430. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Venezuela1

26891. Subject: Venezuelan Concern Over IAEA Nuclear Material. Ref: Caracas 209.2

[Page 1079]

1. In response to Reftel, Embassy is requested to raise the following points with Taborda3 and appropriate members of the government to clarify US position.

A. The president is very appreciative of President Perez’ personal support on non-proliferation.

B. The US does not repeat not want to indicate any falling off of our support for the gift of uranium to Venezuela.

C. It is especially because Venezuela is seen as a leading nation on non-proliferation issues that its failure to conclude safeguards agreement pursuant to the NPT and the Treaty of Tlatelolco can be perceived as a problem. In particular, other countries within the region may be less inclined to take the final steps necessary to bring Tlatelolco into effect.

D. While we understand that safeguards are applied under the existing trilateral (US/IAEA/Venezuela) agreement concrete movement on the safeguards agreement pursuant to the NPT and Tlatelolco would further enhance Venezuela’s traditional non-proliferation stand.

2. The US reminder about need for NRC approval, was in no way intended as threat to withhold material but seemed a necessary caution to prevent assumption by gov that US executive branch decision to allocate gift to Venezuela would per se assure export. Should more specific questions be raised again by Taborda or any other gov official, or if Embassy feels response is necessary on Taborda remarks reported Reftel, Embassy should draw on following information. Draft agreement on transfer of fuel will be cabled in near future.

3. NRC is an independent regulatory agency, not repeat not part of executive branch. In reviewing export license applications, NRC obtains executive branch recommendations, but is not obliged to follow them (although normally has done so). Several factors are taken into account by executive branch agencies in developing executive branch recommendations and by NRC independently in reaching its decisions on license issuance. Among these factors is recipient nation’s position on nuclear non-proliferation; in this connection, Venezuela’s support of US non-proliferation policies would naturally be a strong positive influence. Other factors considered include, inter alia, whether an NPT party has fulfilled its NPT commitment to conclude NPT safeguards agreement; the fact that Venezuela has not yet done so would inevitably be a negative factor. We cannot predict what weight the NRC would give various factors in any particular case, but gov conclusion of NPT safeguards agreement by time export license application is submitted is certainly highly desirable. However, if this proves impossible, [Page 1080] we believe that likelihood of favorable NRC action will be strengthened if gov meanwhile makes significant progress in negotiating the required agreement. We have no reason to believe that NRC would give factors different relative weights depending on whether or not any proposed export was material to be provided as gift through IAEA.

4. With respect to executive branch recommendation to NRC to license another shipment of slightly enriched uranium (under 3 percent U-235) for India’s Tarapur nuclear power plant, as Embassy recognized this is not a gift. Furthermore, it is worth noting that the 1963 agreement for cooperation under which the Tarapur reactors were supplied is unique in that it provides for use of only US-supplied fuel for the life of the reactors, and India contracted in 1966 with the US atomic energy commission for long-term supply of enrichment services. India has provided US with written assurance that all nuclear material supplied for or produced in Tarapur will be used only to meet the needs of the Tarapur plant (thus precluding any use of such material for any nuclear explosive device). In view of this, plus various controls contained in agreement for cooperation on Tarapur, India currently meets immediate export criteria contained in pending non-proliferation legislation. President Carter has strongly urged India to accept full-scope IAEA safeguards on all its nuclear activities especially in light of pending legislation. France, of course, is a nuclear-weapon-state, thus not all non-proliferation controls applicable to US exports to non-nuclear-weapon-states are relevant to exports to France. However, exports to France are subject to USEURATOM agreement which contains guarantee of use for peaceful purposes only and requirement for multinational EURATOM safeguards; and France is currently negotiating safeguards agreement with IAEA which would provide for IAEA safeguards with respect to certain French civil nuclear activities.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780048–0877. Confidential; Priority. Drafted by Lorna Watson (ACDA/NP/NX) and McFadden (DOE); cleared by Anne Jillson (IO/SCT), Robert Kelley (S/AS), Louis Cecchini (OES), Robert Sloane (L/OES), and William Sergeant (ARA); and approved by Charles Van Doren (ACDA).
  2. Telegram 209 from Caracas, January 10, reported that the United States, per a December request by the Venezuelan government for special nuclear materials, was “prepared to provide a gift of uranium” to Venezuela. Still, Ambassador Vaky relayed “US concern that Venezuela has not yet fulfilled its obligations under the NPT to conclude a safeguards agreement” to Venezuelan Foreign Minister Simon Alberto Consalvi. The United States, Vaky stressed, “urged early completion of these negotiations, and noted that the status of the agreement would be taken into account when the Nuclear Regulatory Commission reviews the required export license” for the gift of uranium. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780015–0479)
  3. Admiral Jesus Taborda of the Venezuelan National Nuclear Council.