173. National Security Decision Memorandum 3241


  • The Secretary of State
  • The Secretary of Defense
  • The Director, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency
  • The Administrator, Energy Research and Development Administration


  • Negotiation of a Nuclear Agreement with Iran

The President has reviewed the report of Dr. Seamans and the recommendations of the addressees regarding our nuclear negotiations with Iran2 and has approved the following negotiating position for the forthcoming talks convening on April 20 with the Iranian representative. The U.S. side should:

—Seek a strong political commitment from Iran to pursue the multinational/binational reprocessing plant concept, according the U.S. the opportunity to participate in the project. In addition to citing the economic rationale for such a facility, the U.S. side should underscore the potential role of the facility in serving mutual U.S.–GOI non-proliferation in the region by offering Pakistan the possibility of participation in a multinational plant as an alternative to a national reprocessing facility.3

—Seek a commitment from Iran to consult closely with us on its prospective reprocessing plans before making any firm decision whether multinational or otherwise. The U.S. side should offer to help Iran assess, in detail, the economic viability of proceeding with any reprocessing venture and the modalities of possible multinational configurations.

—In the event Iran agrees to make efforts to establish a multinational plant and is unsuccessful, the U.S. should have the option to recover the plutonium produced in US-supplied reactors or from [Page 523] US-supplied fuel either on the basis of buy-back or a fuel exchange. Were the U.S. not to exercise this option, we would be prepared to consent to reprocessing in an Iranian plant subject to: (a) the continuing requirement that we be satisfied that the IAEA safeguards applied to the facilities are effective; and (b) Iranian agreement that the U.S. could supplement these IAEA safeguards through the assignment of U.S. technical personnel, if necessary. Should it prove essential, in the view of the negotiators, to the achievement of an ad referendum agreement, they are authorized to withdraw the plutonium buy-back option.

—Seek (1) to maintain the integrity of the text of the basic draft Agreement for Cooperation in the Civil Uses of Atomic Energy,4 which includes a provision requiring mutual consent for the reprocessing, storage, and fabrication of plutonium derived from U.S. fuel or reactors, and (2) to provide Iran in an accompanying note a statement of the conditions, as outlined above, under which U.S. consent would be granted. If Iran objects strongly to this arrangement, the U.S. side should, in return for a clear high-level commitment from Iran to pursue the binational/multinational concept, agree to incorporate the statement of the conditions of consent in the body of the agreement.

If an ad referendum agreement is reached, key members of Congress and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission should be consulted to judge the acceptability of the agreement.

Brent Scowcroft
  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, National Security Decision Memoranda and National Security Study Memoranda, Box 1, NSDM 324. Confidential. Copies were sent to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Director of Central Intelligence.
  2. See footnotes 4 and 7, Document 167.
  3. According to telegram 116392 to Tehran, May 12, the United States was deeply concerned at Pakistani plans to purchase a French reprocessing plant and a German heavy water plant, and hoped to enlist the Shah’s aid in dissuading Pakistan from proceeding with its nuclear ambitions. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL–153, Iran, Chronological Files, 3 May–31 July 1976)
  4. See footnote 3, Document 115.