141. Presidential Review Memorandum/NSC–161


  • The Vice President
  • The Secretary of State
  • The Secretary of Defense


  • The Director of Central Intelligence
  • The Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
  • The Director, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency
  • The Administrator, Energy Research Development Administration


  • Nuclear Testing
[Page 309]

In order to follow up immediately on my remarks concerning the elimination of testing of all nuclear devices,2 I wish the Special Coordination Committee to undertake a preliminary review of the major issues involved in the termination of all nuclear testing.

This initial review should be completed for my consideration by February 9 and should include:

1. A preliminary analysis of the major problems of verifying a complete ban on all testing weapons as well as peaceful nuclear explosions by the US and the USSR, and other nuclear powers.

2. The effect of such a ban on US weapons testing programs as well as the likely effect on Soviet programs.

3. Alternative diplomatic scenarios that might be adopted to move towards this goal, including the advantages and disadvantages of several alternatives: a unilateral US moratorium; a bilateral US/Soviet moratorium; and approaches to other nuclear powers to join such a moratorium. Consideration should also be given to a more permanent arrangement; for example, amending the Limited Test Ban Treaty.3 There should also be an examination of the advantages and disadvantages of moving ahead with or holding the Threshold Test Ban Treaty4 and PNE Agreement5 already before the Congress.

Jimmy Carter
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, Box 37, PRM/NSC–16 [1]. Secret. The memorandum was attached to a January 25 cover memorandum from Brzezinski which advised Carter to “immediately” sign the PRM in order to “show the seriousness of your purpose” to end all nuclear tests. (Ibid.)
  2. See Document 140.
  3. The 1963 Limited Test Ban Treaty among the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union prohibited nuclear weapons tests or any other nuclear explosion in the atmosphere, outer space, and underwater.
  4. The 1974 Threshold Test Ban Treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union prohibited nuclear weapons tests underground as well as tests with a nuclear yield exceeding 150 kilotons.
  5. Along with the Threshold Test Ban Treaty, the 1976 PNE Agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union allowed each country to conduct underground nuclear explosions for peaceful purposes. The two countries, however, were prohibited from enjoying “weapons-related benefits” from such explosions.