India,Pakistan and the Middle East
In October 1971, Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada warned Prime Minister Gandhi of India that the use of plutonium from the Canadian-supplied CIRUS, RAPP-1 or RAPP-2 reactors "for the development of a nuclear explosive device, would inevitably call on our part for a reassessment of our nuclear cooperation with India." Gandhi dismissed Trudeau's concern as "hypothetical."
On 18 May 1974, India's first atomic bomb was detonated in the Rajasthan desert. India later admitted that the plutonium for the bomb had been produced in the CIRUS reactor. Nevertheless, India insisted that the agreement with Canada had in no way been broken. The Indian government maintained that the bomb was a "peaceful nuclear explosive" and not a military weapon. It was also pointed out that the uranium fuel which bred the plutonium was not of Canadian origin.
France congratulated the Indian government on its accomplishment. Pakistan was the only Third World country to condemn those responsible for the test. The Americans, who had supplied heavy water for the CIRUS reactor and tutored Indian scientists in plutonium-handling techniques, were shocked and chagrined. Twenty years earlier, American scientists had created a fundamental ambiguity by introducing the foolish notion of a "peaceful nuclear explosive" which might be used to create harbours, dig canals and hollow out underground reservoirs of natural gas. Though the concept was subsequently discredited, the ambiguity remained and could now be exploited by any nation wishing to make its own "nuclear devices" without calling them "bombs."
The Canadian government immediately suspended all nuclear cooperation with India. It was a relatively empty gesture, for the Canadians were not really needed in India any more. After RAPP-1 and RAPP-2, the Indians went on to build four more CANDU reactors without Canadian assistance. Towards the end of 1974, Canada responded further to the Indian explosion by announcing more stringent safeguards on all future sales of Canadian nuclear materials and equipment. Though well- intentioned, this approach unfortunately served to perpetuate the myth that truly effective safeguards agreements are possible. In effect, the Emperor was merely ordering a new set of clothes.
The Indian episode illustrates the uncanny accuracy of the insights contained in the 1945 Joint Declaration: there is no adequate defence, there is no effective control, and there is no possibility of monopoly. As long as nuclear weapons exist, they will surely spread like a contagious disease. Writing in The Nation in 1976, Richard Falk observed:
Underlying the whole policy of the nuclear age is the fantastic notion that you can both promote a peaceful world and, at the same time, retain the domineering capacities that come from having nuclear weapons.
In order to obscure the perverse logic, we have had to proliferate nuclear technology for so-called peaceful purposes; and that is where the Catch-22 factor comes in. To prevent the spread of nuclear capabilities, we've had to spread nuclear capabilities -- because the problem of how to keep nuclear weapons exclusively for ourselves poses quite an impossible political puzzle. This immense process of deception and self-deception is implicit in the effort to have the benefits of nuclear force, but somehow deny them to others.
And then we have the audacity to lecture the Indians on their temerity in exploding a single nuclear device, while in the same week that India exploded that device, the Soviet Union and the United States between them exploded seven far more destructive devices.
The Indian explosion also revealed something of great significance concerning the gap between the have and the have-not nations. Following hard on the heels of the OPEC oil embargo of 1973, the Indian action communicated a forceful message: the age of Western hegemony is drawing to a close. In 1978, the Cluff Lake Board of Inquiry into Uranium Mining in Saskatchewan reported that Canada had seriously underestimated
the significance of the Indian achievement in the eyes of the Third World. India's action provided new incentives for other nations to go nuclear; revealed a new route via nuclear explosions for "peaceful purposes;" challenged the claim that nuclear explosives are only peaceful if done by a Nuclear-Weapon State; and successfully defied a system regarded by many of the Third World nations as one of superpower domination.
At the NPT Review Conference held in Geneva just one year after the Indian explosion, a new mood was apparent among the unaligned Third World countries, who clamoured for the superpowers to start living up to their own neglected NPT obligations. As William Epstein of Canada reported, the developing nations challenged the nuclear-weapon states "to end underground nuclear tests, to reduce nuclear arms, to pledge not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against Non- Nuclear-Weapon Parties to the Treaty, and to agree to rules for creating nuclear-free zones." However, "all of these major proposals were rejected by the superpowers and their NATO and Warsaw Pact allies." It is hardly surprising that the NPT came to be viewed as a combined East-West effort by nuclear bullies to prevent Third World countries from ever becoming equal.
