82 Notes by Bailey1 on Cabinet Submission 2002

Canberra, 27 May 1966


Safeguard Provisions for Lucas Heights

When Cabinet considered the American proposal that the reactors at Lucas Heights should be subject to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (I.A.E.A) rather than by United States inspectors, it stopped short of decision pending an expression of the views of the Department of Defence.3

  1. The Department of Defence has concluded broadly that acceptance of the I.A.E.A. safeguard arrangements for the research facilities at Lucas Heights is unlikely to prove seriously inhibiting to any subsequent decision of the Australian Government to embark upon a nuclear weapons programme. Is it really worth asking for a report from ASIO on the possibility (mentioned in paragraph 5) that the presence of I.A.E.A. inspectors at Lucas Heights might give them advance warning of Australian intention to produce nuclear weapons?
  2. The main points for decision by Ministers seem to be—
    1. It seems that no high level political discussion has taken place between Australia and the United States on the importance which the United States attaches to Australian adoption of the I.A.E.A. inspection system; we see advantages in this being done, provided our approach does not lead the Americans to assume that we are at this stage willing to give up any options available to us for future production of nuclear weapons. For this reason, we agree with the suggestion for discussion contained in paragraph 10(c) and (d), and paragraph 11. Whether the approach would need to adopt a note as compliant as is suggested in the final sentence of paragraph 11 seems doubtful.
    2. Do Ministers wish to have some advice from Defence about the kind of nuclear support we may require in the future? As far as we know, no such policy deliberations have taken place. But with the Chinese being able to deliver their weapon by 1975 at the latest, it may be that Cabinet may wish to have some advice about the implications for Australia. Are present arrangements with the United Nations-and Britain-adequate as they stand?
  3. It is quite clear that Australia simply must maintain close and cordial relations with the Americans and the British in the nuclear field. Even if Australia were to be able to produce a nuclear weapon, how would it manage to deliver it? Unless a detailed study by Defence suggests otherwise, we would think that Australia is, in nuclear matters, completely reliant on the support of the United States and Britain.4 If adoption of I.A.E.A. safeguards for Lucas Heights helps to keep us in with the Americans and if, as seems to be the case, all relevant options for a nuclear weapon programme will be left open by such a decision, it would seem clearly to be the best one for Australia to adopt.5

[NAA: A4940, C2609]