182 Cablegram from Embassy in Washington to Department of Foreign Affairs

Washington, 16 November 1971

6300. Restricted

Uranium Enrichment Talks

Your 5757.1

Meeting convened by European Commission was held in Washington on 15 November. Apart from Commission and delegations from its member countries, those present included Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, Japan and New Zealand. All these countries will be represented at discussions with United States on 16/17 November.

  1. New Zealand delegation (comprising one officer from embassy and nuclear physicist unfamiliar with current exercise) told us their interest in talks derived from government desire to be informed if there was any prospect of an enrichment plant being established in the Pacific. They said that New Zealand might also want to be kept in mind as a possible site for such a plant in view of availability of hydro-electric power on South Island. Brazil's interest in talks derives solely from its potential resources of cheap hydro-electric power in its remote areas. Sweden's main interest in talks stems from its position as an increasing consumer of enrichment services coupled with its highly sophisticated electrical generating industry.
  2. Main purpose and outcome of meeting sponsored by European Commission was to formulate questions which, hopefully, would permit delegations to secure as much information as possible about United States proposal and intentions. Questions which meeting agreed should be put to United States fell into three main areas-economic/commercial, technical and legal.

Economic/Commercial

  1. European interest in the economic/commercial area was concentrated particularly on accuracy of United States assessments as to how much and when new enrichment capacity would be required over the period 1975–1985. Belgian, West German and Italian delegations indicated their requirements would grow more quickly than United States had envisaged in its presentations at 1/2 November talks. French accepted United States assessment of likely rate of growth of British requirements. British indicated United States assessment of likely rate [of] growth of British requirements was too high. Europeans and Britain, however, were in general agreement with United States estimate of total increase in European demand for enrichment services for period 1975-1985.
  2. We asked what proportion of projected increase in world demand was likely to be met by introduction of new capacity based on technologies other than United States gaseous diffusion process. In response, Loosch2 (West Germany) expressed confidence that 'at least a proportion, amounting perhaps to a few thousand tonnes', of increased West German requirement would be met after 1980 by production from the tripartite centrifuge.
  3. Newington3 (Britain) called attention to the unknown factor represented by the USSR in the world enrichment supply/demand situation. He claimed that the USSR possessed a substantial surplus enrichment capacity which was being used neither for domestic peaceful nor military purposes. He said that the USSR had already made enrichment services available to West European countries. He added that it was likely the USSR would continue to do so.
  4. Newington continued that by the mid-1980's USSR could be supplying enrichment services of an order of 'tens of thousands of tonnes' cumulative that is it could vary from 10,000 to 90,000 tonnes for cumulative supplies to 1980. Newington said he doubted whether many non-Communist countries would want to rely substantially on the USSR as a source of enriched uranium. At the same time it was not unreasonable to expect that some countries would see merit in diversifying their sources of supply.

Technical

  1. In the technical area, the West Europeans agreed to press United States to indicate whether there were areas of technological information which it would be prepared to release to individual governments before any firm contacts or government-to-government arrangements were concluded. It was contended that United States position as outlined at 1/2 November meeting-i.e. virtually no release of information before conclusion of agreements and release of all information (including barrier technology) after conclusion of such agreements-was too rigid.
  2. Goldschmidt4 (France) pointed out, for instance, that United States had not entirely ruled out possibility of a multi-national project incorporating more than one technology. He contended that this would be impossible unless France, for instance, before signing a firm agreement with the United States, was given sufficient access to United States technology to determine which aspects of United States technology were better than French and vice versa.
  3. Another point of interest to West Europeans was whether United States would be prepared to guarantee accuracy of information provided by United States architect/engineer if a particular country decided to proceed with a feasibility study based on use of United States technology [matter omitted].

Legal

  1. Legal questions were defined as those relating to the administrative and political conditions surrounding the establishment of a multi-national project. The West Europeans were interested here in probing extent to which United States would be prepared to extend reciprocity in terms of access to the United States market and the non-erection of tariff and other barriers regarding the supply of materials, equipment and services.

[NAA: A1838, 919/10/5 part 35]