Ali Bhutto, then prime minister of Pakistan, was especially determined not to knuckle under. Writing in 1979, he pointed out what must be obvious to most Arabs: "Israel and South Africa have full nuclear capability. The Christian, Jewish and Hindu civilizations have this capability. Only the Islamic civilization was without it." Throughout his political career, Bhutto was determined to make Pakistan a nuclear power. As early as 1967, when he was living in Paris, he had observed:
All European strategy is based on the concept of total war. A war waged against Pakistan is capable of becoming a total war. Our plans should therefore include the nuclear deterrent. India is unlikely to concede nuclear monopoly to others. It appears that she is determined to proceed with her plans to detonate a nuclear bomb. Pakistan must therefore embark upon a similar program.
The decision to build the Islamic world's first atomic bomb was taken b y Pakistan in January 1972, less than a month after Bhutto came to power. Since then, much of the necessary research has been financed through the efforts of Libyan dictator Colonel Qaddafi. Qaddafi had been trying to break into the nuclear club since 1968, when he first suspected that Israel had the bomb. His suspicions were not without foundation, for in December 1974, the president of Israel told a group of visiting science writers: "It has always been our intention to develop a nuclear potential. We now have that potential. If we should have need of such arms, we would have them in a short time -- even a few days."
Pakistan had earlier acquired a source of plutonium in the form of the 125 MW KANUPP reactor from Canada, committed in 1959 with assurances that it would be used "for peaceful purposes only." The responsibility for safeguarding this nuclear power plant was transferred from AECL to the IAEA in 1969, three years before it went into commercial operation. Following the Indian atomic explosion, Canada tried to obtain binding assurances from Pakistan that plutonium produced in the KANUPP reactor would never be used as a nuclear explosive. By December 1975, it was evident that Pakistan would simply not agree to this condition; the Canadian government therefore terminated its program of nuclear cooperation with Pakistan. About the same time, Bhutto vowed that his country would "never surrender to any nuclear blackmail from India. The people of Pakistan are ready to offer any sacrifice, and even eat grass, to ensure unclear parity with India."
Since 1973, Pakistan has been negotiating to purchase a large plutonium reprocessing plant from France. Despite Pakistan's reluctance, the plant would have to be subjected to IAEA safeguards or France would not sell. Pakistan finally agreed, but only after deciding to build a much smaller "pilot plant" for plutonium separation based on technical information and experience gleaned from the French project. The smaller plant would not be subject to IAEA inspections. According to a French telex dated 28 July 1975, Pakistan's nuclear chief Munir Khan boasted that, with such a pilot plant, "his country would be in a position to produce -- using the irradiated natural uranium produced by their Canadian reactor -- the few kilograms of plutonium necessary for an explosive device."
Although Ali Bhutto was overthrown by General Zia ul-Haq in April 1978, Pakistan's nuclear plans remained essentially unchanged. Two months later, France finally bowed to American pressure by canceling the contract for the reprocessing plant. It was too late, however. Pakistan already had almost everything needed to complete the project alone. Both the large and the small plutonium separation facilities were expected to be operational in 1983.
The Indian explosion had ramifications throughout the Middle East. The Shah's Iran, an apprehensive neighbour of both India and Pakistan, promptly ordered several nuclear reactors. Iranian students were sent abroad to study nuclear physics and engineering. The equally militaristic Iraqi regime began shopping around for nuclear reactors as well. According to Yves Girard of the French Department of Energy (as reported in The Islamic Bomb), several CANDU salesmen who were in Baghdad in December 1974 were quick
to point out the virtues of the CANDU reactor, hinting broadly at its excellence in producing the deadly substance [plutonium], and even more broadly at the possibilities of keeping safeguards to a minimum. What bothered Girard most was not that they had tried to sell the CANDU that way. It was their later hypocrisy in pointing to the French sale as a danger for nuclear proliferation, when actually they had desperately wanted the sale for themselves, and had indicated no concern whatsoever whether Iraq got the bomb or not.
