A major landmark in the history of international nuclear politics will be the conclusion of the International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation in February 1980. Though little publicized in the press (perhaps because of its hermetic and quite unpronounceable acronym), INFCE has been an unprecedented international undertaking both in its scope and objectives. For over two years-since the Evaluation was formally launched in October 1977 by the Carter Administration-more than 500 experts from 46 nations, both developed and developing, have jointly studied the international implications of the growth of nuclear energy. In carrying out a detailed analysis of the technical, economic and institutional aspects of nuclear energy development throughout the world, the Evaluation has sought to reconcile the need for nuclear power in many nations with the prevention of a further spread of atomic weapons from civilian fuel cycles.1

While the problem of achieving a stable balance between nuclear power development and nonproliferation has been a constant dilemma since the 1950s, an international consensus on this issue has never seemed so unattainable as today. This is due in part to the growing military and energy insecurity shared by most nations of the world, which has resulted in making nonproliferation a very costly proposition, both economically and militarily. Another reason lies in the fact that international nuclear politics have been in a state of turmoil since the early 1970s, and that many of the accepted international norms which were gradually established during the 1950s and 1960s have been called into question.

In order to measure the complexity of the problem it must be remembered that when the Evaluation was launched the international nonproliferation controversy had reached a peak. Essentially, two distinct, though interconnected, areas of conflict had emerged.

First was the issue of nuclear exports and safeguards, triggered by the Indian explosion of 1974 and by the controversial nuclear deals signed in 1975-76 by France and Germany with South Korea, Pakistan and Brazil, involving "sensitive facilities" (i.e., enrichment and/or reprocessing plants). Here, the attempt on the part of the United States to go beyond the rules of the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) by trying to prevent the sale of these facilities and to impose full-scope safeguards on all recipients-whether or not they were parties to the NPT-resulted in divisions among the supplier nations themselves (as evidenced by German-American and French-American quarrels during the London Suppliers Group negotiations).2 This U.S. policy also led to a North-South confrontation on nuclear technology transfers, with the developing nations denouncing the "cartel-like" and discriminatory policies of the supplier countries.

A second source of conflict was the decision taken by the Ford Administration in October 1976, later developed by the Carter Administration in April 1977, to oppose "the plutonium economy" (through cancellation of reprocessing plants and indefinite deferral of the commercialization of breeder reactors). That decision met with strong opposition in Europe, Japan, the U.S.S.R. and most of the developing world. Arguing that they could not afford the "luxury" of the American position, these nations insisted that plutonium-fueled breeder reactors constituted an essential contribution to their energy requirements and, potentially, a means of achieving energy independence in the long run. Underlying this quarrel about the so-called economics of plutonium, there was a much deeper disagreement on the extent to which nuclear energy as a whole constitutes either a short-term parenthesis in the history of mankind or a major long-term energy source for the planet.

In this context, then, the Carter Administration launched INFCE with at least two political objectives in mind. The first was to create a forum where tensions could be diffused as quickly as possible, in order to prevent the very real risks, at that time, of a sudden breakdown of the existing nonproliferation regime. For this purpose, it was necessary to replace the earlier secretive and cartel-like London Suppliers Group with a more open forum where key industrialized and developing nations could present their own views about nuclear energy development.

The second objective was to convince the international community that U.S. opposition to the plutonium economy was technically and economically sound. If such a technical consensus could be reached, then it could be expected that political agreement would most likely follow, thereby opening the way to a safer world nuclear order.

In practice, however, only the first objective has been achieved. INFCE has indeed been successful in avoiding an escalation of tensions since 1977. This is no small achievement given the deep suspicions and deterioration of the situation at the time, as well as the resentment generated abroad by the fact that the U.S. Congress went ahead and passed its Nuclear Nonproliferation Act (NNPA) in March 1978 without waiting for the results of the Evaluation. In the absence of an ongoing multilateral discussion, the Act might have triggered a showdown and possibly a major crisis between the United States and some of its nuclear clients abroad. But, beyond avoiding a crisis in 1977-79, the Evaluation has also been useful in developing a certain convergence between the United States and some of its allies in the industrialized world. The United States did gradually begin to recognize the legitimate energy needs of Europe and Japan, while the latter reached a better understanding of the legitimate security preoccupations of the United States.

