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Violations of Nuclear Non-Proliferation:
A Consequence of a Cultural Gap between the U.S. and Germany?

by Jochen Gruber
(Session 418 - Reinventing the West: Redefining the Transatlantic Relationship, Salzburg Seminar, June 14 - 21, 2004)


I. Some Legal Framework
I.1 The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) became the legal framework for non-proliferation.
I. 2 Nuclear Supplier Guidelines

II. U.S. Non-Proliferation Policy

III. German Government Subsidizes Sale of Enrichment and Reprocessing Plants
III. 1 Germany Proliferates Nuclear Technology to Latin America

IV. Germany Proliferates Nuclear Technology to the Indian Subcontinent
IV. 1 Outside Assistance to the Indian and Pakistani Nuclear Programs
IV. 2 Focus of N-probes shifts from Pakistan to Europe
IV. 3.Individuals from Pakistan, Germany, Holland, South Africa and the UAE

V. Further Reading

VI. 1 Glossary
VI. 2 Export Controls
VI. 3 Guidelines for Nuclear Transfers


The following three excerpts and the above figure are taken from: Hunt Morstein J and Perry WD, Commercial Nuclear Trading Networks as Indicators of Nuclear Weapons Intentions, Nonproliferation Review/ Fall- Winter 2000, pages 85, 86.

  1. "... for the higher danger fuel commodities, plutonium and highly enriched uranium, the system's gatekeepers are four of the de jure nuclear states - the US, France, China, USSR/Russia - plus a single non-weapon state, West Germany/Germany."
  2. "The network for higher danger reactors in 1985 - 89 has two clusters - one supplied by West Germany and one supplied by France."
  3. "Enrichment equipment and plants for 1985-89 is a Hub-and-Spoke split between a Supply-Hub sub-network and a Demand-Hub sub-network. The Supply-Hub cluster is centered by West Germany." [see Figure 2 above],

I. Some Legal Framework

I. 1 The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) became the legal framework for non-proliferation.

I. 2 Nuclear Supplier Guidelines

(from Lawrence Scheinman, Chapter 6, The International Atomic Energy Agency and World Nuclear Order, Resourcess for the Future, Washington, DC, 1987)

U.S. executive branch policy in the mid and late 1970s was aimed at reinforcing the regime and restoring confidence in the concept of controlled nuclear cooperation. It had two central elements.

  1. to mobilize the principal exporters (as the United States had done for nonproliferation reasons on other occasions) into a Nuclear Suppliers Group to achieve agreement on common conditions and rules of the game for nuclear exports.
  2. to challenge conventional wisdom regarding the use of plutonium as a nuclear fuel.
A principal objective of the first element was to ensure that safeguards did not become bargaining chips in commercial nuclear competition. The United States favored a requirement that recipient countries accept full scope safeguards as a condition for any nuclear export. Although backed on this by a number of suppliers (and the condition accepted by all NPT non nuclear weapon state parties on their own activities), this failed to win French and German support (very largely because of anticipated sales to Argentina, Brazil, and South Africa). So the guidelines provide only that any export of items on an agreed "trigger list" drawn up and occasionally supplemented by the suppliers would have to be placed under IAEA safeguards.

II. U.S. Non-Proliferation Policy

(from Lawrence Scheinman, Chapter 6, The International Atomic Energy Agency and World Nuclear Order, Resourcess for the Future, Washington, DC, 1987)

Starting with the Eisenhower initiative that lead to the Atoms For Peace Program, the founding of the IAEA, the U.S. has helped other states develop their own nuclear industries while making sure that these states do not develop nuclear weapons programs. It has provided funding and expertise to set up the International Atomic Energy Agency, particularly its Safeguards Division.

The U.S. legislature passed the Nuclear Non Proliferation Act of 1978 (NNPA). It is the most comprehensive and important legislation on peaceful nuclear cooperation and nonproliferation since the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, which initially opened the door to cooperation and exports under Atoms for Peace.

