Foster Criteria and Article II of the NPT

After recently re-reading “this post”: by J Acton, I realized that it’s a bit difficult to find then-ACDA Director William Foster’s 1968 statement to the SFRC (AKA, the “Foster Criteria”), which described the U.S. position on those activities that would violate Article II of the NPT.

Here it is:

Extension of Remarks by Mr. Foster in Response to Question Regarding Nuclear Explosive Devices

The treaty articles in question are Article II, in which non-nuclear-weapon parties undertake “not to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices,” and Article IV, which provides that nothing in the Treaty is to be interpreted as affecting the right of all Parties to the Treaty “to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes…in conformity with Articles I and II of this Treaty.” In the course of the negotiation of the Treaty, United States representatives were asked their views on what would constitute the “manufacture” of a nuclear weapon or other nuclear explosive device under Article II of the draft treaty. Our reply was as follows:

“While the general intent of this provision seems clear, and its application to cases such as those discussed below should present little difficulty, the United States believe [sic] it is not possible at this time to formulate a comprehensive definition or interpretation. There are many hypothetical situations which might be imagined and it is doubtful that any general definition or interpretation, unrelated to specific fact situations could satisfactorily deal with all such situations.”

“Some general observations can be made with respect to the question of whether or not a specific activity constitutes prohibited manufacture under the proposed treaty. For example, facts indicating that the purpose of a particular activity was the acquisition of a nuclear explosive device would tend to show non-compliance. (Thus, the construction of an experimental or prototype nuclear explosive device would be covered by the term ‘manufacture’ as would be the production of components which could only have relevance to a nuclear explosive device.) Again, while the placing of a particular activity under safeguards would not, in and of itself, settle the question of whether that activity was in compliance with the treaty, it would of course be helpful in allaying any suspicion of non-compliance.”

“It may be useful to point out, for illustrative purposes, several activities which the United States would not consider per se to be violations of the prohibitions in Article II. Neither uranium enrichment nor the stockpiling of fissionable material in connection with a peaceful program would violate Article II so long as these activities were safeguarded under Article III. Also clearly permitted would be the development, under safeguards, of plutonium fueled power reactors, including research on the properties of metallic plutonium, nor would Article II interfere with the development or use of fast breeder reactors under safeguards.”

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