[Page 879]

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


  • Storage of Foreign Spent Nuclear Fuel

While we were in London, the NSC Interagency Group on Proliferation was completing the last three major studies assigned by you in PD–8. One of these concerns spent fuel storage. The report is the result of an intensive six-week effort, and contains recommendations which are unanimously supported by State, ACDA and ERDA—an unusual situation on this issue. The conclusion is that the US will have to accept foreign spent fuel as a key incentive if other countries are to agree to forego reprocessing.

Quoting from the summary paper (Tab B):2

“Indefinite deferral of reprocessing within the US and our policy initiatives for other countries to join in this deferral will require a significant increase in spent fuel storage capacity . . .

“The overall concept we envisage is to provide short-term storage for existing reactors (i.e. for approximately ten years) through more efficient use of existing reactor basin storage and through existing or planned away-from-reactor storage facilities. Long-term storage (i.e. after about ten years of out-of-reactor storage) would be provided in regional, international storage facilities; one for the EC area, one for Japan and Pacific Basin, and one for US utilities and US foreign customers, as needed. To bring this about, the US Government will have to (1) take the lead in working with foreign customers to expand capacity of existing reactor storage basins; (2) make provisions for US and foreign near-term storage shortfalls in the US; (3) develop long-term storage facilities in the US that will handle fuel from foreign as well as US utilities; and, (4) initiate concrete steps to establish other international storage areas.”

While you may not choose to approve all of the options the Group has recommended, it does seem clear that until you have had an opportunity to study their proposals, we should not lock ourselves into a public position which would rule out any storage of foreign spent fuel in the US. Therefore, I have drafted for your approval (Tab A),3 a proposed response should this [Page 880]issue arise at your press conference today. It leaves you flexibility for whatever policy you may subsequently adopt.

One final note, concerning the political acceptability of receiving foreign spent fuel. You may be interested in the memorandum of conversation at Tab C.4 It summarizes the results of a meeting between members of the Executive Branch, and environmentalist and anti-nuclear leaders. This is the group which would lead any opposition on this issue. As you can see, they generally support the idea of such a policy as a favorable tradeoff against reprocessing.


That you approve the formulation at Tab A for public treatment of this issue for the immediate future.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, Box 4, PD–08 [1]. No classification marking. In the upper right-hand corner of the first page of the memorandum, Carter wrote “Zbig. Get me a brief memo—perhaps with photos or sketches & maps showing me what we’re doing now with wastes. JC.”
  2. Attached but not printed.
  3. Attached but not printed.
  4. Not attached.