In a general sense, hypocrisy may be the crux of the proliferation problem. How can Canada expect other nations not to develop nuclear weapons, when it clearly accepts the right of the U.S., the U.K., the USSR, France and China to have them? Canada does not object in principle to nuclear weapons, it seems, but only cares whose finger is on the nuclear trigger.
Like all double standards, this one is odious. Herbert Scoville, who spent many years in the U.S. nuclear weapons business and in the CIA before joining the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, portrays the nuclear arms race as
symbolic of a perverted world, where the possession of nuclear weapons is taken as a sign that a country is important and should be listened to. Instead, I believe that we must create an international atmosphere where the possession of nuclear weapons is a cause for embarrassment and shame, rather than for power and prestige.
Unless we all work together to establish a climate in which nuclear weapons are not assigned political or military value, we may see mushroom clouds over Tel Aviv and Cairo, and lingering radiation casualties throughout the Middle East.
But no one knows how to limit a nuclear war. It could escalate out of control. These horrors, multiplied many times over, could equally well be visited on Washington and New York, London and Belfast, Paris and Marseilles, Moscow and Leningrad.
If the nuclear powers are seeking to halt the spread of nuclear weapons, they are certainly going about it the wrong way.
. . . back to TABLE OF CONTENTS
Taiwan, South Korea and Argentina
Canada's nuclear dealings with Taiwan, South Korea and Argentina, taking place later than those with India and Pakistan, revealed much about the nature of the International nuclear trade.
In 1969, Canada sold Taiwan an NRX-type research reactor very similar to the CIRUS reactor that was supplied to India in 1956. An agreement was signed whereby the reactor would not be used "to further any military purpose." Shortly afterwards, however, Canada recognized mainland China and severed diplomatic relations with Taiwan, an already-isolated country, obsessed with its own defence.
Supplying Taiwan with the means to make nuclear weapons, and then joining in its international abandonment, might be said to invite the spread of the atomic bomb. As former U.S. Department of Defense Director George Rathjens said in 1976: "If mainland China made a determined effort to take Taiwan, the Taiwan government could only effectively respond with nuclear weapons."
In fact, by 1974, Taiwan had actually built a small clandestine facility for separating plutonium. It had also ordered a much larger reprocessing plant from France, similar to the one ordered by Pakistan. When the Americans got wind of this, they forced Taiwan to cancel the order and to dismantle the existing plutonium separation plant immediately, threatening to withdraw all military aid otherwise.
Canada's next export sale came in December 1973, when a contract was signed obligating AECL to supply a 600 MW CANDU reactor to Argentina (the EMBALSE reactor). The contract became effective in April 1974, just weeks before the Indian atomic explosion. Meanwhile, negotiations were under way with South Korea for the construction of another 600 MW CANDU (the WOLSUNG reactor), for which the contract was signed early in 1975. In retrospect, it is clear that both Argentina and South Korea were interested in acquiring nuclear arms.
Argentine dictator Juan Peron had boasted of his country's capacity to develop the atomic bomb as early as 1951, based on research done in Argentina by Ronald Richter, an ex-Nazi nuclear physicist. Of the thousands of German Nazis who fled to Argentina after the collapse of the Third Reich, many were destined to play key roles in the Argentine nuclear industry. To give one example, during World War II Walther Schnurr helped to develop Zyklon-B gas, which was used to exterminate millions in Nazi death camps. He fled Germany at the end of the war and settled in Argentina. Recalled to Germany in 1955, Schnurr subsequently negotiated the delivery to Argentina of a small plutonium separation facility in the 1960s, as well as a medium-sized reactor called ATUCHA-I (375 MW) which was started up in 1974. With these two German nuclear facilities, Argentina could in fact build an atomic bomb. In 1973, Schnurr was awarded the Mayo medal, Argentina's highest award for foreigners.
