6. Editorial Note

On March 10, 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act of 1978 into law. The bill, which he had sent to Congress on April 27, 1977, incorporated the Symington and Glenn Amendments to the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961. The Symington Amendment, which was section 305 of P.L. 94–329, the International Security and Arms Export Control Act of 1976, added section 669 to Chapter 3 of Part III of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961. The Amendment barred U.S. economic and military assistance to any country that imported or exported spent nuclear fuel reprocessing or uranium enrichment equipment, materials, or technology but failed to comply with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) full-scope safeguards. The Glenn Amendment, which was section 12 of P.L. 95–242, the International Security Assistance Act of 1977, enacted on August 4, 1977, revised section 699 to Chapter 3 of Part III of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961. The Glenn Amendment reaffirmed the provisions of the Symington Amendment in regard to uranium enrichment. However, the Amendment implicitly equated the reprocessing of spent fuel with proliferation, as the law required the cutoff of U.S. economic and military aid to any country that imported or exported reprocessing equipment, materials, or technology whether or not the country complied with IAEA safeguards.

The Symington and Glenn Amendments both conferred on the President the power to waive the cutoff of aid but retained for Congress the power to override such a waiver. Under the Symington Amendment, in order to issue a waiver the President needed to determine that a cutoff of aid “would have a serious adverse effect on vital United States interests” and to have received assurances from the country in question that it would not seek nuclear weapons capability. In order to forestall a cutoff under the Glenn Amendment, the President needed to determine that it “would be seriously prejudicial to the achievement of United States non-proliferation objectives or otherwise jeopardize the common defense and security.”

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act of 1978, P.L. 95–242, expanded the provisions of the Glenn Amendment to include a U.S. commitment to develop an international fuel bank (the International Nuclear Fuel Authority), from which purchasers could obtain nuclear fuel without political preconditions. The act also created the concept of “sensitive nuclear technology,” which was defined as information which was “not available to the pubic and which is important to the design, construction, fabrication, operation or maintenance of a uranium enrichment or nuclear fuel reprocessing facility or a facility for the production of heavy water.” The act included the same stricture against [Page 14] reprocessing spent fuel that was in the Glenn Amendment, as well as the same Presidential waiver procedures.

After signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act into law, President Carter declared that he recognized that “nuclear power technologies now in operation, which do not involve nuclear fuel reprocessing, can and must provide an important source of energy for our Nation and for their countries. Our current once-through fuel cycle is and will continue to be a significant contributor to our energy supply.” (Public Papers: Carter, 1978, Book I, p. 501)