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Historical Documents Regarding India's Misuse of Civilian Nuclear Technology Assistance

India’s 1974 nuclear weapon test explosion used plutonium produced by a Canadian-supplied reactor (CIRUS) moderated with heavy water supplied by the United States under a 1956 contract stipulating that it be used only “for research into and the use of atomic energy ‘for peaceful purposes.’”

To this day, India does not deny the 1974 test device used Canadian and U.S. equipment and materials, but asserts that it did not violate the terms of its U.S. and Canadian “peaceful uses” contract equirements because the test was a “peaceful nuclear explosion.”

In January 2006, the State Department said that there is “factual uncertainty as to whether U.S.-supplied heavy water contributed to the production of the plutonium used for the explosive device, and the lack of a mutual understanding between the U.S. and India on the scope of the 1956 contract language. We have since made clear that we exclude so-called ‘peaceful nuclear explosions’—and any other nuclear explosive activity—from the scope of peaceful nuclear cooperation.”

However, the following recently declassified documents show that the United States and Canadian governments interpreted their agreements as “precluding all nuclear explosions on the grounds that any such explosion in tantamount to a nuclear weapons test” and made this interpretation clear to India before the 1974 bomb test.

Prospects of an Indian Nuclear Test
Memoradum from U.S. Department of State Director of Intelligence and Research
(Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)
February 23, 1972

U.S. Government Aide Memoire Presented to Indian Atomic Energy Commission
(Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)
November 16, 1970


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