[Page 904]

352. Memorandum of Conversation1

PARTICIPANTS

  • The President
  • Gerard Smith, Ambassador-at-Large for U.S. Nuclear Proliferation Matters
  • Michael Armacost, NSC Staff Member

Ambassador Smith indicated that he wished to talk briefly about what he might face in the negotiations with Japan over the Tokai issue. He noted that one should not expect them to return from this round of talks with an agreement signed and sealed—with which the President readily agreed. The Japanese, Smith said, are likely to raise a number of specific questions which will require a U.S. response; above all, whether we will be prepared to assist them in obtaining plutonium to meet their advanced reactor requirements by shipping plutonium directly or approving shipments from the UK or France. In addition, the Japanese will face difficulties in determining what type of conversion plant to build since different facilities would be required to handle the product of conventional reprocessing on the one hand and a coprocessed product on the other.

The President emphasized that Congress at present feels very strongly about limiting U.S. exports of plutonium. Therefore, Smith should indicate to Fukuda and other Japanese representatives that we cannot guarantee Congressional approval for any arrangements which would provide for U.S. exports of plutonium. The President replied that he would be prepared to join Smith in discussing this matter with Congressional leaders to insure that the legislation makes provisions to handle Japan’s unique problem. He indicated that Smith could tell Fukuda that he would undertake such efforts with the leadership on the Hill.

Smith then noted that we are asking the Japanese to undertake a very large-scale safeguard experiment, the cost of which may run as high as $15 million. He asked the President whether as the negotiator, he had any leeway to accept some sharing of these costs. The President indicated that this would be very hard to sell with Congress and the public in view of the fact that we have been doing major experimentation in this field for years without requesting others to share the financial burden. Smith suggested that one step short of direct cost-sharing would involve transfer by the U.S. of some advanced instrumentation [Page 905]to the IAEA which in turn could make it available for us by the Japanese at Tokai. The President indicated that he would have no difficulty with this sort of arrangement.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 35, Memcons: President, 8/77. Secret. The meeting took place in the Oval Office.