement which called for a nuclear-free zone in Latin America and the Caribbean. The country also refused to adhere to International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards.
During the 1970s and 1980s, while it was under military rule, Argentina pursued a covert nuclear weapons program. The country aimed to place itself as a strategic player on the world stage in competition with neighboring Brazil, a country also flirting with nuclear weapons, and to develop a national defense system independent of Europe or the United States.
In 1978, with the help of German and Italian scientists, construction began on a plutonium separation plant. Though the plant was never completed due to technical problems, by 1983 Argentina had developed uranium enrichment technology and had built a heavy water plant, according to Julio Carasalas, a former Argentine ambassador.
In the 1990s, Argentina's new President Carlos Menem began to improve relations with Brazil. In 1991, the two countries set up a bilateral arrangement to place their nuclear materials and facilities under mutual supervision and they signed a comprehensive safeguards agreement with the IAEA known as the "Quadripartite Agreement." Under the pact, Argentina allowed IAEA inspectors into its nuclear facilities and committed the IAEA to apply nuclear safeguards in both countries.
In 1993, Argentina ratified the Tlatelolco Treaty and in 1995 acceded to the NPT as a non nuclear-weapon state.