470. Memorandum from the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter1


  • Nuclear Export to Argentina (C)

The attached memorandum (Tab A)2 requests your decision on the conditions under which the Executive Branch should recommend that the NRC approve an export license for a major component for the Atucha II reactor in Argentina. The US company may lose the contract by default unless we inform Argentina that we are prepared to make a favorable recommendation within the next week or so. (C)

The decision is being put to you because agencies are divided on the conditions under which we should recommend NRC approval of this export. State, DoE, Commerce and DoD believe that we should settle for the minimum requirements of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act for components of this kind: i.e., (1) IAEA safeguards on the export itself, (2) a no-explosive use pledge, and (3) a US veto on any retransfer. ACDA believes that we should in this case go beyond the minimum legal requirements and insist upon Argentine progress toward ratification of the Treaty of Tlatelolco and/or toward NPT-type full-scope safeguards. (C)

The ACDA recommendation would be consistent with our past position on exports to Argentina. Atucha II was part of the Swiss/German deal last year whose safeguard conditions were of great concern to us. In that case, we made strenuous but unsuccessful efforts to maintain a common supplier front insisting upon NPT-type safeguards, which are not required by US law. All agencies are agreed that we should insist upon this level of safeguards, even though not required by law, for a complete reactor or a component such as a pressure vessel. Thus ACDA argues that our general policy goes beyond the minimum legal requirements, that this is entirely appropriate for Argentina, and that we should stick with it. (C)

The majority opinion is based on the view that this component does not constitute sufficient leverage to move the Argentines on safe[Page 1157]guards, and that the net impact of refusal on our non-proliferation objectives would be negative. (C)

On balance, I support the majority position favoring approval of the sale. It is a very close call, however, and should the NRC refuse to go along, you would have to send the case to Congress. You do not need another Tarapur. State is fairly optimistic on the NRC, and our own checks suggest that the Commissioners will not object provided that the three legal requirements are met squarely and unambiguously. But there are serious reservations in NRC about adequacy of formulations on these points negotiated with Argentina in the past and State has suggested that “indirect” assurances may be all the Argentine traffic will bear. If you approve the sale, I would suggest that your approval be subject to the negotiation of clear and unambiguous Argentine assurances, and that the bureaucracy be admonished that similar future exports should be subject to political review at the Departmental level. (C)


Option 1 That we recommend NRC approval of the export, subject to the assurances required by Section 109(b) and other applicable provisions of the Atomic Energy Act. (Recommended by State, Commerce, Energy and Defense.) (C)3

NSC concurs but believes that approval should be conditioned upon the receipt of direct and unambiguous Argentine assurances. (C)4

Option 2: That we defer action on this and similar exports pending some Argentine progress on ratification of the Treaty of Tlatelolco and/or progress toward acceptance of NPT-type full-scope safeguards as outlined above. (Recommended by ACDA.) (C)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Pastor Country File, Box 1, Argentina, 6–11/80. Confidential. Sent for action. Carter initialed the upper right corner of the memorandum.
  2. Attached but not printed is an undated memorandum from the NSC Ad Hoc Group on Non-Proliferation to Carter outlining the options, which was attached to a September 4 cover memorandum from Tarnoff to Brzezinski.
  3. Carter checked the “Approve” option.
  4. Carter checked the “Approve” option and wrote “J” in the right-hand margin.