On the substance, however, the Evaluation did not-and indeed could not-succeed in reconciling the various national points of view about nuclear energy development into a single nonproliferation strategy for the future. The main reason for this is that the Evaluation was from the start inherently ambiguous. Confronted with a series of political deadlocks and the risk of an open confrontation, the United States was proposing to depoliticize what is basically a political issue by approaching it from a purely technical angle.3 Where diplomats and politicians had failed to agree, engineers were expected to reach agreement on a "safe" fuel cycle, which would then constitute the basis for a better world nuclear order. The trouble is that there is no such thing as a proliferation-proof nuclear fuel cycle; nor is there a "technical fix" to the problem. The irony, of course, is that despite their illusory character, technical fixes have been a recurrent theme in American Polisario's major external supporter. In recent years Algeria has thinking about nuclear weapons spread since 1945.4 A further basic inconsistency in this approach is that technical aspects are in this field inseparable from political and economic considerations: a technical justification of the "once-through" fuel cycle (in which the spent reactor fuel is not reprocessed into plutonium) advocated by the Carter Administration does carry fundamental political and economic implications; and the same would be true, of course, for a technical justification of the breeder fuel cycle.

As a result, INFCE's conclusions were bound to be as ambiguous as the Evaluation itself. The Evaluation could not and does not "choose" a fuel cycle among those available today or proposed by some of the participants. Nor does the Evaluation resolve the conflicts described earlier, simply because technical solutions are just not available. Thus, the dozens of technical meetings conducted over the last two years, and the 20,000 pages of documents produced by INFCE have merely resulted in reflecting the basic disagreements mentioned earlier, the only difference being that these disagreements will be expressed in the Evaluation's final report in carefully weighted diplomatic language and highly sophisticated numbers and charts.

The ambiguity and limitations of these results are not without risks for the future. Indeed, the crisis which was avoided in 1977 may well take place in the aftermath of INFCE. However, there are also in today's situation some promising opportunities which, if correctly exploited, may eventually lead to a better management of proliferation issues in the 1980s.


A key condition for managing proliferation in the future is that all the major nations involved must now be fully aware of the very real risks confronting the international community in the period following the conclusion of INFCE.

Some of these potential dangers stem from the Evaluation itself, or rather from its ambiguity. Although it was emphasized from the beginning that INFCE was not intended to be a political negotiation, but only a technical exercise, the results of which are not to bind the participating states, the Evaluation does carry crucial political and economic consequences. Many governments joined the Evaluation not because they were convinced by the technical approach proposed by the United States but in the hope that INFCE would somehow put an end to the bitter nonproliferation quarrels of the previous years. In particular, given the urgency of many other issues to be faced by the West, the United States and its European allies could hardly afford the continuation of nuclear tensions then. In short, the Evaluation was seen not only as a nonproliferation exercise, but also as a vehicle for reconciliation within the West and, to a lesser degree, between North and South.

Added to these political expectations, the Evaluation also took on critical economic importance. Because the international nonproliferation controversy has paralleled a period of virtual "zero growth" of nuclear energy development throughout the world since the mid-1970s, INFCE has come to be seen by the nuclear community as an essential prerequisite for ending this period of "nuclear depression" and for restarting the various nuclear programs currently paralyzed by environmental, economic and technical problems. The fact is that the Evaluation does cut across many domestic issues, such as waste management; moreover, the acceptance of plutonium has ramifications that reach far beyond the proliferation of atomic weapons per se. In this context, the Evaluation was not only expected to deal with proliferation, but also to help generate a new commitment to nuclear power as a whole. The latter would, in turn, ease the world energy situation while salvaging some of the various national industries from a slow and painful death.

It should be emphasized that while some of these expectations were inevitable given the broader environment of the Evaluation (and, in particular, in light of the crisis of nuclear energy experienced since the mid-1970s), a number of misplaced expectations also resulted from the deliberate policies of some of the major governments involved. In essence, INFCE was used as a "freezing mechanism" whereby many of the delicate issues that were open in 1977 were postponed until the end of the Evaluation. In particular, the question of whether suppliers of natural or enriched uranium, such as the United States, Canada and Australia, would impose a right of prior approval for any reprocessing abroad was explicitly tied to the final conclusions of INFCE. One example of this is the "renegotiation" required by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Act of 1978 of the 1958 U.S.-EURATOM nuclear cooperation agreement, which did not include any right of prior approval for reprocessing. After much public dispute, the two sides essentially agreed in the summer of 1978 to postpone negotiations on reprocessing and breeder issues until the end of the Evaluation. Another example is the 1977 interim U.S.-Japanese agreement to open the Tokai Mura pilot reprocessing plant, which President Carter had opposed, on a two-year trial basis. Once again, a final settlement of the plutonium issue was postponed until INFCE's conclusion.

