458. Memorandum From Jerry Oplinger of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • Argentine Safeguards: Hoist on our own Petard? (C)

Behind our last minute efforts to persuade the Swiss and Germans to impose full-scope safeguards on Argentina may lurk a nasty dilemma for the U.S. (S)

Unlike Canada, we do not normally require “NPT-type full-scope safeguards; we require “de facto full-scope.” The difference is simply that Canada requires an indefinite commitment to keep everything safeguarded in the future; we only require that everything in country now be under safeguards. The theory behind our looser requirement is that the recipient’s need for continued enriched fuel supply will normally deter subsequent acquisition on unsafeguarded facilities. (C)

But this theory breaks down in the Argentine case; their program is based on heavy water reactors which use unenriched fuel. They have their own uranium, and lack only the capability to produce heavy water in large quantities to reach potential independence from outside [Page 1129]supply. The Swiss are now filling that gap. Unless they agree to the Canadian safeguards formula, the Argentines could build a complete fuel cycle in the future free of safeguards, and thumb their nose at outside suppliers. That is why in this particular case we have strongly backed the Canadian safeguards formula, and are pressing it on the Swiss and Germans. (S)

But we will probably fail. We will then face the safeguards question ourselves. We are negotiating to supply research reactor fuel to Argentina, and a U.S. firm has been awarded over $55 million in key components for the German reactor sale itself. Will we insist on NPT-type safeguards, as we are telling the Swiss and Germans they should do (and lose the business), or will we ignore our own advice and revert to our normal de facto standard? (S)

There will be strong arguments for business as usual; we do not have the leverage to insist since the Argentines can go elsewhere. But we will be accused of applying a double standard, and the Canadians will be severely bent out of shape. In this case, I think we simply must practice what we have been preaching. (S)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Pastor Country File, Box 1, Argentina: 8–12/79. Secret. Sent for information.