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Digital Archive International History Declassified

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South African Nuclear History

This collection provides a look at nearly twenty-five years of South African nuclear policy. These documents shed new light on the country’s unique nuclear history, from early uranium supply arrangements under the United States-South Africa Atomic Energy Bilateral to the South African response to the September 1979 Vela incident, through the early 1990s when it announced the existence and subsequent destruction of its nuclear program. This collection is a result of the partnership between the Wilson Center’s Nuclear Proliferation International History Project and Monash South Africa. See also Nuclear Proliferation, and the related collections in the Nuclear Proliferation International History Project. (Image, Pelindaba Nuclear Research Centre, South Africa, NJR ZA)

  • May 17, 1948

    Memorandum from Edmund A. Gullion to J.K. Gustafson Regarding US Policy towards South Africa

    Memo from Edmund Gullion, Special Assistant to the Undersecretary, to J. K. Gustafson of the Atomic Energy Commission summarizing the most important unresolved policy issues between the U.S. and South Africa.

  • May 26, 1948

    Memorandum from J.K Gustafson to C.L. Wilson Regarding Gustafson's Conversation with Anton Gray

    Memo from J. K. Gustafson to Carroll L. Wilson, both of the US Atomic Energy Commission, regarding a conversation Anton Gray had with General Smuts, the fourth prime minister of South Africa, about South Africa's uranium development and its effect on relations with the US and the UK.

  • October 18, 1948

    Memorandum from A.M. Rosenson to Wendel Regarding Draft Economic Policy Statement

    Memo from Alexander M. Rosenson, chief of the monetary affairs staff at the Dept. of State, to Wendel with the economic section of the US policy agenda towards South Africa attached.

  • March 28, 1949

    House of Assembly Debates, Union of South Africa, on Atomic Energy Bill, First Session, Tenth Parliament

    House debate on the Atomic Energy Bill, which proposed controlling South Africa's nuclear energy by placing the state in charge of mining and ownership of uranium, thorium, and other radioactive materials.

  • September 02, 1949

    Memorandum of Conversation Regarding Eximbank Loan to South Africa

    Assistant Secretary of State Thorp, Arneson, and Wendel discuss a potential Eximbank loan to South Africa, noting that though the loan application should be considered separate from US uranium purchases, South Africa was due to become the main source of uranium in the US after the Congo's supply was depleted.

  • 1956

    South African Cabinet Memorandum, Research in the Field of Nuclear Energy and Exchanging Information with Friendly Nations

    South African Cabinet memorandum discussing the potential for nuclear cooperation and technology assistance from various friendly countries, including the United States, Great Britain, and the Netherlands.

  • January 01, 1956

    Twenty-First Session of the United Nations General Assembly, 'Agenda Items Relating to Disarmament'

    Summary of the Twenty-First Session of the United Nations General Assembly's agenda on disarmament

  • October 01, 1956

    Delegation of the Union of South Africa to the United Nations, 'Statement of Mr. W. C. du Plessis, Leader of the South African Delegation'

    Speech delivered by W.C. Du Plessis, leader of the South African delegation, to the Conference on the Statute of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The speech conveys South Africa's hopes and concerns for the future of nuclear energy technology while also outlining the advances in the field made by South African scientists.

  • October 01, 1956

    Eleventh Plenary Meeting of the Conference on the Statute of the International Atomic Energy Agency (Statement by South African Ambassador W.C. du Plessis)

    Statement by the South African Ambassador to the United States, W. C. du Plessis, at the Eleventh Plenary Meeting of the Conference on the Statute of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) held in the United Nations. Du Plessis expresses approval of the election of the new president of the conference, and discusses the history of the IAEA Statute and South Africa's atomic energy research.

  • October 08, 1956

    Seventh Meeting of the Main Committee, Conference on the Statute of the International Atomic Energy Agency (Statement by South African Ambassador W.C. du Plessis)

    Statement by the South African Ambassador to the United States, W. C. du Plessis, at the Seventh Meeting of the Main Committee of the Conference on the Statute of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) held at the United Nations. Du Plessis discusses several amendments intending to improve the representation of African and Middle Eastern countries in the IAEA, as well as several amendments regarding the structure of the organization and the IAEA board.

  • September, 1957

    Letter, South African Charge d’Affaires in Vienna, 'South African Developments in the Atomic Energy Field'

    E.G. Fourie of the South African Department for Foreign Affairs writes to Charge d’Affaires Donald Sole about recent developments in the South African nuclear problem. He informs Sole that earlier that year the Government of Iran, through the British Embassy in Tehran, requested that Iranian engineers be sent to South Africa for training in uranium prospecting and extradition.

  • October 07, 1957

    Statement Delivered by D. B. Sole, Leader of the South African Delegation at the Opening of the General Debate of the First General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency

    The South African Charge d'Affaires in Vienna writes to Pretoria about talking points from the General Debate in a conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency. He encloses a copy of the speech the leader of the South African delegation, D. B. Sole, gave to open the Debate.

  • October 18, 1957

    Letter, South African Charge d'Affaires in Vienna, 'Production of Heavy Water in South Africa'

    The South African Charge d'Affaires in Vienna requests information on reported preparations to produce heavy water in South Africa.

  • November 26, 1957

    Letter, South African Atomic Energy Board, 'Production of Heavy Water in the Union'

    The Deputy Chairman of South Africa's Atomic Energy Board sets out the present position in regard to the manufacture of heavy water in the Union.

  • January, 1958

    A. J. A. Roux, Director of Atomic Energy Research Programme, 'Proposed Atomic Energy Research and Development Programme for South Africa'

    Dr. A.J.A. Roux sets forth his proposal for the South African nuclear proposal.

  • May 20, 1958

    Letter, S.M. Naude, 'South African Atomic Energy Research Programme'

    Naude, the President of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research in South Africa, writes to Dr. Schonland, the Director of the Atomic Energy Research Establishment to voice concerns about Dr. Roux's nuclear program proposal. The two knew each other personally.

  • June 26, 1958

    Letter, B. F. J. Schonland, Response to Naude's Concerns with Dr. Roux's Nuclear Energy Propsal

    Dr. Schonland ,President of the South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, replies to Naude's concerns with Dr. Roux's proposal for South Africa's nuclear energy program.

  • March, 1960

    South Africa Department of Foreign Affairs, 'Purchase by the Union of a Research Reactors to be Discussed at Special Meeting of Atomic Energy Board: 16th March, 1960'

    Summary of a memorandum prepared by Dr. A.J.A. Roux comparing the costs and benefits of different types of reactors.

  • March 30, 1960

    Letter, South African Department of Foreign Affairs, Informing the United States of South Africa's Intent to Request Nuclear Materials

    P. H. Philip of the South African Department of Foreign Affairs writes to the US Ambassador to South Africa informing him that South Africa will formally apply to the United States Atomic Energy Commission by June 1st 1960 for nuclear materials, pursuant to the bilateral trade agreement between the US and the Union of South Africa.

  • April 05, 1960

    Proposed Press Release, 'Information Regarding Activities in Atomic Energy in South Africa'

    A draft of an Atomic Energy Board press release on the Union of South Africa's new refining project, sent to the Secretary of Foreign Affairs in Pretoria.