To be sure, these interim arrangements did help sustain the nuclear "truce" of the past two years. But the price to be paid for this temporary relief may be prohibitive in the future. Indeed, the fact that these high expectations do exist is already part of the problem of the post-INFCE era. For, as noted earlier, the very ambiguity of the Evaluation and the unavailability of "perfect" technical or institutional solutions are bound to leave the problems raised in 1977 largely intact in 1980. In fact, there is a very real risk not only that these expectations will be disappointed next February, but that the issues which were conveniently frozen for the past two years will all resurface at about the same time, and that the U.S. executive branch, constrained as it is by the extensive limitations of the NNPA, will be able to reach a compromise with neither its foreign counterparts nor the Congress.


At the core of this dilemma is the ambiguity-not to say contradictions-of U.S. foreign nuclear policy since 1977: on the one hand, the United States did engage in a multilateral exercise in which Washington was bound to soften some of its earlier positions in order to reach a compromise. But on the other hand, the Congress went ahead with legislation which actually imposes a unilateral set of norms on the rest of the world, and which essentially prevents the executive branch from making any significant concessions to the outside world. As a result, in the event that INFCE conclusions do not fully satisfy the provisions of the U.S. legislation-as seems obviously the case-then one must be prepared to face once again the risk of a confrontation similar to the situation in 1977.

Therefore, in a very concrete sense there is a danger that a global storm may well follow the relative lull of the past two years, thereby precipitating the demise of the regime that exists under the Nonproliferation Treaty and under the aegis of the International Atomic Energy Agency. This danger is heightened not only by the expectations but by the unfortunate timing of INFCE's conclusion. February 1980 comes in an election year in the United States and this opens the possibility of a new American crusade against proliferation. Certain presidential candidates, unhappy with what is called in some American circles the "retreat" of the Carter Administration in implementing the NNPA over the last 18 months, may well be tempted to use proliferation issues in the campaign. Obviously, such an initiative would further reduce the small room for action of the present Administration and would threaten the delicate compromises which may eventually grow out of INFCE. In any case, the coincidence of the conclusion of the Evaluation and the U.S. presidential campaign will result in effectively postponing any serious negotiations on the post-INFCE nuclear order until early 1981. This, in turn, may lead several key nations to resort to unilateral policies in connection with pending contracts for fuel supplies.

A further danger, also linked to timing, stems from the unfortunate fact that the Evaluation is scheduled to end only a few months before the convening of the second NPT Review Conference in August 1980. This creates an additional risk that, in the event of renewed tensions following INFCE, these differences would spread to the entire NPT system.

In addition to the risks analyzed above, stemming from or connected with INFCE itself, there are further potential dangers which result from the underlying instabilities of the international regime, but which may also have a negative impact on the period following the conclusion of the Evaluation. Recent developments show that INFCE, which concerns itself with the proliferation potential of the commercial fuel cycle, has not prevented Pakistan from going ahead with its clandestine enrichment and reprocessing programs. Nor was INFCE able to prevent the mysterious, possibly nuclear, detonation conducted in September near South Africa. These events reveal the inherent limitations of an exercise dealing only with one route to proliferation while the other is left largely untouched.

Moreover, the emergence of a nuclear "gray market" among nations which have so far rejected or escaped the controls of the existing nonproliferation regime also illustrates the gaps in INFCE.5 By concentrating so much on commercial reprocessing and breeder reactors, the exercise actually focuses on a quarrel among the few industrialized countries able to develop such installations, whereas future proliferators, following Pakistan's example, will most likely follow the route of building small-scale clandestine facilities.

