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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)

  • 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.

  • April 28, 1960

    South African Report, 'Union-United States Cooperation in Nuclear Field: Financial Assistance'

    A summary of an exchange of telegrams between the US Embassy in South Africa and the US Legation in Vienna discussing the US position on any formal request by the Union of South Africa for nuclear materials.

  • April 30, 1960

    Letter, South African Legation in Vienna, Regarding Relations with the United States

    The South African Legation in Vienna writes to the Department of Foreign Affairs to request a copy of the Union's bilateral agreement with the United States. Mr. Philip at the Department of External Affairs attaches a handwritten note that they won't find anything in the bilateral on grants for nuclear technology; the offer was made generally, in President Eisenhower's subsequent speech.

  • May 04, 1960

    South Africa Department of Foreign Affairs, 'Proposed Application to United States for Assistance in Meeting Costs of Research Reactor in Western Province'

    Discusses how South Africa should go about applying to the United States for financial assistance for the building of a research reactor in the Western Province, under President Eisenhower's 'Atoms for Peace' program.

  • May 05, 1960

    Letter, P. H. Philip, Forwarding Material on South African 'Atoms for Peace' Proposal to United States

    P. H. Philip of the South African Department of Foreign Affairs forwards material on South Africa's application to the United States for financial assistance with the development of a reactor for nuclear research.

  • May 05, 1960

    Letter, P. H. Philip, Regarding South African Application to United States for Nuclear Assistance

    Philip states that South Africa wishes to apply for a grant from the United States for the reactor to be built in the Western Province.

  • May 13, 1960

    Letter, T. Schumann,' Application for Grant from AEC of USA'

    Letter from the Deputy Chairman of the South African Council on Nuclear Power regarding an application to the United States Atomic Energy Commission for assistance.

  • July 07, 1960

    Confidential Telegram from South African Department of Foreign Affairs M. I. Botha to South African Ambassador to Vienna D.B. Sole on sale of Uranium to Israel

  • July 19, 1960

    Confidential Telegram from South African Ambassador in Vienna D.B. Sole to South African Department of Foreign Affairs Official M.I. Botha on sale of Uranium to Israel.

    The South African Ambassador in Vienna Donald B. Sole responds to a message concerning the Israeli interest in purchasing uranium from South Africa. He does not think that the Israeli Minister's statement that Israeli would obey IAEA safeguards "should be taken seriously" and thus he does not believe it would be in South Africa's best interest to complete the sale.

  • July 20, 1960

    Letter from South African Ambassador A.G. Dunn to South African Department for Foreign Affairs Official M.I. Botha on the Sale of Uranium to Israel

    South African Ambassador to the United States A.G. Dunn states that the United States would not approve of South Africa selling uranium to Israel even if the contract specified that they would obey IAEA safeguards once they were implemented worldwide.

  • July 21, 1960

    Letter from South African Department for Foreign Affairs Official M.I. Botha on Sale of Uranium to Israel (excerpt)

  • May 29, 1961

    Memorandum from Deputy Chair, South African Atomic Energy Board, T. E. W. Schumann Regarding 2 June 1961 Paris Meeting on Bilateral Safeguards

    Memorandum discussing the impact on South Africa of new safeguards applied by the International Atomic Energy Agency to the sale and transfer of nuclear materials.

  • November 13, 1962

    Memorandum from South African Department of Foreign Affairs to Embassies in London, Washington, Ottawa, Canberra and Vienna on the Sale of Uranium to Israel

    Memorandum informing various embassies of the status of South Africa's sale of uranium to Israel, including the terms and safeguards which specified that the uranium should be "used for peaceful purposes only."

  • April 10, 1963

    Report, South African Department of Foreign Affairs, 'Armed Forces Attache's Report for March, 1963'

    Report by Armed Forces Attache G.T. Holl on South African relations with the U.S.

  • April 11, 1963

    Letter, South African Ambassador to the United States, Regarding Armed Forces Attache's Report

    The South African Ambassador to the United States writes to the Secretary for Foreign Affairs regarding an American report on their strategic interests that made no mention of Southern Africa.

  • April 11, 1963

    South African Embassy in Washington, DC, 'Record of Talk between Ambassador Naude and Mr. Mennen Williams: State Dept., 5th April, 1963'

    Assistant Secretary of State Williams and Ambassador Naude discuss US foreign relations with South Africa, particularly its continuing occupation of South West Africa.

  • April 11, 1963

    Letter, South African Ambassador to the United States

  • 1964

    Twentieth Session of the United Nations General Assembly, 'Agenda Items Related to Disarmament'

    South African report on the twentieth session of the General Assembly as it relates to nuclear proliferation.

  • February 01, 1965

    Request from Department of the Prime Minister for Presidential Approval for a Bilateral Agreement on the Sale of South African Uranium to Israel

  • February 01, 1965

    Draft Agreement Between South Africa and Israel on the Application of Safeguards to the Sale of Uranium

    Contract between the governments of Israel and South Africa with terms outlining the safeguards that would be used for the sale of South African uranium to Israel. The safeguards intended to ensure that the material would be used for peaceful purposes only and none would be used "for atomic weapons or for research on or devleopment of atomic weapons or for any other military pruposes."