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Digital Archive International History Declassified

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French Nuclear History

 Documents on the history of French nuclear development, focusing on secret technical assistance provided by the United States in the 1970s and 1980s. See also Nuclear Proliferation, and the related collections in the Nuclear Proliferation International History Project. (Image, Kissinger, Schlesinger, and Galle, 1975, US Office of the Historian, Office of Secretary of Defense)

  • December 06, 1974

    Memorandum from John B. Walsh to the Secretary of Defense, 'Ballistic Missile and Nuclear Safety Program'

    Summary of US assistance to the French ballistic missile program and nuclear safety talks. Describes assistance given to date and possible areas of expansion.

  • April 23, 1975

    Memorandum from Helmut Sonnenfeldt to Henry A. Kissinger, 'Meeting with French on Missile Cooperation'

    Description of a meeting between Sonnenfeldt and Jean-Laurens Delpech, French Minister of Armaments. Delpech was concerned about the slow response to the French requests for further nuclear assistance. Sonnenfeldt explained that they were awaiting a detailed technical analysis of the requests and limitations of US policy. Delpech also raised the issues of French use of the Nevada Test Site. Attached to the memorandum is a handwritten letter by Delpech to National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft.

  • June 23, 1975

    President Ford to Secretary of Defense, 'Missile Cooperation with France'

    President Ford authorizes providing additional ballistic missile assistance to France. The assistance was extended to cover new French missiles, penetrative aid technology, and intelligence information about Soviet systems and potential French vulnerabilities to attack.

  • June 23, 1975

    National Security Decision Memorandum 299, 'Cooperation with France'

    Directive from President Ford expanding nuclear safety cooperation with France to include assistance with improving the safety of underground testing. This would involve only information sharing, and "no French nuclear explosive devices of any type may be accepted for test by the US."

  • August 01, 1975

    Memorandum of Conversation, 'Economic Policy/Cyprus; French Nuclear Programs; Energy'

    Transcript of a conversation between President Ford, Henry Kissinger, and French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing. The conversation opens with a discussion of economic policy and the embargo on northern Cyprus following the 1974 Turkish invasion. Giscard then asks about the slow progress of US technical assistance to the French nuclear program. Lastly they discuss energy and oil prices.

  • October 09, 1975

    Memorandum for the Record by Helmut Sonnenfeldt, 'Conversation with Delpech'

    Description of conversation between Sonnenfeldt and Jean-Laurens Delpech, French Minister of Armaments, on October 7. Delpech asked about the status of US nuclear assistance to France. He specifically asks about French requests for testing of reentry vehicle material in US nuclear tests, the importation of advanced computers, technical assistance with booster trigger design, and information on submarine vulnerabilities. Other topics included the French sale of helicopters to China and the potential sale of ECM equipment to Arab states.

  • November 25, 1975

    Memorandum of Conversation between Roger C. Molander and M. Conze, 'Meeting with M. Conze of France, November 24, 1975'

    Conze asked about the status of several French requests for nuclear assistance. These included their request for a CDC 7600 mainframe computer, the testing of reentry vehicle material, and technical help with the M-4 ballistic missile. Sonnenfeldt informed Conze that assistance with booster trigger design had not be authorized as it conflicted with US legal restriction in the Atomic Energy Act.