328. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter 1


  • Summary of PRC Meeting on Nuclear Proliferation (PRM–15)

The meeting2 began with a summary by Nye, of the two principal conclusions of the review:3 that the U.S. should seek a pause in international nuclear developments which make weapons useable material more available; and that the pause would be used for an international nuclear fuel cycle evaluation program (hereinafter FCEP) in which suppliers and recipients jointly participate.

FCEP and Reprocessing: The Key Question

Discussion opened on the principal issue: What should the FCEP evaluate? Should the evaluation concern itself with improvements (safety and safeguards) in reprocessing? Or, should it concern alternatives to reprocessing and to other sensitive technologies which make plutonium or HEU directly available? Views were presented on what should be done about domestic reprocessing, but without reaching any conclusion. The discussion quickly turned to the question of what the FCEP should evaluate and how it should be presented to the international community. ERDA felt that in order to be “credible” the evaluation would have to include reprocessing, (Option a, Recommendation 3, p. 16). State felt that while FCEP should concentrate on alternatives, that we could not present the international program as one in which reprocessing is a closed question to which we already know the answer. Therefore, the evaluation would have to include reprocessing abroad, [Page 822] although we would cancel it domestically so as to provide a strong “educational” signal.

Brown argued that this position raised the question of “who would co-opt whom”. He felt that State’s position amounted to saying “we won’t reprocess, but you can” whereas we could be saying “we won’t, and we don’t believe you should because it’s dangerous and perhaps suicidal”. Brown doubts that State’s position is a correct tactic: “If we are unable to head off the French, the Germans, and the Japanese then we are simply indulging in a self-denial”. He stated that even Option b as presented in the PRM isn’t strong enough: “the tone of the paper doesn’t satisfy me” and that the only tactic which holds some chance of success would be to take a very tough position against reprocessing. He acknowledged that this is a risky approach and we have no way of knowing whether it will work.

Schlesinger agreed that we will have to spend “considerable diplomatic capital” and added “the only way to head off the French is to deal with the breeder, just playing around with safeguards isn’t going to do it”. However, he is even less optimistic than Brown that our efforts will be successful. On being asked to sum up his position, Brown said that the FCEP should focus “exclusively on alternative fuel cycles not requiring separation of plutonium”. When asked by others how he would prevent other nations from going ahead with reprocessing he replied: “we will let them go ahead to the extent we can’t help it”. Warnke agreed with Brown. Schlesinger did not disagree but was highly skeptical of its chances of success. Nye continued to argue that some reprocessing was required “as the bait on the hook” and to answer “technical and institutional” questions.

International Plutonium Storage

The group reached quick agreement that we not continue to pursue the concept of an IAEA plutonium storage regime as proposed in the October 28th statement4 (Recommendation 5, p. 18, Option b).

Full Scope Safeguards

All agencies firmly agreed that we should adopt full scope safeguards as a “goal”, the discussion concerned whether we should adopt them unilaterally. ACDA took the lead in strongly arguing that we do (Option a, Recommendation 13, p. 34) while State argued for a modified version (Option b) under which a nation would not have to place existing sensitive material under safeguard and could acquire an unsafeguarded sensitive facility by simply terminating—but not techni[Page 823]cally breaking—its agreement with us. State believes that this option would be more acceptable to non-NPT parties, particularly, Israel.

Aaron argued that the Israelis would never agree to this, and that therefore we might as well adopt full scope safeguards because of its symbolic significance. ERDA disliked both Options a and b and favored Option d—continuation of present policy. Schlesinger moved from a position of uncertainty to one of outright disapproval of full scope safeguards, warning that it was “not a risk but a certainty” that we would lose some of the market share we now have if we adopt full scope. Brzezinski commented that we have to be much more explicit in the assumptions we make as to the probable reactions of other nations to our policies. We have to be more precise about the political price we may have to pay. The discussion ended with no consensus, but with some leaning toward full scope safeguards.

Application of New Criteria

The group then considered how new export criteria would be imposed on existing agreements for cooperation (Recommendation 19, p. 41). State favored the position that the law should require the President to determine after a specified time whether supply to a given nation could continue if all the criteria are not met (Option b). ERDA on the other hand favored Option c which would simply make the new criteria “negotiating goals” which would be applied to existing agreements only when there is complete supplier acceptance. ERDA feels that “we no longer have much market control, its timely to use what we’ve got”.

EURODIF Purchase

The question of whether the United States should purchase shares in EURODIF (multinationally-owned enrichment enterprise in France) was discussed. State was alone in urging that the Administration seek legislative authority to do so. Others argued that this proposal needs more study, particularly Schlesinger who argued that this plan would amount to saying that “we don’t trust ourselves” and that it would be a direct attempt to “circumvent U.S. law and U.S. policy”. All then agreed on the need for further study, with State urging that it be treated as a “matter of urgency”.