The additional purchase of a CANDU reactor would add significantly to Argentina's plutonium inventory. Because it is moderated with heavy water, the CANDU design produces more plutonium than any other power reactor on the international market. The CANDU reactor also has an efficient system of "on-line refueling," by which spent fuel can be removed from the reactor by remote control at any time of the day or night, even while the reactor is operating at full power. No other commercial power reactor has a comparable capability. On-line refueling makes it particularly difficult to safeguard a CANDU reactor; an inspector would have to be present 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to ensure that all the spent fuel is accounted for at all times. Moreover, since the CANDU is fueled with natural uranium, with which Argentina is well endowed, the Argentine regime would be free from any dependence on America, Europe or the USSR for supplies of enriched uranium. With the CANDU system, Argentina's nuclear fuel supply could never be cut off.
The Korean dictatorship of General Park Chung Hee had secretly decided in the early 1970s to build an atomic bomb. In 1972, discussions began with France for the purchase of a reprocessing plant, and the actual contract was signed early in 1975. As in the case of Pakistan and Taiwan, the military implications of this move were not lost on the Americans. On 8 March 1975, the French ambassador wired his government from Seoul: "The United States has no doubts that the Koreans have in mind putting to ulterior military ends what they can make use of, such as plutonium." In June 1975, General Park told the Washington Post that if the Americans were ever to weaken their support, South Korea would have to develop its own nuclear weapons. "We have the capacity to do it," he declared. That same month, Newsweek magazine reported that General Park had ordered the Korean Defence Development Agency to begin research on atomic weapons.
By December 1974, the political impact of India's explosion the previous spring began to be felt by the team of CANDU salesmen peddling their wares in Baghdad and Seoul, and by the Argentine officials about to sign an agreement to allow routine IAEA inspections of the EMBALSE reactor. Canada unveiled its new policy on nuclear safeguards: henceforth all items of Canadian origin, and all nuclear materials produced by or with Canadian-origin items, would have to be used exclusively for non-military and non-explosive purposes. In addition, prior consent would have to be obtained from Canada before any high-level enrichment, reprocessing or re-transfer of such nuclear materials would be permitted. IAEA safeguards (or equivalent) would have to be applied for the lifetime of the facilities or materials in question, and acceptable physical security measures would have to be employed to prevent theft or sabotage. Pending re-negotiation of Canada's existing nuclear cooperation agreements, nuclear exports (including exports of uranium) would be allowed to proceed on a "business-as-usual" basis for one year. (This was later extended to two years.)
Throughout 1975, Canada worked to obtain bilateral agreements with Argentina and South Korea incorporating the conditions of the new policy, and agreements were finally concluded in January 1976. In South Korea's case, ins view of that country's continuing efforts to obtain a plutonium reprocessing plant, the Korean regime was officially notified that Canada "would not be prepared, at this time, to agree to the reprocessing of nuclear material." Later, under intense pressure from the Americans, Korea (like Taiwan) was forced to abandon its efforts to purchase a reprocessing plant from France. However, rumours persisted that Korea was still intent on pursuing a nuclear weapons option, as documented in a 1978 U.S. congressional report. On the other hand, Argentina frankly and openly stated that a nuclear weapons option must be regarded as an Argentine prerogative. The Argentine regime refused to ratify the Treaty of Tlatelolco, which would keep Latin America free of nuclear arms. Under these circumstances, even the new Canadian safeguards agreements seemed but a flimsy defence against the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
The ineffectiveness of unenforced nuclear safeguards was recognized in the upper echelons of the federal government at this time. In October 1975, Joseph Stanford, director of the Legal Advisory Division of the Canadian Department of External Affairs, stated: "Safeguards by themselves cannot prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. All they can do is detect breaches of the safeguards." Speaking to an international gathering of lawyers in Washington, D.C., Stanford pointed out that even the most stringent safeguards were "not much good," because there was no international consensus "on what is to be done if the agreements are violated." Without such a consensus, any nation violating the non-proliferation objectives "could bargain one country off against the other." In that case, relaxation of the safeguards would inevitably "become a factor in commercial negotiations for nuclear reactor sales" -- a prophetic statement, as subsequent events would show. At any rate, Stanford observed, safeguards without teeth are, by definition, not enforceable; they will never succeed in preventing the spread of nuclear weapons. Six months later, these sentiments were echoed by Sigvard Eklund, Director of the IAEA, in an address to the UN General Assembly.