If nothing is done to deal with the clandestine route, and if new proliferators are to continue building or detonating bombs more or less openly, it will be very difficult indeed for the supplier nations to justify costly limitations on the commercial fuel cycle in the name of nonproliferation. In addition, if such a tendency toward clandestine proliferation continues, regional instabilities will undoubtedly follow and the entire nonproliferation regime will be threatened.


While the potential risks and instabilities described above should indeed be taken seriously, the overall picture in the post-INFCE era need not be altogether somber. The evaluation has brought to light two major opportunities, which if adroitly exploited, might lay the groundwork for effective nonproliferation management in the coming decade.

The first opportunity lies in the considerably improved climate between the United States and the major Western industrialized nations. While this improvement falls short of a true consensus on a future nuclear fuel cycle, the Evaluation, as well as the extensive consultations conducted in parallel with INFCE over the past two years, have brought a better understanding between the United States, on the one hand, and Europe and Japan, on the other. Many of the suspicions evident in the mid-1970s involving commercial interests are behind us: each side now recognizes the need to combine the legitimate need for energy security, which in Europe and Japan may include plutonium breeders and reprocessing facilities, with the need for international security, which implies that plutonium fuel cycles must be developed under special technical and institutional controls.

This growing convergence has been indirectly reinforced by a second phenomenon, outside the INFCE process, namely the prolonged nuclear depression experienced since the mid-1970s. The relationship between this worldwide crisis and nonproliferation policy is a very complex and ambiguous one.6 To be sure, the political uncertainty resulting from the nonproliferation controversy of the past six years has certainly contributed to the slow-down of most nuclear programs around the world. It is also true that the proliferation argument has come to be used increasingly by antinuclear movements, particularly in Western countries. However, the main causes of the nuclear recession lie elsewhere: societal problems, particularly after the Three Mile Island accident, have increased dramatically in recent years, reaching even developing countries strongly committed to nuclear energy, such as Brazil. Environmental issues, combined with the eroding competitiveness of atomic power, and the overall reduction in energy demand arising from the continuing worldwide economic recession, have drastically reduced the pace of atomic energy growth throughout the world. Many countries are now experiencing a total paralysis of their nuclear programs, while most other nations have had to cut down on earlier plans. The only exceptions to this general trend are France and the Soviet Union in the industrialized world, and South Korea, Taiwan and Argentina in the developing world. Reflecting this trend, current INFCE projections for installed nuclear power capacity in the noncommunist world in the year 2000 range between 850 and 1,200 gigawatts, less than half of what was forecast a few years ago (and even these numbers are considered overly optimistic).

To be sure, this nuclear depression does have some potentially destabilizing effects in the nonproliferation area. In particular, certain nuclear supplier states may be tempted to "save" their nuclear industries by securing export contracts at any cost, including the transfer of technological sweeteners in the form of fuel-cycle facilities. In this connection, the recent sale of a heavy water plant to Argentina as part of a reactor deal signed with Germany, though technically not a violation of the London Suppliers Group Guidelines of 1977, offers a disturbing sign of what could become a new phase of savage competition among suppliers, at a time when industries are becoming increasingly vulnerable.

On the other hand, the current nuclear recession does offer several opportunities for nonproliferation management after INFCE. The first positive element is time. In 1974-75, the great proliferation scare triggered by the Indian explosion and the controversial export contracts signed by Germany and France coincided with a period of great nuclear expansion, due in part to the oil crisis of 1973. Projections of nuclear growth made at that time pictured a world becoming rapidly nuclear, with many newly developing countries entering the atomic field, and thousands of tons of fissile materials being shipped around the globe for reprocessing and use in an ever expanding number of breeder reactors. As a result, nonproliferation took on, particularly in the United States, a sense of absolute urgency, with calls for drastic and immediate revision of the entire international nuclear system. To a large extent, it was this feeling of imminent catastrophe which surrounded the drafting of the U.S. Nuclear Nonproliferation Act in 1977 and which is reflected in the extremely severe provisions of the Act.

Today, the situation of atomic energy development is quite different. Instead of the growth foreseen in the early 1970s, nuclear energy is in full recession, and that recession is likely to be with us for many years to come. The somewhat ironic result of this is that the entire U.S. nonproliferation policy imbedded in the NNPA, which was tailored for the booming nuclear world of the early 1970s, is now being implemented in a period of nuclear standstill. Given this evolution, it is important to recognize that instead of an urgent, drastic and unilateral "solution," proliferation can now be dealt with thoroughly and on a multilateral basis because there is time to do so.

