466. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Nuclear Consultations


  • Argentina—
  • Vice Admiral Carlos Castro Madero, President, CNEA
  • Dr. Antonio Carrea, Advisor to CNEA President
  • Dr. Hugo Erramuspe, Director of Research and Development, CNEA
  • Dr. Carlos A. Kroll, Coordinator of General Secretariat, CNEA
  • Dr. Jorge Martinez Fabini, Manager of Law Division, CNEA
  • Ing. Alejandro Placer, Advisor to CNEA President
  • U.S.—
  • Ambassador at Large Gerard C. Smith
  • Ambassador Raúl H. Castro
  • Maxwell Chaplin, DCM, AmEmbassy Buenos Aires
  • Claus W. Ruser, ECA Director
  • Allen W. Locke, Deputy Special Representative for Non-Proliferation Matters
  • Clifton G. Metzner, Jr., Science Counselor, AmEmbassy Buenos Aires

Admiral Castro Madero opened by welcoming Amb. Smith and his group and wished them a fruitful stay, adding that the Commission would do its best to make it so. Amb. Smith remarked that he was happy to be back in Argentina after his last trip in November, 1977, with Secretary of State Vance.2 He said he was sorry that he could not attend the asado (barbecue) that was to be offered in his honor by Admiral Castro Madero on Thursday, March 27, but because of pressure of business he had to return to Washington on Wednesday, March 26.

Amb. Smith said he hoped safeguards would not become an issue for discussion since each party’s position is already well known. He categorically denied that the U.S. had pressured or tried to block other countries’ efforts to transfer technology or equipment to Argentina. He said that the U.S. positions on full-scope safeguards had been given to supplier countries. Far from blocking any exports to Argentina, the U.S. had sought to be of help by offering to make heavy water available.

Admiral Castro Madero mentioned there had been a number of comments in newspapers and other sources that the U.S. had pressured Switzerland and Germany to demand fullscope safeguards for the sales of equipment,3 and several U.S. senators had tried to block these sales to Argentina. He added that this information was mostly gathered from the press, in the U.S. and Argentina. However, Castro Madero said he was pleased with Amb. Smith’s remarks that the U.S. had not tried to block these sales.

Amb. Smith then discussed non-proliferation in broad terms and indicated political solutions would have to be reached on a worldwide as well as a regional basis. He cited the dangers of the India and Pakistan nuclear arms race. He asked if Argentina had any ideas to prevent this prospective proliferation. India had exploded a device in 1974 for “peaceful purposes”. The Pakistanis now are reacting to that development. Pakistan is constructing a reprocessing plant (originally with French assistance) which has no commercial significance, which they claim is for peaceful purposes. Pakistan is also constructing a production size plant to enrich uranium. India has recently hinted that it may [Page 1147] have a need for nuclear weapons. What are the possible political solutions in South Asia? We (the U.S.) would welcome help in finding solutions.

Smith then called attention to the serious problems concerning Iran and terrorism and the possibility that plutonium in the future could get into the hands of terrorists when more countries are in a position to obtain plutonium.

Amb. Smith asked how Argentina, when it became a responsible world nuclear supplier, would condition its exports. Castro Madero remarked that the South Asian situation was certainly not equivalent to the South American position. He added that so far no country had developed nuclear weapons through a nuclear power program. This, he said, would not be the way to reach a weapons program. He added that Brazil and Argentina were in the process of reaching a nuclear agreement for cooperation which should alleviate fears of an arms race in South America. This, he said, naturally, is not a complete answer to the problem but global approaches are difficult to implement. He said the best guarantee for non-proliferation is through strong country alliances and cooperation. According to Castro Madero, denial of technologies to developing countries has been counter productive and has not been successful in preventing nuclear proliferation. Smith said that a denial policy alone could not hope to succeed. It must be accompanied by political initiatives.

Amb. Smith turned again to the Pakistan situation and indicated that Pakistan had centrifuges for enrichment of uranium and asked if in order to be a more reliable supplier (in the Argentine sense) the U.S. should sell Pakistan better centrifuges, thus enabling it to enrich more uranium for a nuclear bomb. These are the difficult issues driving U.S. export policies and non-proliferation. He questioned if Argentina were a major supplier in the world, would it sell reprocessing technology, for example, to any country that asked for it? What type of safeguards would they require.

Smith expressed a hope that U.S. export licensing procedures could be made more flexible. He said that regional and worldwide political solutions must be found for proliferation problems. The U.S. was certainly not pointing out Argentina as a special case.