At the same time, Canadian public opposition to nuclear power was growing by leaps and bounds. To begin with, the Indian atomic explosion in 1974 had shocked Canadians from coast to coast. The following year, evacuation of radioactively contaminated homes and schools in Port Hope, Ontario, made national news. Then, by the autumn of 1975, it became public knowledge that AECL was going to lose over $100 million on its Argentinian sale due to financial bungling. Around the same time, the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility began publicly disputing the need for nuclear power as an energy source, arguing in favour of cheaper, safer, more suitable energy alternatives. The federal Liberal Party, at its policy convention in Ottawa in November 1975, unanimously adopted a resolution calling on its government leaders to launch a national public inquiry into nuclear power "in order to acquaint the people of Canada with the hazards and the benefits of nuclear technology." The government ignored this resolution and turned a deaf ear to the nuclear critics.
But the controversy would not die. In 1976, the Auditor-General's Report revealed that on top of its $100 million loss, AECL had committed major financial indiscretions in connection with the Argentinian and Korean sales -- including the payment of huge sums in unauthorized agents' fees. In the case of Argentina, AECL deposited $2.5 million in an anonymous Swiss bank account; the identity of the recipient was never discovered. In the case of Korea, Shoul Eisenberg of Tel Aviv received $18 million in unaccountable payments from AECL. Amidst charges of bribery, corruption and kick-backs, the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee launched an investigation. However, the committee was denied power of subpoena by the Liberal majority on the committee, AECL refused to present its books for inspection, and top AECL officials stonewalled the committee by refusing to answer questions. The committee reported that AECL witnesses were "reluctant," "uncooperative" and "evasive" in testifying. The committee also concluded that
the successful concealment, by complex and sophisticated payment and banking procedures in foreign countries, of the identities of the ultimate recipients of the funds and the nature of services rendered, leads your Committee to suspect that some of the payments were indeed used for illegal or corrupt purposes.
It is sobering to reflect that IAEA inspectors have even fewer powers of inquiry than the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee has. If $20 million can disappear without being accounted for, then surely 20 pounds of plutonium -- enough to make an atomic bomb -- could also disappear without anyone being the wiser. (In the United States, the amount of plutonium which is officially acknowledged as missing -- that is, "unaccounted for" would be sufficient to make hundreds of atomic bombs.)
In June 1976, in the face of mounting public opposition, Prime Minister Trudeau publicly defended his government's determination to provide nuclear technology to countries like Argentina and South Korea. In a world "starved for energy," Trudeau insisted that Canada had a "moral obligation" to share its nuclear technology with Third World countries. "You've got to live dangerously if you want to live in the modern age," he said. "In a sense," he added, "we're relying on the signed word" to prevent misuse of nuclear technology. In a similar vein, Donald Macdonald, then minister of energy, told the House of Commons that Canada would have to "trust the motives" of her nuclear clients and rely on them "to honour their undertakings and obligations in good faith."
For all their emphasis on "moral obligations," both Trudeau and Macdonald avoided the most perplexing question: Are the military rulers in Argentina and South Korea trustworthy? Under these brutally repressive regimes, political freedom is unknown. Human rights and civil liberties are trampled upon. Rigid class structures are maintained with an iron fist. Taiwan and South Korea both yielded to U.S. pressure and canceled their orders for reprocessing plants, because they depended so heavily on American economic and military aid. But what could Canada do if either Argentina or South Korea decided to renege on the non- proliferation promises?
Just three months before Trudeau's speech, in March 1976, General Videla's junta seized power in Argentina by violently overthrowing the government of Isabel Peron. Since then, twenty thousand people from all walks of life have simply disappeared; most of them were never heard from again. Two-thirds of the "disappeared ones" were labour organizers, kidnapped and imprisoned by army's security forces. Men, women and children have been tortured and murdered for obscure reasons. Writers and other members of the intelligentsia have been systematically incarcerated.
