395. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter1


  • Non-Proliferation Policy—Report of Gerry Smith (U)

Attached are three papers from Gerry Smith which together comprise his final report to you on non-proliferation policy:

—A report (Tab A) on his explorations with Europe and Japan of a possible bargain in which the US would relax its constraints on their reprocessing and plutonium programs in return for greater cooperation in dealing with problem countries. He concludes that such a deal cannot be struck “within the strict framework of the April 1977 policy.”2 (C)

—A longer paper (Tab B) giving his overall assessment and recommendations on how our policy should be changed. (C)

—A brief memorandum (Tab C) urging that priority attention be given to the Israeli weapons program and the negotiation of a CTB. (S)

These papers cover a lot of territory, but two issues are central: (a) how to deal more effectively with problem countries, like Pakistan and Argentina, where proliferation risks are immediate or around the corner, and (b) the relevance of global constraints on reprocessing and plutonium, which affect important Allied programs, to such risks. (C)

Smith believes that we have put too much emphasis on denying access to sensitive material and technology, and should focus more on proliferation motives through the resolution of disputes and by enhancing security arrangements. The alternative view, elaborated in PRM–15,3 is that where motives and technological capability coincide, proliferation will almost certainly result; motives are the most volatile and least controllable factor, and access to materials and technology the most amenable to short-term control. (C)

While he acknowledges that economic developments since 1977 have strongly confirmed US arguments that reprocessing and plutonium fuels should be deferred, Smith believes that the European and [Page 1005] Japanese programs present no significant proliferation threat, and that we must relax our controls there in order to gain their cooperation in withholding sensitive materials and technology from problem countries. The alternative view is that a more permissive plutonium policy toward Europe and Japan would inevitably increase both proliferation risks, and political resentment, in the rest of the world. (C)

These and many other questions addressed in Smith’s analysis were debated extensively in 1977. It is entirely appropriate that they should be examined again in the light of our experience over the past four years. Smith’s present conclusions would be contested by many, but this is an important and well-argued brief for one point of view. (C)

Tab A

Memorandum From Ambassador-at-Large and Special Representative for Non-Proliferation Matters Smith to President Carter 4


  • Non-Proliferation Policy after INFCE


In June, you authorized me to explore with major European allies and Japan on a personal and non-committal basis arrangements by which they might agree to greater cooperation in strengthening the non-proliferation regime and limiting reprocessing of spent fuel and use of plutonium.5 The purpose was to clarify what we might expect from our allies in return for greater predictability in exercise of consent rights over the use of US-origin fuel. On the basis of such clarification, we would be better able to develop positions for renegotiation of agreements for cooperation with EURATOM, Japan, and other countries, as required by the NNPA. As you requested, here are the results of the explorations.


In a series of discussions with senior nuclear and foreign policy officials of the UK, France, the FRG, and Japan, I put forward for their [Page 1006] consideration a regime for the next 10–15 years in which those countries would:

—defer commitments to thermal recycle;

—limit new reprocessing capacity to that required for breeders, and limit separation of plutonium to avoid unnecessary stockpiling and pressure for thermal recycle;

—support development of an effective International Plutonium Storage regime, and avoid excess national stockpiles of plutonium;

—agree to US consent rights, as called for in the NNPA, including their continuation over material after use in breeder RD&D programs;

—increase commitments to spent fuel storage as an alternative to reprocessing;

—require full-scope safeguards as a condition of new supply commitments and improve cooperation in dealing with problem countries;

—cooperate to make reprocessing more proliferation-resistant, to improve the “once-through” fuel cycle, to limit future enrichment capacity to production of low enriched uranium only, and to improve IAEA safeguards through financial, technical and political support.


I suggested that in such a regime the US might:

—adopt predictable ground rules for exercise of consent rights over reprocessing and plutonium use in specified breeder and other advanced reactor RD&D programs;

—grant generic authorizations to reprocessing in the UK and France for other countries that have good non-proliferation credentials, no spent fuel storage alternative, or where it is in our non-proliferation interest to remove spent fuel.

The regime defined above, which you approved as a basis for exploration but without decision as to its ultimate acceptability, was drawn up after extended review within the Executive Branch. Our effort had been to identify a position for reprocessing and plutonium use in Europe and Japan that would meet the near-term requirements of those countries, avoid damaging precedents for other countries, and evoke greater support from Allies in dealing with countries of near-term proliferation concern.


The Allies recognize the need to increase efforts with problem countries. They believe the more promising approach is political (dealing with motivations of problem countries) rather than technical (trying to stop or slow access to sensitive technologies and materials). They may be willing to adopt NPT-type full-scope safeguards as a requirement for new supply commitments, in return for our easing interference in their programs.

The Allies agree that national stockpiles of excess plutonium should be avoided. They support establishment of an international plu[Page 1007]tonium storage regime, with some skepticism that a truly effective IPS would be acceptable to the countries we worry about most. This skepticism may be well-placed, but I believe we should work actively to try to develop the best possible IPS.