  1. It contains many of the conditions and criteria that govern U.S. peaceful nuclear cooperation and exports and establishes the statutory framework for executive branch policies.
  2. The NNPA reaffirmed U.S. commitment "to a strengthened and more effective International Atomic Energy Agency and to a comprehensive safeguards system administered by the Agency," and
  3. called for international efforts to provide the necessary funds, technical resources, and other support necessary for effective implementation of a strengthened safeguards program.
  4. But it also reflected a congressional view that a safeguards based nonproliferation regime alone was not sufficient to prevent proliferation, even with respect to NPT parties.
The United States has never supplied uranium enrichment technology, although it did propose sharing it with an appropriate multinational venture in the early 1970s when confronted with the reality that some of its European allies were planning to proceed with their own enrichment plans. (This aspect of the episode is very well analyzed and documented in Edward F. Wonder, "Nuclear Fuel and American Foreign Policy", An Atlantic Council Policy Study (Boulder, Colorado, Westview Press, 1977).) When the members of the URENCO gas centrifuge enrichment consortium (the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and the Federal Republic of Germany) first began discussing a joint arrangement in the early 1960s, however, the United States had prevailed on them to place their activities under strict secrecy to avoid the risk of unnecessary dissemination of a technology bearing high risk for nuclear proliferation.

III. German Government Subsidizes Sale of Enrichment and Reprocessing Plants

(from: J. Gruber, Germany's Deficit in Non-Proliferation, 2004, except when otherwise stated)

In 1975 the Brazilian military government publicly admitted aiming at producing nuclear explosives, but declared them as peaceful. Inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency were not allowed, as Brazil was not a member of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. (In September 1990 Brazil's newly elected president Fernando Collor de Mello closed the nuclear test site and admitted in a speech to the UN General Assembly Brazil's secrete 15 year old nuclear bomb program -see also the Federation of American Scientists's Report (PIR), 1990;5-)

Disregarding the danger of heating up a nuclear arms race between Brazil and Argentina in the thus far nulear weapons free Latin American continent, the social democratic German government under Helmut Schmidt provided German nuclear suppliers with the necessary financial security backing the selling of an entire nuclear fuel cycle to Brazil (6 - 8 reactors, a reprocessing plant to separate plutonium from used reactor fuel and a uranium enrichment facility (based on a singular German design). German and Brazil government officials subsequently signed the sale's agreement. At the same time, Germany was also a major supplier of nuclear technology to Argentina, which had resolved to stay roughly in step with Brazil and by 1974 had acquired heavy water reactors - the type that India had used to produce its plutonium.

III. 1 Germany's Proliferates Nuclear Technology to Latin America

(1) from  J. Newhouse, "War and Peace in the Nuclear Age", A.A. Knopf, New York, 1989, p. 274 - 275. Text in [ ] added by J. Gruber.
"[The newly elected president of the US, Jimmy] Carter had pledged himself to heading off the German deal with Brazil. And two days after his inauguration, he dispatched Vice President Walter Mondale to Europe with the new administration's message about nuclear proliferation.
  • In Brussels, only four days later, Mondale said that one of the "central themes" would be "stopping the sales of reprocessing plants as those to Brazil an Pakistan"

  • Source: W.H. Courtney, "Brazil and Argentina: Strategies for American Diplomacy", in Nonproliferation and U.S. Foreign Policy, ed. J.A. Yager (Washington, D.C., Brookings Institution, 1980), p. 380, citing Bernard Weinraub, New York Times, January 25, 1977.
  • In Bonn, he is said to have told Schmidt that Carter "was unalterably opposed to the transfer of the sensitive technologies to Brazil" (ibidem, p. 381). Schmidt stonily replied by noting his commitment to the Non Proliferation Treaty and the suppliers' guidelines [drawn up at a series of secret meetings of the Nuclear Suppliers' Group in London 1974], but he also restated his commitment to the agreement with Brazil.
  • Carter's high-visibility, high-level initiative had the predictable effect of souring the atmosphere and further complicating intractable problems. Two weeks later, Warren Christopher, Deputy Secretary of State designate, was in Bonn, trying to persuade Schmidt to defer transferring the enrichment and reprocessing materials to Brazil until its reactors had been "safeguarded"

    [...] by the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA. IAEA safeguards include inspections, inventories, and regular audits of sensitive materials to ensure that nuclear technology is used for peaceful purposes only. [Yet, years later, the case of Iraq has shown that IAEA does not achieve this goal (D. Kay, Iraqi Inspections: Lessons Learned. D. Kay was the team leader for three IAEA inspections in Iraq)].

    Schmidt again said no. A U.S. mission to Brazil drew a cold, uncompromising reception; the Brazilians made their feelings clear by canceling a military cooperation agreement.

    .... He [Carter] planned to cut off American aid to any country that detonated a "peaceful nuclear explosion". He wanted a voice in decisions involving an American client-country's other nuclear exchanges. And he wanted to be able to rule on whether a client-country could develop its own plutonium separation capability.
    Source: M. Nacht, "Controlling Nuclear Proliferation", in The Eagle Entangled: U.S. Foreign Policy in a Complex World (New York: Longman, 1970), ed. K. Oye, D. Rothchild, and R. Lizber, p. 157."

