209. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft) to President Ford1


  • The Egyptian and Israeli Nuclear Agreements

Administrator Seamans has forwarded for your consideration the proposed Agreements for Cooperation concerning civil uses of atomic energy with Egypt and with Israel (Tab B). If you approve, the agreements would be submitted to Congress for their approval by concurrent resolution.

The basic purpose of the agreements is to establish the terms under which Israel and Egypt may each receive from U.S. sources up to two [Page 666] nuclear power reactors and enriched uranium fuel for those reactors. The two agreements and notes are substantively identical and have been treated as a package ever since negotiations began last year. Israel accepts the package concept and supports the Egyptian agreement.

The Safeguards Contained in the Agreements

The scope of cooperation and many provisions of these agreements are similar to prior U.S. Agreements for Cooperation with other countries. However, the Egyptian and Israeli agreements also incorporate several special restrictions which are intended to ensure that the introduction of nuclear power into Israel and Egypt will occur under exceptionally safeguarded and controlled conditions. The key restrictions are:

a. U.S. supply of material and equipment to Israel and Egypt would be subject to safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), with the proviso that separate U.S. bilateral safeguards rights would be applied should the U.S. conclude that our safeguards requirements are not being satisfactorily met by the IAEA safeguards.

b. The U.S. is to be given access to the confidential information provided to the IAEA on the implementation of the IAEA safeguards.

c. The use of U.S. material and equipment, and any plutonium produced therefrom, for any military use, including any nuclear explosive device is prohibited.

d. Physical security measures for U.S.-supplied nuclear material and equipment will be developed jointly.

e. U.S. approval is required concerning the location of certain operations involving plutonium, including the reprocessing of either U.S. fuel or non-U.S. fuel used in a U.S. reactor. An explicit understanding is included that fuel reprocessing, as well as storage or fabrication of the recovered plutonium, will take place outside of Israel and Egypt.

f. The U.S. has an option to take title to, and to effect the disposition of, plutonium produced from U.S. fuel or non-U.S. fuel in a U.S. reactor.

g. Should plutonium be requested for recycle as reactor fuel, such supply would be subject to U.S. approval and, if permitted, such plutonium transfer would be in the form of fabricated fuel elements.

h. The enrichment of uranium fuel to be transferred under the agreements is restricted to below 20% in the isotope U–235.

Congressional Outlook

It will not be possible to complete the required 60-day congressional review period during this session unless Congress reconvenes after the election or unless it decides to act quickly and not take the full 60 days. Neither of these is probable. In addition, the Senate has just authorized a group of six Senators (headed by Ribicoff and including Baker) to visit the Middle East in November and to report on the impact of [Page 667] introducing nuclear technology there. The Senate would probably defer action on the Egyptian and Israeli agreements until it receives the report of this group in the next session.

The reaction on the Hill to the substance must also be considered. The agreements contain unprecedented restrictions and controls and present no real proliferation risks. A complicating factor, however, is the introduction by Senator Pastore of his non-proliferation bill, which, as you know, is now the subject of negotiation between the Senator, Senator Percy, Congressman John Anderson and the Administration. The draft legislation contains a requirement for the U.S. to initiate immediate negotiations with other supplier nations seeking agreement that, as a condition to exports to other countries, all nuclear material in the possession of the recipient country must be under international safeguards and that IAEA safeguards must be applied to all nuclear activities in these countries. In our discussions with Pastore, Anderson and others, we have not indicated that this is an unacceptable position, and they undoubtedly believe that the Administration is prepared to support this section of the bill. This provision, of course, is only a call for best effort negotiation and does not require the unilateral imposition of these conditions failing agreement with the other suppliers. However, it does put us on record as a strong supporter of international safeguards for all nuclear activities in recipient countries. (In the Percy version of the bill, these conditions would have to be imposed unilaterally after 18 months.) Neither the draft Egyptian or Israeli agreements conform to these particular criteria, because Israel would not accept the idea of placing all of its nuclear material under international safeguards. The agreements may be opposed on the grounds that they are out of step with congressional thinking, although the special position of Israel should soften the criticism.

These agreements could impact negatively on the non-proliferation initiatives which are contained in the Fri study. One of the proposals of that study, concurred in by all agencies, is that criteria for considering new nuclear agreements would include whether the proposed recipient was a party to the NPT or prepared to submit all its nuclear facilities to safeguards, and whether it was prepared to forego or postpone indefinitely the establishment of national reprocessing. Departure from these criteria would require your personal approval. The Egyptian and Israeli agreements would not meet those criteria.

