183 Record of Conversation between Rotsey and Helfrich

Tokyo, 27 September 1971


Record of Conversation with Mr and Mrs G. Helfrich (USAEC representative, Tokyo)

Officers Present: Dr W.B. Rotsey (Counsellor, Atomic Energy), Mrs W.B. Rotsey

Uranium Enrichment

Mr Helfrich said that the U.S. was not eager to sell its technology and was by no means pressing it on other nations. The U.S. is prepared to release it but only if certain conditions are met and if they are not met then the U.S. will not share the technology. He contrasted this attitude with that of the French whom he said were very keen to sell their technology and were trying very hard to do so to Japan.

  1. He agreed that Japan was the nation in the Pacific area which had a pressing need for enrichment capacity to be available and that it was the nation which would probably set the timetable. I suggested that because Japan was committed to a large programme of light water reactors, it would have to be certain that the enrichment plant was capable of producing enriched uranium with extreme reliability and assured economics. It followed that Japan may prefer the diffusion process and particularly American technology because Japan had leaned on American technology so successfully in the past. Mr Helfrich thought that while the Japanese were likely to choose diffusion it was not certain they would choose U.S. technology. He felt that the problem of changing Japan’s Atomic Energy laws was significant. The Japanese had told the U.S. that they would not contemplate changing their law until participation in a viable enrichment project was imminent. In view of the time that was likely to elapse before such a stage was reached and the law in Japan changed, the need for a decision to go ahead and build a plant might sway Japan towards French technology.
  2. Mr Helfrich suggested that internal problems in the U.S. would also compound the issue. The proposition that U.S. private firms take over enrichment and become involved in a new plant was still being explored. He thought it probable that rather than the new plant being built in Canada or Australia, it would in fact be built in the U.S. by the private firms. Of course guarantees of a market would have to be provided and future customers must sign long term contracts containing clauses which would protect U.S. investment.

[NAA: A1838, 720/4/9 part 6]