447. Memorandum From Ambassador-at-Large and Special Representative for Non-Proliferation Matters Smith to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • Your Meeting with Otto Lambsdorff and the Question of FRG Heavy Water Technology Sale to Argentina

Lambsdorff yesterday said it was especially important for the FRG to sell heavy water technology to Argentina as an accompaniment to its selling reactors which use heavy water.2 German industry needed to include this technology in its offer in order to compete with the Canadians for reactor sales. Recently we have had indications that the Canadians may also offer this technology to gain Argentine reactor sales. Lambsdorff stressed that the FRG would condition the sale on Argentina’s acceptance of safeguards on all Argentine nuclear facilities [Page 1113] (“full-scope”).3 The Canadians have said they would also insist on full-scope safeguards.

Our position has been conveyed to the Germans4 and Canadians.5 Heavy water production technology should be offered only if Argentina defers its reprocessing plans, as well as accepts full-scope safeguards and ratifies the Treaty of Tlatelolco. The basis for our position is not that heavy water technology will enable Argentina to build a bomb, but that this technology will make Argentina independent of sup-plier pressure, thereby removing any lever to get Argentina to defer reprocessing.

I urged Lambsdorff that the Federal Republic not face the U.S. with a fait accompli but to raise the matter at a higher level, and in the meantime we would review the matter. I suggest you ask that we be given an opportunity to review the matter before any final decision is reached by the FRG.

Attached is my request to Tom Pickering for a State-ACDA review.6 (Dr. Mathews is participating.)

Gerard Smith 7
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 4, Argentina, 1/79–1/80. Confidential. A copy was sent to Matthews.
  2. No further record of this meeting has been found.
  3. Telegram 1254 from Paris, January 12, reported that Smith told Hermes that the United States “was pleased by assurances given by FRG that it would not sell heavy water technology without receiving assurances parallel to those requested by US (Tlatelolco plus full scope safeguards plus delay of reprocessing).” The Germans said that the final decision “had not been made,” but “asked why full scope safeguards alone were not enough.” Smith and Pickering argued “that with sensitive facility like reprocessing plant, possibility of abrogation of safeguards was real and that we did not believe it was good idea to introduce reprocessing anywhere at a premature stage.” The U.S. Delegation believed “it is clear that Germans are being pushed by their industry to sell heavy water technology to Argentina and do not want to make deferral of Argentine reprocessing a condition.” Indeed, “Smith categorically restated US opposition to such sale.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790016–1079)
  4. Several months ago George Vest conveyed our position to Ambassador Von Staden [see Document 445]; I reviewed our position with Hermes in Bonn last month [see footnote 3 above] and last week in Vienna I was told by the FRG Governor on the IAEA Board that Schmidt was aware of our position. [Footnote is in the original.]
  5. Not found.
  6. Not attached.
  7. Smith signed the memorandum “Gerry.”