    (2) from Lawrence Scheinman, Chapter 6, The International Atomic Energy Agency and World Nuclear Order, Resourcess for the Future, Washington, DC, 1987)

    "The Federal Republic of Germany-Brazil agreement prompted a strong reaction from the United States that resulted in considerable tension between the US and both of the other countries. For an in-depth review of that situation:

    In Brazil, in the years that followed under democratic rule, scientific groups, citizens organizations, and newly-empowered legislators were able to lobby openly for constraints on wasteful nuclear activities. Scientists of US public interest groups e.g.

    provided members of the Brazilian parliament and Physical Society with the necessary technical expertise. Many of these efforts helped to build a political climate more conducive to the implementation of bilateral and international safeguards.

    (3) from  J. Newhouse, "War and Peace in the Nuclear Age", A.A. Knopf, New York, 1989, p. 274 - 275. Text in [ ] added by J. Gruber.

    Brazil's deal with West Germany gradually fell apart of its own weight. The Brazilians couldn't afford the reactors and never managed to make the German-design enrichment technology work for them. ... Brazil and Argentina still refuse to sign the NPT, and in either country an immoderate regime could doubtless acquire the weapons option.

    Finally, in September 1990, when -before the UN General Assembly- Brazil publicly revealed and revoked its nuclear weapons ambitions, the German government (under the Christian and Free Democrats, Chancellor Helmut Kohl) announced that "current and future" nuclear exports would be approved only if full-scope safeguards were in effect in the recipient country.

    For more details see

    IV. Germany's Proliferates Nuclear Technology to the Indian Subcontinent

    IV. 1 Outside Assistance to the Indian and Pakistani Nuclear Programs

    by Steven Dolley, Nuclear Control Institute, June 5, 1998

    IV. 2 Focus of N-probes shifts from Pakistan to Europe

    The News International, Pakistan, Jan. 27, 2004.

    IV. 3. Individuals from Pakistan, Germany, Holland, South Africa and the UAE

    AFP, Islamabad, Jan 28, 2004

    Father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb under "microscopic scrutiny".
    "There are individuals from Pakistan, Germany, Holland, South Africa and the UAE" who had been named by Iran in its reports to the IAEA, said the official [close to the investigations following allegations raised by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in November 2003]

    V. Further Reading


    VI. 1 Glossary

    Excerpts from NPT Briefing Book (CNS and Mountbatten Center for International Studies, April 2004)
    International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) A United Nations agency with responsibilities to implement safeguards on nuclear materials and promote the peaceful uses of nuclear power.

    safeguards (IAEA) Measures applied to peaceful uses of nuclear energy by the International Atomic Energy Agency to verify that nuclear energy is not used for military purposes.

    • Safeguards agreements made under the terms of INFCIRC/66 are applied to nuclear and other materials,services, equipment, facilities and information specified in the agreement.
    • Safeguards agreements made under the terms of INFCIRC/153 are designed for non-nuclear-weapon state parties to the NPT and are applied to all nuclear materials in all of the peaceful nuclear activities of the state; such safeguards come under the category full-scope safeguards.
    • Other, less common, forms of IAEA safeguards include:
      • those organized pursuant to the Tlatelolco Treaty, which are very similar to those made under the terms of INFCIRC/153;
      • full-scope safeguards where a state is not a party to the NPT;
      • and voluntary offer agreements by nuclear-weapon states in which some or all of their peaceful nuclear activities are covered by safeguards.

    VI. 2 Export Controls

    (from NPT Briefing Book (CNS and Mountbatten Center for International Studies, April 2004)

    Although national export controls were not specifically mentioned in the text of the NPT, Indiaās Īpeaceful nuclear explosionā of 1974 stimulated supplier states into action on this matter. As the materials for the explosive device had been manufactured in a Canadian-supplied research reactor, attention became focused on two distinct issues: the conditions surrounding the export of nuclear materials and equipment to states that were not parties to the NPT; and whether technology holders should withhold all exports of nuclear equipment which might assist in the production of nuclear weapons if a state decided to proliferate.

