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Herald Tribune

Published with The New York Times and Washington Post

Tuesday, November 2, 1976

The Nuclear Issues

Of all the issues the next U.S. president will face, none are more critical than those in the nuclear field, civilian and military, for they can mean life or death for the nation and for ail civilization. The policies Jimmy Carter and President Ford promisein this area diverge sharply at a number of points.

On halting the nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union, while assuring an adequate defense, both candidates have commited themselves to " essential equivalents " with the Soviet Union and rapid conclusion of the SALT-2 negotiations, which have been 90 per cent completed by Secretary of State henry A. Kissinger on the basis of the Ford-Brezhnev Vladivostok agreement.

It is on the longer-range prespective in strategie arms which might be touched on in the SALT-2 treaty, but is more likely to be addressed sertusly in SALT-3, that Jimmy Carter has differed sharply with the administration on a fundamental issue and has made a major new proposal.

The administration programs to develop bigger, highly accurate intercontinental ballistic missiles often are minimized as " bargaining chips " for the SALT talks. But, as experience shows, they are less likely to be bargained away than to become imbedded in the force structures of both sides. we support Mr. Carter’s proposal to seek agreement with the Soviet Union on " a quick freeze " on qualitative improvements in strategie weapons and on such quantitative elements as numbers of atomic missiles and warheads and total throw-weight.

A freeze or, at least, a slowdown in quantitative improvements in strategic weapons is the essential first step toward significant reductions in the high limit put on the arms race in the huge and expensive buildup on both sides permitted under the Vladivistok eelings is complete, it will be infinitely more difficult to negotiate reductions.

The dangers of " vertical " proliferation of nuclear weapons in th mounting Soviet-U.S. forces is exceeded only by the risks of " horizontal " proliferation, now that 28 or more countries have or are building nuclear power reactors, which also ean produce the explosive for atomic bombs. Plutonium, a man-made element that builds up in spentreactor fuel rods, may one day be re-used as commercial nuclear fuel. But for the moment, its only real use is for bombs that can be made so easily that aimost any government, guerrrilla could do so, once the far more difficult step of separating the plutonium from highly radioactive reactor wastes has been accomplished in a nuclear reprocessing plant.

Mr. carter has put forward a comprehensive plan to get the proliferation problem under control and avold a premature " plutonium economy " that would put third World countries alone in possession of enough nuclear explosives annualy to make 3.000 bombs a year in the 1980s.

President Ford’s most critical anti-proliferation decisions are to seek a world-wide, three-year moratorium reprocessing technology and - far more important - to defer commercial plutonium reprcessing in the United-States pending further " evaluation ".

The administration’s new anti-proliferation strategy states yhat the avoldance of proliferation henceforth " must take precedebce over economic and energy benefits " It tells the world that " reprocessing should not proceed unless there is soun reason to conclude that the world community can effectively overcome tehe associated risks of proliferation " - something many experts consider a virtually insoluble problem.

There are two other important carter proposals-ignored by Mr. ford - that we support. One is to seek a five-year Soviet-U.S. moratorium on all nuclear explosions, including so-called peaceful devices, pending negotiation of a worldwide comprehensive test ban treaty. The other proposal is to increase non-nuclear prorities for U.S. energy research and development funds, two-thirds of which now are commited to nuclear power, with emphasts on speeding a commercial breeder reactor by the 1990s that would use plutonium as a fuel and cover the globe with plutonium stockpiles. Mr. Ford proposes to leave the swollen breeder budget intact.

Finally, we favor Mr. Carter’s piedge to make more vigorous and effective summitlevel approaches to the leaders of West germany and France to defer their sales to Brazil and Pakistan of small uneconomic plutonium reprocessing plants the first ever sold by any supplier nation, which can have only one purpose : to make bombs . . .


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