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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)

  • March 18, 1967

    South African Department of Foreign Affairs, 'Nuclear Proliferation Problem'

    Summary of the United States-South Africa Atomic Energy Bilateral. South Africa's sale of source material to France was the subject of some disagreement between the two parties, with the Americans worried that sale of this material would be in violation of the non-proliferation treaty.

  • March 31, 1967

    Letter, South African Ambassador to the United States Taswell, "United States Defence Policy"

    The South African ambassador to the United States writes to the South African Secretary for Foreign Affairs in Cape Town to discuss a story published in the Rand Daily Mail that reported a United States plan to invade Southern Africa.

  • May, 1967

    South African Department of Foreign Affairs, 'Items of Interest in the Field of Atomic Energy'

    Summary of the communication between South African and American policymakers regarding the renewal of the Atomic Energy Cooperation Agreement. The renewal of the previous agreement was contingent on South Africa reforming its safeguards policy and modeling them after the Canadian and US policies.

  • May, 1967

    South Africa Department of Foreign Affairs, 'Items of Interest in the Field of Atomic Energy, Renewal of the Untied States/South Africa Atomic Energy Cooperation Agreement (July 1957 to July 1967)'

    Report on the status of negotiations with Washington over the extension of South Africa's Bilateral with the United States.

  • May, 1967

    Report, South African Department of Foreign Affairs, 'Cooperation with Argentina in the Atomic Energy Field'

    Details the current status of South African nuclear cooperation with Argentina, France and Israel as well as South Africa's redesignation to the IAEA Board of Governors.

  • May, 1967

    Report, South African Department of Foreign Affairs, 'Items of Interest in the Field of Atomic Energy: Developments During March-April-May 1967'

    South African report summarizing communication between South African and US officials on the renewal of their atomic energy cooperation agreement, as well as cooperation with Argentina and France, discussion of the sale of uranium to Israel, and South Africa's redesignation to the IAEA board of governors.

  • May 18, 1967

    Report, South African Foreign Affairs Archives, 'The Nuclear Proliferation Problem'

    Report on the progress of South African discussions with Washington to extend the United States-South Africa Atomic Energy Bilateral

  • June 28, 1967

    Meeting Minutes, 'Points of Interest arising from Uranium Marketing Committee Meeting: June 26, 1967'

    Notes the current negotiations of the major nuclear powers from a meeting of the South African Uranium Marketing Committee.

  • November 28, 1967

    Letter from J.L. Stevenson to A.C. Stuart, 'East German Statements on Bonn-Pretoria Alliance'

    J. L. Stevenson concludes that recent East German statements about West German/South African military cooperation, including in nuclear energy, are baseless and that the recent cooperation appears benign.

  • 1968

    South African, Information on Armscor and Armaments Development and Production Act

  • January 28, 1970

    Memorandum from South African Department of Foreign Affairs Regarding Mirage Aircraft

    The South African Ambassador in Cologne sends information on a meeting with a representative of the Dornier Aircraft Company regarding the possible purchase by South Africa of Mirage aircraft and their re-export to Israel.

  • July 20, 1970

    South African Department of Foreign Affairs, Announcement by South African Prime Minister Vorster

    Announcement by South African Prime Minister Vorster outlines the country’s approach to marketing and selling enriched uranium. He describes a unique process by which South African scientists can create a highly enriched “uranium concentrate.”

  • August 25, 1970

    United States Department of State, Memorandum from Martin Jacobs to Mr. Nelson on South African Nuclear Scientist’s Visit US Nuclear Testing Facilities

    Martin Jacobs reports that Dr. J. V. Retief, Senior Scientist of the National Nuclear Research Center of the South African Atomic Energy Board requested permission to visit an Army Corps research facility, the Cratering Group Research Labratory at Livermore, California. Jacobs was concerned that "there might be political repercussions if it appeared the US was assisting South Africa to produce nuclear explosives as a prelude to weapons development."

  • November 19, 1971

    South African Nuclear Fuel Agreement

    U.S. State Department memorandum weighing the arguments for and against renewing the agreement to sell uranium enrichment services to South Africa. The political fallout from engaging with the South African apartheid regime coupled with the fact that they had not signed the NPT were closely considered.

  • September 13, 1972

    South Africa Department of Foreign Affairs, Letter from South African Consul General in Tel Aviv C.B.H. Fincham to on the Opening of Israeli Diiplomatic Missions in Botswana, Swaziland and Lesotho

    The Consul General of the South African Embassy in Tel Aviv describes a conversation with Lt. Col. Pinchas Gonen regarding the opening of Israeli diplomatic missions in Botswana, Swaziland and Lesotho. Gonen described the job training and military-to-civilian transition programs Israel had assisted in creating in several African countries. They discuss Israeli foreign policy in Africa in general.

  • March, 1975

    Memorandum, Lt-General Raymond Fullarton Armstrong, US Department of Defense, Israel-South Africa

    A memorandum written by Chief of the Defense Staff Lt-General Raymond Fullarton Armstrong describes South Africa's nuclear weapons systems needs and outlines the rationale for having a nuclear deterrent.

  • March 31, 1975

    Minutes of Second Israel-South Africa (ISSA) Meeting

    Meeting minutes of Israel-South Africa (ISSA) meeting which discuss the nomination of Lt. Gen. H. de V. du Toit as security official of South Africa.

  • April 03, 1975

    Israel-South Africa Agreement (ISSA)

    Agreement between the South African and Israeli Ministers of Defense that outlines the two nations’ cooperation on nuclear issues.

  • June 04, 1975

    Notes on Meeting between Israeli and South African Ministers of Defense Shimon Peres and P.W. Botha in Zurich

    Summary of meeting between Israeli Minister Shimon Peres and South African Minister P. W. Botha in Zurich. They discuss stalled negotiations between South Africa and Israel for a project to produce lightweight fighters and other military equipment.

  • June 04, 1975

    Comparison of Notes on a Meeting Between Minister S. Peres and Minister P.W. Botha, Held in Zurich

    A list of edits to be made to meeting notes taken during the second Israel-South Africa (ISSA) meeting between Israel Minister Peres and South African Minister Botha.