163. Telegram 6602 From the Embassy in India to the Embassy in the United Kingdom1 2


  • Indian Nuclear Explosion


  • New Delhi 6596
The deeper we get into the many technical analyses on the Indian test, the more complicated it gets. Also we realize that Washington has more information on this than we do. Therefore we have decided to hold up on analytical reporting for the day and take another look tomorrow. In the meantime, here are some of our tentative conclusions.
The capability to assemble and explode a nuclear device was probably accomplished using plutonium production from the CIRUS 40 MW Indo-Canadian reactor in Trombay (Bhabha Atomic Research Center—BARC). “Plutonium capability being what it is, particularly in fabrication operations, and with something of the order of 150 kilos in a fabrication circuit, [Page 2] enough material could be easily diverted from the core of la first device and covered up as being in scrap or processing losses.” This was the opinion of the Canadian Atomic Energy Control Board (CAECB) in 1972.
The US agreed to provide heavy water for the CIRUS reactor in 1956; India agreed that the heavy water would be used in connection with research into and the use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes. In 1970 we reminded the Indians in an aide memoire that the United States would not consider the use of plutonium produced in CIRUS for peaceful nuclear explosives intended for any purpose to be “research into and use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes.” Therefore, if our assumption about the source of India’s nuclear materials is correct, we have a problem with the GOI. The Indians, of course, do not agree with our interpretation of the agreement.
We have also looked into the record of what the Indians have said about their nuclear policy to see how straightforward they have been. Indian officials have confined themselves to statements that studies are underway, without saying what actions India would take. In May of last year, for example, Mrs. Gandhi said that peaceful uses were being studied, “including the ecological and geological aspects of nuclear explosives.” We find no dissimulation here.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 84, New Delhi Embassy Files: Lot 80 F 5, Subject Files 1974–77, AE–8. Secret; Immediate. It was drafted and approved by Schneider.
  2. Chargé d’Affaires Schneider relayed details of India’s nuclear test to Ambassador Moynihan, based on public statements by the chairman of India’s Atomic Energy Commission.