Second, the current nuclear recession helps reduce the magnitude of some of the key issues involved in the management of the fuel cycle. As a result of the overall reduction in power plant construction and orders throughout the world, the present situation is one of oversupply in the enrichment market instead of the shortage foreseen a few years ago. The fact that enrichment supplies will be available from U.S., Soviet and European sources (through EURODIF in France, and URENCO, which is a consortium of the U.K., the Netherlands and West Germany) makes irrelevant one major argument for the proliferation of national enrichment facilities and for the widespread use of plutonium recycling in thermal reactors.

Third, much of the earlier controversy on the plutonium economy is now, if not totally academic, at least largely out of proportion to the real status of breeder and reprocessing programs throughout the world. Whereas, in the nuclear euphoria of the early 1970s, breeder reactors were expected to prove "H. G. Wells' dream of ubiquitous, reasonably cheap energy, essentially forever"7 through rapid deployment by the mid-1980s, it now seems that at most four or five countries will have a handful of reactors of this type in operation by the turn of the century.

In addition, widespread environmental opposition to large-scale reprocessing plants has also considerably slowed down the development of this industry. In this connection, the decision taken in May 1979 by German authorities to "freeze" the large Gorleben reprocessing project provides a particularly striking illustration of the many ironies of the current nuclear and nonproliferation situation: what the United States could not enforce upon Germany through coercion (NNPA) or persuasion (INFCE) was done by German environmentalist groups skillfully using the domestic political and legal system of the Federal Republic in order to effectively halt a project to which Bonn was and remains staunchly committed.


The post-INFCE nonproliferation picture which emerges from the preceding analysis is thus a very mixed one. The many instabilities of the current international system, combined with the necessarily ambiguous conclusions of the Evaluation and the rigidity of U.S. legislation may well lead to a new period of crisis. Conversely, the growing convergence between the key Western actors and the relative freeze of the nuclear scene may be used constructively in order to avert this crisis, and, beyond that, to lay the groundwork for a gradual improvement of the international nonproliferation regime.

Managing nonproliferation after INFCE will therefore be a delicate task. However, it can be achieved provided that a conscious effort be undertaken now to elaborate an approach to nonproliferation which would be tailored to fit the rapidly changing political and economic realities of our time, rather than to satisfy a series of abstract and obsolete concepts belonging to the past.

The first objective should be to identify the realities of proliferation politics today, and the second to discover the means best suited to deal with the situation.

What are these realities?

-First, contrary to what was foreseen a few years ago, there is time to deal with proliferation from civilian fuel cycles;

-second, too much time and energy has been wasted fighting the wrong battle over the wrong problem. While Americans and Europeans have been busily quarreling over the future of the plutonium economy-which, in any case, they alone are technically and economically able to develop-clandestine proliferation involving developing countries using small-scale facilities has managed to proceed apace;

-third, the controversy between the United States, Europe and Japan is less one of substance, for everyone recognizes the need to reconcile energy security and military security, than one of methodology, namely the reliance on unilateral versus multilateral action to check proliferation.

Underlying the above observations is a fundamental fact of life of contemporary international nuclear politics, and one which should become the cornerstone of future nonproliferation efforts, namely that the United States can no longer control proliferation on its own, and that it needs the full participation of key nuclear actors in Europe and Japan. To put it differently: "Without the collaboration of the other, neither the United States nor Europe can accomplish much in preventing the emergence of troublesome new nuclear weapon owners."8

To be sure, even the recognition of this fact is not easy. For over three decades American leaders and policymakers, relying on the combined strength of U.S. diplomatic influence abroad and U.S. industrial domination of the world nuclear market, have been accustomed to thinking that nonproliferation is a special American responsibility and that the United States can handle it pretty much on its own. Indeed, the very history of international nuclear politics since 1945 actually blends in with the evolution of U.S. foreign nuclear policy. The 1946 Baruch Plan, the Atoms for Peace Plan of 1953, the creation of the IAEA in 1957, the Test Ban Treaty of 1963, the Nonproliferation Treaty of 1968, the formation of the London Suppliers Group in 1974 and the launching of INFCE in 1977-each of these landmarks in the history of nonproliferation has been the product of U.S. policy.