The EURATOM countries (where we now have no consent rights) are very loath to give us such controls. They resist proposals that they set a “good example” to the rest of the world by limiting their domestic programs for reprocessing and plutonium use. They see a right of consent as an infringement of their national sovereignties, as giving us a “supervisory” role over their programs, and as introducing an arbitrary and unpredictable element in their nuclear power planning. They foresee our generic approach as requiring impossible precision in forecasting the plutonium needs of their breeder programs.

In the end we may be able to get the Europeans to grant formal consent rights provided it is clear that they would be exercised in a very general way. The UK, France, and the FRG, unlike the US, are committed to reprocessing and to developing options for breeders and thermal recycle. They believe these programs are indispensable for their energy security, and that their decisions on and pursuit of these programs are national issues not subject to compromise with the US. They believe we overemphasize the dangers of the civil nuclear fuel cycle and that decisions they take with respect to their own programs are not relevant to dealing with the problem countries.


Japan will not much longer tolerate asymmetry between USEURATOM and US-Japan nuclear relations. Our case-by-case exercise of consent rights in Japan is a constant source of friction. We are unlikely to get control over use of US supplies in Europe comparable to that which we have in Japan. If unable to get consent rights in Europe, or able to get them only under an agreement providing for liberal application, we will have to agree to the same with Japan. We probably will have to accept Japan’s having a commercial scale reprocessing plant, and agree to some generic approvals for reprocessing of Japanese fuel in Europe and use in Japan of some of the separated plutonium.


I believe we cannot accomplish the foregoing within the strict framework of the April 1977 policy. For this and other reasons, the direction of our non-proliferation effort should be reviewed. I think the NNPA should be amended to restore a positive attitude toward inter[Page 1008]national cooperation on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. I expand on these ideas in the attached paper.

Gerard Smith6

Tab B

Paper Prepared by Ambassador-at-Large and Special Representative for Non-Proliferation Matters Smith 7


Executive Summary


In light of concerns that growth of civil nuclear power and the advent of wide-spread trade in weapons-usable materials would lead to an increased proliferation of nuclear explosives, initiatives were taken by the Administration and Congress to foreclose the electric power route to nuclear explosives. They included i) the President’s April 1977 Policy Statement,8 deferring indefinitely commercial reprocessing and commercial-scale breeders in the United States and continuing a moratorium on exports of enrichment and reprocessing technology, and ii) enactment of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act of 1978 (NNPA), which established detailed criteria and procedures to govern United States nuclear export and international cooperative activities. Studies were started (the International Fuel Cycle Evaluation (INFCE) and the Non-Proliferation Alternatives System Assessment Program) to seek ways of minimizing the proliferation risks inherent in nuclear electric power generation.

There resulted an increased awareness of proliferation risks and a willingness of major nuclear suppliers to defer new reprocessing export commitments and, generally, to cooperate in restricting exports where proliferation risks could be demonstrated (e.g., Pakistan). However, serious concern persists about Pakistan. Acquisition of sensitive facilities by Iraq, Argentina and Brazil also creates proliferation risks. [Page 1009] We have been unable to persuade these countries and India, South Africa and Israel to accept fullscope safeguards.

Nations with the most advanced nuclear power programs (in Europe and Japan), which are not of proliferation concern, resent our efforts to impose stringent requirements on them which have resulted in uncertain nuclear supply. They now see us as insensitive to their critical energy needs. They have not agreed to condition exports, or even new export commitments, on the recipient’s accepting full-scope safeguards or foreswearing national enrichment or reprocessing facilities. While the reduction in the growth of nuclear electric power supports U.S. arguments that reprocessing, thermal recycle and breeder commercialization can be prudently deferred, it has put governments committed to nuclear power and their nuclear industries on the defensive and as a result spirited defenses of these options have been mounted.


Our approach to non-proliferation has been too single-minded. Inadequate consideration has been given to linkages between proliferation and other foreign policy and security interests. In particular, where other interests have appeared to conflict with non-proliferation constraints—in the Tarapur and Pakistan cases, for example—the former have appeared to prevail (although our actions in these cases were supportive of or consistent with our non-proliferation interests).

U.S. non-proliferation consideration led to legislative and policy constraints of general application, including a highly restrictive export policy, disregarding the fact that proliferation risks vary greatly from one country to another, and that the energy security requirements of other major industrial nations differ from America’s. We should adopt a more balanced approach which recognizes the motivations which lead nations to acquire nuclear explosives. No system of export constraints can substitute for elimination of these motivations, by resolution of international disputes, security guarantees and reduction of the prestige value of nuclear weapons.


