79. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • Nuclear Sales to the PRC

The Under Secretaries Committee (USC) has reported to you that several U.S. companies are seeking authorization to negotiate the sale of nuclear power reactors and uranium fuel to the PRC (Tab B).2 No Communist country has purchased Western power reactors, and as far as the PRC is concerned, the necessary intergovernmental agreements regulating the sale and transfer of nuclear equipment and fuel are not in place.

The USC’s study has concluded that the export of light water reactors and slightly enriched uranium fuel would be consistent with our policy of facilitating the development of trade with the PRC, would have no adverse strategic implications, and would not be contrary to our obligations under the NPT.

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In order that these exports might proceed, the USC recommends that we should indicate to the Chinese our willingness to conclude a standard bilateral intergovernmental agreement for nuclear transfers. This agreement would provide for the application of safeguards, as we require for all nuclear exports to any country.

Future requests for nuclear exports to Communist countries would continue to be considered on a case-by-case basis.

I recommend that you approve the USC’s recommendations, including the imposition of U.S. safeguards, until such time that the PRC takes its seat in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and becomes subject to its safeguards. (If the PRC, subsequently, were to withdraw from the IAEA, the U.S. safeguards would again become operative.) The Joint Congressional Committee on Atomic Energy would be informed if the PRC indicates interest in negotiating the bilateral intergovernmental agreement.


That you approve our offering to conclude with the PRC an intergovernmental atomic energy agreement with standard safeguard provisions, thereby establishing the necessary conditions for possible sale of U.S. nuclear power reactors and fuel. Subject to your approval, I will sign the necessary implementing directive at Tab A.3

  1. Source: Ford Library, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–53, NSDM 261, Nuclear Sales to the PRC. Secret. Sent for action. A stamped notation on the memorandum indicates Nixon saw it. According to an attached, undated draft of this memorandum, Scowcroft and McFarlane revised it on March 26. McFarlane further revised the recommendation section on April 24. Solomon and David Elliot sent this memorandum to Kissinger under a March 22 covering memorandum summarizing it.
  2. Attached but not printed. On October 31, 1973, the Chairman of the Under Secretaries Committee requested that an interagency working group, under the leadership of the Department of State, study the question of nuclear sales to the People’s Republic of China. Deputy Secretary of State Rush, Chairman of this group, submitted the report to the President on February 14, 1974. (Memorandum from Rush to Nixon, February 14; ibid.)
  3. The draft NSDM is attached but not printed. Nixon initialed the Approve option. The attached correspondence profile indicates that he made this decision on May 1. For the signed NSDM, see Document 83.