Given this background, the tendency to rely on unilateral actions in order to "educate" the rest of the world and "solve" the nonproliferation problem according to the prevailing American view of the issue remains very much alive. Indeed, such a tendency explains much of the U.S. foreign nuclear policy in recent years. It is particularly visible in the recent NNPA, which is, in effect, an attempt on the part of the Congress to legislate for the rest of the world.

However, the conditions which once made it possible for the United States to control proliferation unilaterally are no longer present. The decline of U.S. political and military power in many regions of the world, coupled with the end of American industrial supremacy in the reactor and fuel markets,9 demand a truly multilateral approach to nonproliferation. This, in turn, requires a change of mentality on the part of American leaders. Many of the risks to be faced after INFCE stem precisely from the fact that many U.S. policymakers and legislators continue to believe and to behave as if nothing had changed in international nuclear politics. Indeed, the greatest achievement of the Evaluation would be to help change this mentality within the United States itself, just as the Evaluation has helped to develop in Europe and elsewhere a greater awareness of the security implications of nuclear power development.


Priority should be therefore given to the establishment, upon the conclusion of INFCE, of an institutional mechanism whose purpose would be to generate an international consensus, while inhibiting the risk of conflicting unilateral actions in the near term. In suggesting such a course of action, the objective here is not to add yet one more institutional model to the dozens of such institutions which have been proposed since the mid-1970s, such as the so-called regional fuel centers, the International Nuclear Fuel Authority, the plutonium banks or storage centers and the like. While institutional arrangements may contribute to the management of fuel cycle activities in the long run, the prerequisite to building such institutions is a political consensus which has yet to be found. Nor would it be effective to launch another crusade for some new Baruch Plan. This would only serve to reopen the eternal and unsolvable issue of verification and control, as well as the link with general disarmament or "vertical proliferation." The end result of such a process would likely be the acceleration of the demise of the current IAEA-NPT regime.

Rather, the objective should be to work toward a compromise by setting up an informal but effective mechanism of consultation among a small group of key supplier and recipient nations (these could be selected from the members of INFCE's Technical Coordination Committee). The group would allow the continuation of the multilateral process which began in INFCE and would inject a political dimension into the technical findings of the Evaluation. In effect, this group would be a multinational management mechanism which could readily adapt-given its informal structure-to the rapidly evolving problems and opportunities arising in contemporary international nuclear relations. In many respects, this mechanism would be comparable to the discreet U.S.-Soviet Standing Consultative Commission (SCC) which monitors the implementation of the SALT Agreements.10 Like the SCC, this Standing Consultative Group on Nuclear Energy (SCGNE) would look for informal and effective solutions to problems as they come up. While carefully avoiding the traditionally legalistic approach to the settlement of international issues, the group would search for de facto compromises wherever possible.

One area where this mechanism would be very useful in managing a very difficult and divisive issue is the question of the plutonium economy. This involves not only the long-term future of nuclear energy (because of the shift to fast-breeder reactors), but it also goes to the heart of the problem of discrimination, which remains the focal point of the entire debate on nonproliferation. Given the special proliferation risks attached to the plutonium economy, there is a consensus that some formula must be found to solve the issue.

One formula, originally advocated by the Carter Administration, is to forego the technology altogether: in so doing, no nation would be put in a discriminatory position, the United States itself having decided to abandon both reprocessing and the Clinch River Breeder Reactor. The trouble with this approach is that, given the commitment of several industrialized nations to this technology, the United States has been unable to impose its rule, despite the attempt of the Congress to enforce it upon the rest of the world through the NNPA.

The second formula consists of accepting discrimination as a fact of international life and concluding that the "problem is not sensitive materials and technologies as much as sensitive countries."11 Thus, the key issue is to draw the line between those "safe" countries (whether nuclear or non-nuclear weapons states), which can have these facilities on their territories, and the rest of the world.

At present, after nearly three years of bitter U.S.-European and U.S.-Japanese controversies, the State Department's position has gradually shifted from the first formula to the second. Thus, in the aftermath of INFCE, the question becomes how to discriminate in the reprocessing/breeder area without totally breaking up the existing international nuclear regime. Practically speaking, the solution is to allow Germany and Japan to operate reprocessing facilities and breeders, and then sell this compromise to the developing world. The worst way to do this would be for the supplier nations to write down the compromise in a legal form now and present it to the IAEA. A more effective way to settle this issue would be to leave it open deliberately and to deal with it within the informal framework of the Standing Consultative Group described above, at the correct time (i.e., if and when the German Gorleben reprocessing complex is built).