There are only five states of near-term proliferation concern—India, Iraq, [less than 1 line not declassified], Pakistan and South Africa—with perhaps a half dozen others of concern in the longer term. While as a matter of general policy accepted international practice calls for equal treatment for all states, distinctions where risks are gravest are the only way to achieve the support of major Allies and other nuclear suppliers in coping with proliferation risks effectively.

We need more flexibility in dealing with close Allies on export, reprocessing and retransfer requests, and in nuclear cooperation negotia[Page 1010]tions. We need policies which are more sensitive to Allies’ energy needs, are consistently and predictably implemented, and are neither unilaterally derived nor based on threats of denial.

There is virtually no support for a “throw away” fuel cycle, abandoning the energy value of the plutonium and uranium in spent fuel. We should recognize that regrettably R&D and pilot scale reprocessing plants are a prudent near-term step to nations with medium or long-term interest in reprocessing for energy purposes, and that technical fixes we once thought to have promise do not now appear viable.

It is illusory to believe we have much leverage to force our views on foreign nations when other supply sources are available and it is we, not the recipients, who are seeking to alter existing terms of nuclear trade.


What leverage we do have has been undercut by i) the ambiguity of American government policy on nuclear power as an energy option, ii) the divisions in the country on this issue, and iii) our speaking on non-proliferation with different voices—those of the Administration, the NRC and the Congress. In particular, with the export licensing function residing in the NRC, other nations lack confidence that undertakings of the Executive Branch will be fulfilled in a timely and predictable manner. Our unilaterally established policy and legislative requirements have generated concerns about security of supply and have driven foreign nations to increased fuel cycle independence, further reducing any residual leverage for our supply position. A policy of export restraint can succeed only if suppliers act in concert. It is not likely that all supplies will accept our policies. Measures to enhance security of supply are likely to be more effective in inducing nations to forego reprocessing and enrichment technology and breeders than threats of denial or highly restrictive conditions.


I recommend that we:

1. Consider proliferation problems primarily as international security issues;

2. Center non-proliferation efforts on problem countries—those where early explosive acquisition seems probable;

3. Increase flexibility in dealing with major Allies (EURATOM and Japan);

4. Recognize that reprocessing will occur and

—support an international plutonium storage system,

—rely on economic factors rather than U.S. pressures to dissuade nations from adopting thermal recycle,

—urge other suppliers to condition new nuclear supply commitments on full-scope safeguards, and

[Page 1011]

—give increased support to IAEA safeguards;

5. Enhance U.S. nuclear supply reliability by

—transferring the export licensing function from NRC to the Executive Branch,

—eliminating duplicative reviews of export activities to allow some predictability concerning U.S. actions in authorizing requests, and

—eliminating certain sanctions provisions in the NNPA and the Foreign Assistance Act.

Gerard Smith 9

Tab C

Letter From Ambassador-at-Large and Special Representative for Non-Proliferation Matters Smith to President Carter 10

Dear Mr. President:

I am sending along separately my final report. But I would like to stress two matters which I believe to be central to success for your non-proliferation policy—[less than 1 line not declassified] and a Comprehensive Test Ban.

While we have urged our allies to set a good example by limiting their power programs’ [less than 1 line not declassified] we have set a bad example by acquiescing in [less than 1 line not declassified] While we, by law, cut off aid to Pakistan11 [1 line not declassified] a large percentage of American [less than 1 line not declassified] The international community is well aware of this inconsistency and discrimination. I trust [less than 1 line not declassified] can be introduced into the Middle East negotiations.

CTB—For ten years we have had an obligation under NPT to get on with arms control and disarmament. That was the quid pro quo for the non-weapons states to forego weapons. As clearly demonstrated during last August’s NPT Review Conference, a large number of states believe we have failed to keep our end of the bargain. That belief bodes badly for the credibility of your program and the life expectancy of the NPT regime. That argues strongly for ending the subordination of our proliferation interest to possibly marginal weapons refinement.

[Page 1012]

As I leave government, I urge you to give priority to these two often overlooked aspects of your great non-proliferation effort.

Again, may I say how much I appreciate having had the privilege, opportunity and experience of serving under your fine leadership.


Gerard Smith12
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Global Issues, Oplinger/Bloomfield File, Box 52, Proliferation: Smith, Gerard, 8–11/80. Secret. Sent for information. In the upper right-hand corner of the first page of the memorandum, Carter wrote “Zbig. How best to present alternatives to next administration? J.”
  2. See Document 330 and footnote 3, Document 338.
  3. See Document 317.
  4. Confidential.
  5. See Document 383.
  6. Smith signed the memorandum “Gerry.”.
  7. Confidential.
  8. See footnote 3, Document 338.
  9. Smith signed the paper “Gerry.”
  10. Secret. Brzezinski initialed the upper right-hand corner of the memorandum.
  11. The United States cut off aid to Pakistan on April 5, 1979. See Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XIX, South Asia.
  12. Smith signed the letter “Gerry.”