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

SUBJECT

  • Approval of Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) Exports (U)

The attached package2 from the NSC Ad Hoc Group on Non-Proliferation (which includes State, DoD, DoE, and ACDA) requests your approval of 7 export licenses for the shipment of HEU to Argentina, Belgium, West Germany, The Netherlands, Japan, France and Sweden. Of the 7 cases, 6 are non-controversial. (U)

The Argentine case, however, raises some significant policy problems. Argentina has requested 12 kgs of HEU to refuel the US-supplied RA–3 research reactor. Argentina has agreed in principle to a three-year cooperative program to convert the RA–3 for the use of 20% enriched fuel. Approval of the current request would keep the reactor operating during that period, and is therefore important to our objective of achieving conversion to safer fuels. (C)

This request must be considered, however, in the light of the transfer of heavy water production technology from Switzerland to Argentina. This transfer will close the last major gap in Argentina’s fuel cycle, and give Argentina the potential ability to operate an unsafeguarded reprocessing plant in the future. Because of this, we have strongly and repeatedly urged the Swiss and Germans to use this opportunity to require Argentina to accept the more stringent Canadian safeguards standard, which goes beyond the normal requirement of other suppliers (including the US) by requiring full-scope safeguards on all future nuclear activities. Both Switzerland and the FRG have rejected this approach; the Germans have said they will try to achieve its “practical equivalent,” but the prospects for success are poor. (C)

The Ad Hoc Group feels that despite the safeguards question, we should meet the Argentine request in order to preserve the opportunity to convert the reactor to lower-enriched fuel. While there is no contractual commitment to provide the HEU fuel, and no alternative supplier at this time, the Ad Hoc Group believes that this supply can be distinguished from the German/Swiss contracts as the continuation of an existing supply relationship rather than a major new commitment. (C)

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I believe that you should withhold approval of the Argentine request until the outcome of the current FRG/Argentine safeguards negotiations is known, for two reasons: (C)

—Approval now on lesser safeguards conditions than we have urged on the FRG could signal a softening of our position and affect the negotiations; (C)

—A final decision on continuing to supply HEU should take into account the specifics of the safeguards arrangements the FRG is able to negotiate. (C)

RECOMMENDATIONS:

1. That you approve Executive Branch recommendations to the NRC for the issuance of licenses for export of highly enriched uranium as described in the attachments, except for the Argentine request. (C)3

2. That you defer a decision on the Argentine request and ask that it be resubmitted with a new analysis and recommendations when the outcome of the FRG/Argentine safeguards negotiations is known. (C)

DEFER DECISION _______

APPROVE REQUEST _______ 4

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Pastor Country File, Box 1, Argentina: 1–4/80. Confidential. Sent for action. Carter initialed the upper right-hand corner of the memorandum.
  2. Not attached.
  3. Carter checked the “Approve” option and wrote “J” in the right-hand margin.
  4. Carter checked the “Approve Request” option and wrote “J” in the right-hand margin. Underneath the options line Carter wrote “ace to p. 2 of Ad Hoc memo J.”