If and when necessary, the group could then establish at the appropriate time a series of practical ad hoc arrangements whereby developing nations able to introduce breeder reactors could have access to fuel cycle services from large commercial facilities located in Western Europe and Japan. Such arrangements could be modeled on some of the existing European nuclear ventures such as EURODIF. This process of gradual contractualization would then pave the way for a more ambitious plutonium spent-fuel management scheme through the IAEA.

The central idea behind this reasoning is that we do have time to deal with these issues and that given the fluidity of the current situation it would be counterproductive to try to negotiate now a legalistic, universal charter for a technology that is still very far from having reached its maturity and acceptability.

The approach advocated above may appear too modest and too pragmatic to some. It may also lack a grand philosophical design. However, it is time to abandon an era of abstract and rigid principles, which had to be changed each time a new proliferator came along. Instead, what is needed is generalized political acceptability in order to avoid a new confrontation in the aftermath of the Evaluation and to gradually build a network of contractual arrangements which will eventually turn out to be more effective than many of the unilateral and coercive actions of the past.

1 For an analysis of the internal structure of INFCE, see Steven J. Warnecke, "Non-Proliferation and INFCE: An Interim Assessment," Survival, May/June 1979.

2 The London Suppliers Group is made up 15 countries which agreed to abide by a set of guidelines providing for the application of IAEA safeguards whenever nuclear facilities, equipment or individuals are transferred, as well as for the exercise of "restraint" with regard to the export of sensitive facilities (enrichment and reprocessing plants). However, as a result of French and German opposition, the guidelines failed to include full-scope safeguards; nor did they put an actual embargo on the sale of sensitive facilities.

3 It is interesting to note that the United States used a similar approach during the preliminary phases of the negotiations with the U.S.S.R. on the prohibition of nuclear weapons tests. The superpowers, however, failed to reach a political agreement on the verification of underground explosions, and, as a result, the latter remained outside the reach of the 1963 Test Ban Treaty. See Bernhard G. Bechhofer, Postwar Negotiations for Arms Control, Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution, 1961, Ch. XIX.

4 The technical concept, which seemed promising at the time, was the so-called denaturation of uranium fuel. First mentioned in the Frank Report of June 1945, this concept became an important feature of the ill-fated Baruch Plan, launched by the United States in 1946. Under the plan, denaturation, a process to modify uranium fuel in order to prevent its usage in weapons material, was to serve as a criterion for judging between "dangerous activities" to be entrusted to a supranational world organization, and "non-dangerous activities" to be left within the competence of national governments. Interestingly enough, a modern version of denaturation, now called "denaturing," was evaluated in INFCE!

5 Lewis A. Dunn, "Half Past India's Bang," Foreign Policy, Fall 1979.

6 Pierre Lellouche and Richard Lester, "The Crisis of Nuclear Energy," The Washington Quarterly, Summer 1979.

7 Alvin M. Weinberg, "Nuclear Energy: A Prelude to H. G. Wells' Dream," Foreign Affairs, April 1971.

8 Horst Mendershausen, International Cooperation in Nuclear Fuel Services: European and American Approaches, The Rand Corporation, P-6308, December 1978.

9 Thomas L. Neff and Henry D. Jacoby, "Nonproliferation Strategy in a Changing Nuclear Fuel Market," Foreign Affairs, Summer 1979; Paul L. Joskow: "The International Nuclear Industry Today: The End of the American Monopoly," Foreign Affairs, July 1976.

10 See: Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics regarding the Establishment of a Standing Consultative Commission, December 21, 1972. See also the ABM Treaty (Art. XIII), the 1972 Interim Agreement on offensive weapons (Art. VI), and the SALT II Treaty (Art. XVII).

11 Mason Willrich, "A Workable International Nuclear Energy Regime," The Washington Quarterly, Spring 1979.



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  • Pierre Lellouche is a Research Fellow at the Institut Français des Relations Internationales in Paris.
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