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

SUBJECT

  • Nuclear Fuel for Brazil

At Tab A is a recommendation from Gerry Smith,2 supported by State and DOE, that you recommend to the NRC that they approve shipment of the initial loading of low-enriched fuel for Brazil’s Angra I reactor. ACDA does not oppose the recommendation, but has some reservations which are also at Tab A.3

[Page 1068]Our agreement with the Brazilians4 envisaged shipment of the fuel by December 1977 in order to meet the planned start-up date of the reactor in July 1978. [less than 1 line not declassified] the date is likely to slip by as much as one year because of construction problems and bad site selection. Nevertheless, there is no question that the Brazilians feel that we are legally and morally bound to approve shipment by December.

As you will recall, this issue arose when you sent the letter to Geisel last week.5 Our initial strategy was to have made our new proposal to the Brazilians and Germans simultaneously, in order to avoid a recurrence of last February’s incident when the Brazilians accused us to trying to go behind their backs in talks with the Germans. We now fear that there is a high probability that the Germans will tell the Brazilians of our proposal (possibly in a highly distorted form) and that, out of pique, the Brazilians will refuse to invite Gerry Smith or to give the proposal serious consideration. State and Smith feel extremely strongly that the only chance for a fair hearing is for you to remove the Sword of Damocles—the Angra fuel—by confidentially notifying them that you have recommended approval to the NRC.

You should be aware of the risks of this decision. In three areas Brazil does not precisely meet the criteria of the new non-proliferation bill,6 and it is therefore quite possible that the NRC will refuse the license, and/or that the license would be the subject of legal proceedings by anti-nuclear groups. The three areas are: Brazil’s refusal to give us an explicit no-PNE assurance; Brazil’s refusal to accept full scope safeguards; and, the lack of explicit and airtight provisions in the US-Brazil Agreement for Cooperation giving the US a right of veto over the reprocessing of both US-origin and foreign fuel from Brazilian reactors. These are all legal questions that can be interpreted one way or the other. What is clear is that there is a basis here for controversy in Congress, in the courts, and at the NRC over whether approval of this license is consistent with your non-proliferation policy. 7

[Page 1069]Finally, there is the question of whether the Brazilians are more likely to be responsive to our proposal if we withhold the fuel or if we grant it. This is a personal judgment. I can only add that those who have been directly dealing with the Brazilians are united in believing that we should approve the shipment immediately, and that your decision should be conveyed privately and confidentially to the Brazilians by Ambassador Crimmins.

RECOMMENDATION:

That you recommend to the NRC that they approve shipment of this initial loading of low-enriched fuel for Brazil’s Angra I reactor.8

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 6, Brazil, 1–12/77. Secret. Sent for action. In the upper-right hand margin, Carter wrote “Zbig—ok—but: Draft a frank ltr to Giesel, pointing out obstacles after I make the recommendation to NRC. J.C.”
  2. Attached but not printed.
  3. Attached but not printed.
  4. On July 17, 1972, the United States and Brazil signed an agreement whereby the United States would provide low-enriched nuclear fuel to Brazil for its Angra I reactor.
  5. Carter wrote Giesel on October 25 that he was prepared to send Smith to Brazil “to discuss with you our new ideas, or to adopt any other mode you prefer,” on the nuclear question in advance of Carter’s expected visit to Brazil later in November. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Country Chron, Box 5, Brazil, 9–12/77) Geisel replied on October 31 and said he welcomed Smith’s visit. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 6, Brazil, 1–12/77)
  6. Reference is to Carter’s proposal for a Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act which he submitted to Congress on April 27.
  7. To the left of this paragraph, Carter wrote “I presume they meet present criteria. J.”
  8. Carter did not initial either the “Approve” or “Disapprove” option.