Therefore, Congress may perceive inconsistencies in your position if the first agreements you submit to Congress, essentially coinciding with your non-proliferation message, do not meet these enunciated criteria. (The counter argument, however, is that other countries will supply nuclear material to Egypt under less stringent conditions if we do not. Our non-proliferation interest is best achieved by coupling [Page 668] supply with strict safeguards. Israel’s special relationship with the United States and recognition that Egypt has not adhered to the NPT because Israel refuses to do so are other mitigating factors.)

These agreements could become a political issue. However, the fact that Israel wants this agreement should help to minimize the difficulties. For example, President Nixon’s first offer of nuclear cooperation to Egypt encountered strong opposition in 1974. By contrast, when you announced the principles that would be embodied in the agreement during President Sadat’s visit earlier this year, there was no adverse reaction. These different congressional and press reactions probably resulted at least in part from a shift in Israel’s position on this issue. In 1974 Israel was not interested in a nuclear agreement with the U.S.

Agency Views

State recommends that the agreement be submitted to Congress now. We essentially committed ourselves to do this in reaching final agreement with Egypt and Israel, and failure to forward the agreements to Congress at this time would have a sharply negative impact. We pushed the two countries to complete the negotiations quickly on the grounds that the required congressional approval would be progressively more difficult to obtain as the congressional session drew to a close. Even if, as seems probable, Congress decides to take no action, our commitments in Cairo and Tel Aviv will have been satisfied and no domestic political fracas will have occurred.

ACDA has no objection to the agreements being submitted at this time.

ERDA recommends that submission of the agreements be made only after congressional action on the non-proliferation bill and after presentation of your non-proliferation message which will enunciate your broad policy objectives. If we do otherwise, ERDA believes we may have difficulty in defeating unacceptable and unrealistic amendments to the non-proliferation bill. As you know, Senators Percy and Glenn consider the Joint Committee’s and the Administration’s approaches to non-proliferation too weak. Percy and Glenn might try to use the Egyptian and Israeli agreements to make the point that the Administration cannot be trusted to be tough enough, and that legislative mandates are needed. We would hope to be able to convince most people that the agreements present no real proliferation risks and that they contain unprecedented restrictions and controls that would not be imposed by the other suppliers who are prepared to provide nuclear technology, at least to Egypt. These agreements, therefore, can justifiably be presented as a big step toward the achievement of tighter non-proliferation controls.

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Jack Marsh and Max Friedersdorf recommend that you do not submit the agreements during this session, or if you do decide to do so, that the submission follow final action on the proliferation bill and presentation of your non-proliferation message.

Jim Cannon thinks it could be damaging to you, and to the agreements, to send them up to Congress at the last minute. He recommends against submission in this session.

There is no doubt about the awkwardness of submitting these agreements in close proximity to the promulgation of broad proliferation policy objectives, to which they constitute exceptions. That is true whether they come before or after your policy declaration. The hazards of submitting the agreements ahead of the policy are set forth above. If they are submitted following your policy declaration, however, we run the risk of at least severe criticism that we have laid out a new policy and the first agreements submitted under that policy are incompatible with it. On balance, I think the principal problem is in connection with the pending proliferation legislation. I do not believe the relationship to your proliferation policy statement is crucial. I recommend, therefore, submission of the agreements in this session immediately following disposition of the pending legislation, either by action on the bill or by setting it aside.

Alternatives For Your Decision

1. That you submit the agreements to Congress now.

2. Alternatively: that you submit the agreements after disposition of the proliferation bill.

3. Alternatively: that you submit the agreements after disposition of the proliferation bill and announcement of your nuclear policy message.

4. Alternatively: that the agreements not be submitted during this session.

If your decision is to submit the agreement at some point during this session (i.e., any of the above alternatives but the last), you should sign the decision memorandum at Tab A.

  1. Summary: Scowcroft summarized for Ford the proposed nuclear agreements with Egypt and Israel that ERDA Administrator Seamans had forwarded, along with by congressional and agency views, for the President’s consideration.

    Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Presidential Country Files for Middle East and South Asia, Box 4, Egypt (14). Confidential. Sent for action. Oakley and Elliott sent the memorandum to Scowcroft under a September 15 covering memorandum, indicating that they had obtained the views of both Marsh and Friedersdorf and included them in the memorandum to Ford. Notations on the covering memorandum in an unknown hand indicate that the memorandum was sent to Ford on September 23. A stamped notation on the first page of Scowcroft’s memorandum indicates that Ford saw it. Ford initialed his approval of the fourth alternative. Tabs A and B are not attached and not found.