145 Record by Booker of Meeting with Majoli1

Canberra, 11 July 1968


Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

The Italian Ambassador called under instructions to ask that we should support an approach which the Italians proposed to make in Washington requesting the State Department not to place before Congress certain of the points included in the aide memoire addressed to us by the United States Embassy on 13 May 1968.2 The Ambassador handed me the attached memorandum summarising the instructions he had received.

  1. I described to the Italian Ambassador the circumstances in which the aide memoire had been addressed to us by the American Embassy and said that we attached considerable importance to its being transmitted to Congress during the ratification proceedings. We hoped that the American ratification would be made in a way that gave clear endorsement to the interpretations given. We believed that in seeking these interpretations we were serving the interests not only of Australia but of 'near nuclear countries' like Italy which might have much to gain from the peaceful application of nuclear development. I hoped therefore that the Italians would do nothing to discourage the State Department from seeking Congressional endorsement of the interpretations which had been given to us.
  2. I suggested to the Italian Ambassador that his memorandum indicated that there had been some misunderstanding in Rome of the real purport of the United States aide memoire. It did not seem to us that there had been any confusion in the minds of the Americans between fissile materials and the plant connected with the processing of such materials. The point we had made to the Americans had been that unless the special fissionable materials could be used plants such as plutonium or fast breeder reactors could not be built. In their answer to us the Americans had indicated that fissionable materials could be used for any peaceful purpose, subject to safeguards, and they had referred by way of illustration to plutonium and fast breeder reactors as the type of plants which would not be affected by the treaty. We fully agreed with the Italian point that the treaty did not apply to manufacturing plants or equipment as such but only to the use of special fissionable materials. In our view the American aide memoire was in no way inconsistent with this understanding.
  3. [matter omitted] We considered that the treaty did not ban any manufacturing process for which there was a peaceful purpose and our understanding of the American aide memoire was that it confirmed this interpretation.
  4. The Italian Ambassador said that he believed that if our interpretation of the American aide memoire was correct it would be fully accepted by his Government. He believed that in these matters Italian and Australian interests lay very closely together.

[Memorandum by the Italian Government]

The Italian Government is rather concerned about the possibility that in the hearings which shortly will take place in the American Senate on the ratification of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the American Government may insist on the ideas expressed in its memorandum addressed to the Australian Government in May last.

Particularly, the attention of the Italian Government is focused on the following points of the memorandum:

  1. the development of plutonium reactors would be allowed, but under control;
  2. Article 3 does not interfere with the development or use of quick reactors, under control;
  3. the manufacture of elements which might be utilized in connection with explosive devices is prohibited by the Treaty.

In the Italian view, there is a confusion between the basic materials (or special fissile materials) and the plants and equipments connected with the processing of such materials. By itself the existence or development of such plants does not justify controls of any sort. Controls might be considered only when the actual processing of the atomic material would take place. But only for the materials and not for plants.

Particularly no ground for the ban mentioned in the letter (c) above can be found in any article of the Treaty. Such a ban would imply a further limitation to the freedom of research essential for technological development.

Therefore the Italian Government would be grateful to the Australian Government if, in the common interest of both countries in this matter, would see their way to support the Italian points of view with our American friends before they make their proposed statement at the hearings in the Washington Senate.

[NAA: A1838, 680/10/2 part 6]