Amb. Smith then moved to post-INFCE discussions and indicated he hopes the U.S. would take action to become a more reliable nuclear supplier, and to modernize present nuclear licensing procedures. He allowed that the INFCE studies will have to be analyzed, and it will have to be decided what should be done with the findings. Smith asked Castro Madero how the GOA felt in this regard. Castro Madero indicated that Argentina was in favor of the formation of a committee composed of interested countries to review the INFCE studies and establish [Page 1148] the terms of reference for approaches to the problems involved. The international plutonium study and spent fuel management were two important ones from the Argentine point of view. The Committee, he felt, should come directly under the IAEA Director General to give it more flexibility. Amb. Smith agreed that the working parties should report to the Director General.

Amb. Smith then asked Castro Madero what the results were of the Brazilian visit to Argentina. Castro Madero indicated this was a follow-up to his visit to Brazil in January and was to establish the guidelines for an overall agreement and define the areas of mutual interest for cooperation. Both countries, he said, were willing to sign this agreement. He said that Argentina had been interested in looking ahead in the distant future for a broader Latin American nuclear alliance, but this was not in the cards for the near future since most Latin American countries want to keep their freedom of action. He hoped that the Argentine/Brazilian accord could be a catalyst for the beginning of a political solution in this area.

Amb. Smith then referred to information he had received that Cuba would not be interested in signing or ratifying the Treaty of Tlatelolco. He said that the primary reason given by the Cubans was the U.S. must first dissolve its bilateral and multilateral arms agreements in South America and, particularly, remove the Guantánamo base from Cuba. Castro Madero said he did not have any information on this subject.

The discussion then turned to bilateral affairs, and Amb. Smith mentioned the supply agreement between Peru, the U.S., Argentina, and the IAEA for the provision of enriched uranium for the Peruvian reactor. He also referred to a 10 MW research reactor Argentina was constructing for the Peruvian program and asked with what other countries Argentina may be developing supply cooperation. Castro Madero said that Bolivia and Uruguay both are interested in research reactors and that the enriched uranium would have to come from the U.S. He pointed out the U.S. was restricting the export of enriched uranium to Argentina for the Peruvian reactor and other requests, which would curtail their program to develop their own low enriched fuel fabrication plans. He said Argentina had furnished an official commitment to the U.S. last September that all facilities were under safeguards. Nonetheless, this apparently was not acceptable, and the U.S. has now asked for additional requirements for safeguards over all nuclear activities which go beyond the original agreements. At that point, Dr. Antonio Carrea indicated it would be very difficult to furnish the U.S. with a confirmation that all facilities and materials are under safeguards every one, two, or three months during the time each export order would be pending before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. [Page 1149] The Argentines said in any event they could not act on the latest U.S. suggestion since it had not been formally communicated to them. Mr. Locke explained that the reason the U.S. requested the 90-day notification was to cover the period the NRC and other U.S. agencies were making their reviews. In any event, it was agreed that some solution could be found. This problem could be discussed further to determine what arrangement could be worked out agreeable to both parties. Amb. Smith said we understand what the problem was, and hoped a solution can be found. At this point the meeting was ended.

After the meeting, Mr. Placer, CNEA Safeguards Chief, mentioned to the Science Counselor that the problem of exchange of notes and 90-day notification on pending uranium exports was really not the major problem, but that the deletion of the wording in the note referring to deuterium not supplied by the U.S. is more important and would have to be resolved before an agreement could be reached.4

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 383, Records of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Office of the Director, Lot 81D155, Box 14, Argentina, Jan–March 1980. Drafted by Clifton Metzner. The meeting took place at the Comisión Nacional de Energía Atómic (CNEA). Copies were sent to the Ambassador, the Deputy Chief of Mission, the Science Counselor, the Defense Attaché, the Bureau of Security Assistance, Science, and Technology, the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs, the Bureau of Oceans and Scientific and Environmental Affairs, and the Secretary.
  2. See Document 426.
  3. See Charles A. Krause, “U.S. General Asks Argentine Aid on Embargo,” Washington Post, January 25, 1980, p. A16.
  4. Telegram 2604 from Buenos Aires, March 26, reported Smith’s impression of his visit. “Conditions for our visit,” the Ambassador said, “were not auspicious” given that Castro Madero was in Moscow “at the Soviets’ invitation” while a “high-level German Delegation” was in Buenos Aires “to complete negotiations for the Atucha II reactor.” Smith noted that in his talks with Videla and other Argentine officials, “we stressed the seriousness with which we view the international situation, that there will be no ‘lurch towards détente,’ and our aim to strengthen relations with Argentina.” Nevertheless, Smith said “There was no encouragement during my talks that Argentina will ratify Tlatelolco any time soon; on full-scope safeguards we agreed to disagree. Argentina’s nuclear program is well advanced and will move ahead under able leadership. Our central objective must be to prevent the emergence of a nuclear arms race in the hemisphere.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Pastor Country File, Box 1, Argentina: 1–4/80)