Legislative Approach

There was a swift and complete consensus that the Administration produce its own comprehensive legislative package, rather than attempting to work through bills already introduced.

Open Season

On the question of whether ERDA should hold an open season (Recommendation 7, p. 24) when customers would be allowed to cancel [Page 824] or defer enrichment commitments made on the basis of unrealistic demand expectations, there was complete agreement, except from Schlesinger who felt that we had worked hard to get long term contracts, and now we should stick to them.

Follow-On Needs

Nye summarized the issues which urgently need further work, including establishing the international diplomatic framework for the pause and the FCEP, and the budgetary and program decisions necessary to implement whatever policy is agreed upon. He felt that the former task should be carried out by a task force chaired by State, and the latter by one chaired by ERDA. Both task forces would be subcommittees of the follow-on interagency group.


OMB, was not represented at the meeting, but did submit written comments5 which focus on “the lack of necessary analysis” in several areas, but particularly as regards the fuel assurances and spent fuel storage incentive programs. OMB feels that questions of scope, costs, criteria, effectiveness and domestic impacts have not been adequately defined and that therefore the studies proposed in Recommendations 4, 8 and 10 be clearly recognized as studies and not as plans for implementation. OMB also favors continued funding for some reprocessing activities (Option a, Recommendation 3).


Areas of Agreement 6

There is consensus (or very nearly so) on these PRM recommendations.

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Number Subject Comments
1 (p. 13) Pause ERDA notes its belief that if Japan participates in the evaluation program the Tokai plant should be allowed to operate.
2 (p. 14) International Evaluation Program - - - - - -
4 (p. 17) Spent Fuel Storage OMB feels that much more must be learned about the parameters, costs and consequences of such a program, but does not disagree so long as the study is clearly a study and not a plan of implementation.
5 (p. 18) International Plutonium Storage Consensus at PRC on option b—de-emphasize efforts to establish international plutonium storage. (This reverses a recommendation made by Ford in the October 28th statement.)
7 (p. 24) Fuel Assurance—Further Study and Open Season7 All agencies agree on open season (allowing both cancellation and deferral) but at PRC meeting Schlesinger disapproved, feeling that this would be “administrative self-abuse” and “would not help to establish our credibility as a supplier”.
8 (p. 24) Fuel Assurance—Revised Terms for Enrichment Contracts - - - - - -
9 (p. 25) Fuel Assurance—Presidential Override of NRC Decisions - - - - - -
10 (p. 26) Fuel Assurance Study OMB feels that on this as on 7 and 8 above, that the PRM goes too far toward implementation and does not adequately reflect the current lack of programatic development and budgetary analysis. OMB has no problem with a thorough study however.
11 (p. 27) Investment in EURODIF/COREDIF8 Consensus was reached after PRC discussion that this proposal will not be adopted at this time but will be studied as one of many possible international fuel assurances to be analyzed in 10 above—the study to be conducted as a matter of urgency.
12 (p. 29) Sanctions There is strong agreement on this package with the exception that ERDA “questions the wisdom” of the proposed legislation since it might “unduly limit Presidential flexibility”.
13 (p. 34) Safeguard Policy if agreed by other Suppliers - - - - - -
15 (p. 35) Provisions re PNEs 9 This issue is closely tied to, and should be considered in connection with the question of required safeguards (Recommendation 14).
16 (p. 36) Other Provisions in New Agreements - - - - - -
17 (p. 37) Criteria Applied to Existing Agreements ERDA has problems with the reprocessing criterion which it feels “could immediately result in delays in export”.
18 (p. 39) Upgrading Existing Agreements OMB approves if it is understood that the use of fuel assurances as “primary incentive” in any negotiation be contingent upon Presidential approval of recommendations made in the study required by 10 above.
20 (p. 43) Legislative Package10 Vigorous unanimity at PRC that Administration should develop its own comprehensive bill.
21 (p. 49) Non-Nuclear Alternatives All agencies approve this recommendation, but it is substantially weaker than position taken during campaign. Stronger alterna-tive (World Energy Conference, or some other) is proposed.
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, Box 60, PRC 007, 3/16/77, Nuclear Proliferation. Secret; Sensitive. Brzezinski did not initial the memorandum.
  2. No minutes or summary of conclusions of the March 16 meeting were found.
  3. See Document 325.
  4. See footnote 2, Document 317.
  5. Not found.
  6. Secret.
  7. Debated at PRC. [Footnote is in the original.]
  8. Debated at PRC. [Footnote is in the original.]
  9. Debated at PRC. [Footnote is in the original.]
  10. Debated at PRC. [Footnote is in the original.]