    The oil crisis of 1973, and the entry of France and Germany into the market for the export of nuclear technology, created a context of acute competition in an expanding and apparently lucrative market. This raised fears that fuel reprocessing and uranium enrichment plants, termed Īsensitive technologiesā in this context, would be provided to NNWS customers to make offers of a vendorās technology more attractive. Moreover, some interpretations of the text of the NPT suggested that it did not prohibit exports of Īsensitive technologiesā from NPT parties to either other NNWS parties to the Treaty or to non-parties. One consequence was that, within the US in particular, alarm started to be voiced that the norma-tive and legal constraints contained in the Treaty would be inadequate to deal with the opportunities for proliferation presented by an expanding global nuclear industry, particularly as at that point relatively few of the states of contemporary non-proliferation concern had signed and ratified the NPT.

    The consequences of this evolving situation were found in international efforts to co-ordinate export policies; attempts to agree on common guidelines for triggering IAEA safeguards on exports from NPT states; and US domestic legislation. In all cases, however, the main disagreements over these policies were between the US and its industrialised allies.

    The attempt to co-ordinate export policy, and in particular agree a common policy with France and Germany to prevent transfers of Īsensitive technologiesā, started with an East­West meeting of major technology suppliers in London in 1974. At French insistence, this and other initial meetings of this ĪLondon Suppliers Clubā, later renamed the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), were conducted without publicity, resulting in suspicions in some quarters, particularly among the non-aligned states who were not represented on the group, that this was a conspiracy to deny then the Īinalienable rightā of access to all nuclear technology contained in the NPT text. After months of discussion, agreement was reached among participating states on a set of guidelines for nuclear transfers Īto any non-nuclear-weapon state for peaceful purposesā. They did this by defining Īan export trigger list and ...common criteria for technology transfersā. These guidelines were made public in February 1978 in the form of an IAEA information circular, INFCIRC/254.

    The NSG guidelines listed those plants and their components which the adherents agreed should in future require a licence before a state would permit their export. Adherents were also expected to ensure that their export control legislation conformed to the guidelines. They also stated that suppliers Īshould exercise restraint in the transfer of sensitive facilities, technology and weapons-usable materialsā. The effect of the first was to make all nuclear transfers positive acts of state policy, thus highlighting the right of any state to refuse to sanction them if it believed they might be used to assist in nuclear proliferation.

    This, the suppliers argued, implemented their commitments under the NPT not to assist any state to proliferate. The effect of the second was to create tacit understanding among all those in the NSG that in future they would refrain from exporting any reprocessing or enrichment technology. As a result, France halted its assistance in the construction of reprocessing plants to both Pakistan and South Korea, and Germany constrained its efforts to transfer enrichment and reprocessing technology to Brazil.

    The NSG guidelines of 1978 represented the extent of consensus in the later 1970s among the technology supplying states. What they could not agree on was how to interpret Article III.2 of the Treaty text which stated that exports by NPT parties to non-parties were only to take place if Īsubject to the safeguards required by this Articleā. Canada and the US argued that in this context Īsafeguardsā meant INFCIRC/153 safeguards (i.e. safeguards on all nuclear materials within the recipient state). Others argued that it meant INFCIRC/66 safeguards on exported items alone.

    VI. 3 Guidelines for Nuclear Transfers

    (from Nuclear Suppliers Group, INFCIRC/254/Rev.5/Part 1, 16 January 2002)
    • 5. Retransfers
      • The Government, when exporting Trigger List items, will require satisfactory assurances that the items will not be re-exported to a non-nuclear weapon State not party to the NPT unless arrangements corresponding to those referred to above are made for the acceptance of safeguards by the State receiving such re-export.
    • Controls on retransfer
      • 9. (a) Suppliers should transfer trigger list items or related technology only upon the recipient's assurance that in the case of:
        • retransfer of such items or related technology, or
        • transfer of trigger list items derived from facilities originally transferred by the supplier, or with the help of equipment or technology originally transferred by the supplier; the recipient of the retransfer or transfer will have provided the same assurances as those required by the supplier for the original transfer.
      • 9. (b) In addition the supplier's consent should be required for:
        • any retransfer of trigger list items or related technology and any transfer referred to under paragraph 9(a) (2) from any State which does not require full scope safeguards, in accordance with paragraph 4(a) of these Guidelines, as a condition of supply;
        • any retransfer of enrichment, reprocessing or heavy water production facilities, equipment or related technology, and for any transfer of facilities or equipment of the same type derived from items originally transferred by the supplier;
        • any retransfer of heavy water or material usable for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.
      • 9. (c) To ensure the consent right as defined under paragraph 9 (b), government to government assurances will be required for any relevant original transfer.
    • Non-proliferation Principle
      • 10. Notwithstanding other provisions of these Guidelines, suppliers should authorize transfer of items or related technology identified in the trigger list only when they are satisfied that the transfers would not contribute to the proliferation of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.

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