452. Memorandum from the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to Secretary of State Vance 1

SUBJECT

  • Canadian Heavy Water Technology to Argentina (C)

Canada’s recent decision to transfer heavy water technology to Argentina without a requirement that the Argentine reprocessing program be deferred represents a serious defeat for the position we have consistently taken on this question.2 The impact upon our more general position with respect to national reprocessing plants is likely to be magnified because Canada has been such a close partner with us in non-proliferation matters. (C)

It would be extremely difficult for the Canadian Government to reverse this decision, but there is a fall-back position they could adopt which would still maintain substantial control over reprocessing activities in Argentina. If Canada were to require an understanding that any heavy water produced in Argentina following the transfer would be presumed to be based upon Canadian technology, and that any special nuclear material irradiated through the use of such heavy water required prior Canadian consent before reprocessing, substantial control would be maintained while permitting Argentina the option of building its proposed facility. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act [Page 1120]would require us to obtain such a provision if we were to make such a transfer, and we would not be asking Canada to do more than we would be required to do under our own legislation. The precedent involved would not affect future Canadian transfers of heavy water, only production technology. (C)

Unless you perceive substantial objections to such an approach, I suggest that you carry out a demarche3 of this kind within the next week. The prospects for success may not be bright, but I believe we have an obligation to try. (C)

Zbigniew Brzezinski
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Pastor Country File, Box 1, Argentina: 8–12/79. Confidential. Copies were sent to Schlesinger and Seignious.
  2. Telegram 5842 from Buenos Aires, July 19, reported that press reports from the Toronto Star indicated that the Government of Canada had renewed its pledge to sell a nuclear reactor to Argentina as well as a heavy water plant “without additional clauses or safeguards.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790329–0999)
  3. Brzezinski wrote “*” after the word “demarche” and wrote “With the Canadians wanting a visit from the President (who is concerned about this matter) it is a propitious” [the remainder of Brzezinski’s comment is missing in the original].