237. Telegram From the Embassy in the Soviet Union to the Department of State1

9629. Subject: Oral Response to Gorbachev’s Message on Nuclear Safety. Ref: (A) State 177227.2

1. Secret—Entire text.

2. In a meeting with Deputy Foreign Minister Bessmertnykh, June 6, Ambassador Hartman conveyed the President’s initial response to Gorbachev’s June 1 oral statement on nuclear power plant safety3 (reftel). The Ambassador said that the President considered Gorbachev’s proposals on nuclear plant safety constructive and that the recent accident at Chernobyl had intensified public pressure on all governments to ensure that nuclear power was safe. He noted that we were the same day conveying a DOE offer to provide the Soviet Union with a database on possible health effects of nuclear accidents. We understood also that Dr. Gale was very interested in conducting a long-term study of the public health impact of the Chernobyl accident. All of these efforts would be important in generating scientific data rather than uninformed speculation. The Ambassador also noted that Ambassador Kennedy and Chairman Petrosyants would be meeting at the end of July to resume their discussion of nuclear non-proliferation. As a former member of the NRC, Ambassador Kennedy would be interested in a thorough exchange of views on a wide range of nuclear safety issues.

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3. Bessmertnykh said that he was glad to hear that the U.S. would look carefully at the Soviet proposals. He added that the Soviet side had made a “good effort” to come up with positive proposals and looked forward to a detailed U.S. response. Bessmertnykh briefly took issue with the language in the President’s oral statement calling on the USSR to “join the U.S. in serious arms control negotiations.” He asserted that the Soviet Union had always taken a serious approach and wanted progress in arms control.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, N860006–0233. Secret; Immediate; Nodis.
  2. In telegram 177227 to Moscow, June 5, the Department sent the President’s message. It reads: “The President has received the General Secretary’s oral statement which was delivered June 1 and welcomes the proposals for international cooperation in dealing with nuclear power plant safety. He has directed that United States Government officials include these constructive proposals in their ongoing study of the possible international efforts to improve nuclear power plant safety. He hopes to communicate his detailed views to the General Secretary in the near future. The President also shares the General Secretary’s expressed desire to reduce the size of nuclear arsenals and to find ways to move ultimately to a cessation of nuclear testing and the elimination of nuclear weapons. He hopes, therefore, that the Soviet Union will join the United States in serious negotiations to implement the understandings reached in Geneva last November and to explore ways to verify progressive limitations on nuclear testing, which would move us toward these goals.” (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, N860006–0210)
  3. In telegram 174582 to all OECD capitals, June 3, the Department sent the text of Gorbachev’s oral message “to the President and other world leaders” on strengthening cooperation on nuclear safety. (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, D860429–0950)