35. Memorandum From the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Thompson) to Secretary of State Rusk 1


  • Export Control to France Under NSAM 294: Test Cases
The letter at Tab A2 from AEC Chairman Seaborg to McGeorge Bundy, sent you and Secretary McNamara in copy, recommends approval in two cases involving exports to France. It invites your independent comment to the White House, because the issues involved are of concern to both State and Defense. The decision on these cases will be important in terms of clarifying the intent and future implementation of NSAM 2943 (Tab B).
One case involves a French request to purchase enriched U-235 in accordance with terms of our 1959 agreement, made to assist France in developing its own nuclear submarine propulsion plant, and under which we agreed to sell France up to 300 kilograms of U-235 for this purpose. We have already provided 171 kilograms, and the present request is for an additional 63. The AEC technical analysis (Tab C) leads them to the conclusion that the 63 kilograms is of no real significance to the program, and that to deny the request will cause the French no more than minor inconvenience. This conclusion seems to me unquestionably correct.
The other case involves a request to buy two computers, valued at about $12,000,000. One is intended for installation in a French weapons laboratory, the other in a civil establishment but with likely part-time military use. The AEC conclusion here also is that both computers will be of only marginal significance in terms of assisting the French strategic effort. This conclusion is less well supported and seems to me considerably more dubious than in the case of the U-235.

There has been a strong difference of view between Defense and AEC at staff level on the U-235 case, with Defense arguing against granting the French request (Tab D). There is no comparable Defense document in the computer case, but it is our understanding that the AEC itself (at Commission level) has been seriously divided over this one, with Chairman Seaborg and Commissioners Tape and Bunting favoring approval, the other two either opposed or reserved.

The device of the letter to Bundy was decided on by the AEC partly as a means simply of getting a high-level decision on two cases of considerable precedent value in terms of implementing NSAM 294, partly in the hope that Secretary McNamara in commenting would in effect rule against the line of thinking of those in Defense who produced the letter at Tab D. The AEC has hoped strongly that you will favor approval of the U-235 request. There is apparently less urgency and therefore less immediate concern about our position as regards the computers.


I have no hesitancy whatever in recommending that we support Dr. Seaborg’s position on the U-235 request. The technical finding is well-supported, and the material would obviously be of little or no real consequence to the French program. I see no benefit and considerable potential harm in denying the request and thereby in French eyes failing to live up to a government-to-government agreement.

As regards the computers, I am not convinced by the arguments in the letter, and would like to know much more before recommending anything. I therefore suggest a holding position on this.

Recommendation: That you sign the letter at Tab E.4

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, S/S-NSC Files: Lot 72 D 316, NSAM 294. Secret. Drafted by George (G/PM) on November 25 and cleared by Tyler and in G, L, and MC.
  2. Tabs A, C, and D are not printed.
  3. Document 30.
  4. Document 36.