In South Korea, likewise, strong-arm methods have become a way of life. Strict censorship, illegal detentions, mass arrests and torture are not uncommon occurrences. General Park seized power in 1961 through a military coup. Throughout 1974, as CANDU salesmen were wooing Korean officials, the country was teetering on the brink of martial law. In May 1975, shortly after the contract was signed with AECL, General Park passed Emergency Law Number 9, which forbade any criticism of the government and prevented the reporting of any opinions not in accord with official government policy. Political gatherings, even in private homes, were outlawed, as were public demonstrations of any kind. Jail terms and death sentences were prescribed. The Emergency Law remained in force until 1979 -- the year when General Park was shot through the head at a state dinner by his own chief of central intelligence.
In December 1976, in an effort to forestall further criticism, Canada unilaterally adopted the most stringent safeguards requirements in the world. The new policy went considerably beyond the 1974 requirements, but unfortunately, it was based on the crumbling foundation of the NPT. In future, nuclear cooperation would be authorized only with nations which had ratified the NPT, or which had made "an equally binding commitment to non-proliferation." In either case, full-scope safeguards on all nuclear activities would have to be applied.
Korea automatically satisfied the new Canadian requirements, having signed the NPT in 1975 with all the IAEA inspection and auditing procedures already accepted. However, Argentina stubbornly refused to conform. The Argentine generals accepted neither the non-proliferation objectives nor the full-scope safeguards demanded by Canada's new policy. Facilities built in Argentina without foreign assistance would not be subjected to the indignity of inspectors from outside the country. Since the construction of the EMBALSE reactor was well under way, Canada decided to abide by the 1974 policy in Argentina's case.
While Canada was stiffening her nuclear safeguards requirements, the U.S. was trying very hard to stop the sale of "sensitive technologies" -- uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing plants -- which could bring any country dangerously close to a nuclear weapons capability. If the atomic bomb becomes generally available, the American doctrine of nuclear deterrence based on "mutually Assured Destruction" would become totally meaningless. As one U.S. official remarked, "in a few years' time we might wake up to find Washington, D.C. gone -- and not even know who did it!"
As the result of a joint Canada-U.S. initiative to curb horizontal proliferation, the "Nuclear Suppliers' Group" (commonly known as the London Club) met for the first time in April 1975, with representatives from Canada, France, Great Britain, Japan, West Germany, the U.S. and the USSR. Meetings were held every few months. The list of participants gradually expanded to include fifteen industrialized nations, but with no representation from the Third World. Meanwhile, vertical proliferation continued unchecked. Despite six years of Strategic Arms Limitations Talks, the U.S. and the USSR produced only one meaningful agreement -- the Anti- Ballistic Missile Treaty. In 1976, Herbert Scoville, director of the Arms Control Association, scornfully referred to the superpowers as "two nuclear alcoholics who take a pledge to stop drinking aperitifs and instead guzzle brandy into the wee hours."
Finally, in January 1978, the London Club published a "trigger list" of nuclear items which must not be sold without solemn assurances that they would be used solely for non-explosive purposes. The list included heavy water and reactor-grade graphite as well as plutonium and highly enriched uranium. However, the Canadians were not successful in having all nuclear suppliers require full-scope safeguards of their customers, and the Americans failed completely in their attempt to impose an outright ban on the export of enrichment and reprocessing facilities. France and West Germany, who were selling these technologies, were determined not to let the Americans tell them what to do.
Perhaps the most telling failure of the London Club lay in its inability or unwillingness to define a common course of action, to be followed by all, in the event of a violation of the "non-explosive use" clause. Thus the only assurance that a country would not misuse nuclear technology continued to be "national good faith." Safeguards without teeth, promulgated by nuclear powers showing no restraint in their own nuclear weapons programs, offered scant protection against horizontal proliferation.
The awkwardness of Canada's position was revealed in November 1978, when the Washington Post reported that Admiral Carlos Castro Madero of Argentina had clearly indicated his country's intention to build an atomic bomb. Madero's words were recorded on tape. When questioned on 21 November, Donald Jamieson, Canadian secretary of state for external affairs, told the House of Commons that Madero "may not be a formal spokesman for the [Argentine] Government. I think it can be said that the Government of Argentina has no intention of going into reprocessing." (At that time, Admiral Madero was Head of the Argentine Atomic Energy Authority.) Three weeks later, in response to further questioning, Jamieson confessed that "whether he is a spokesman for the Government of Argentina per se, and Argentina has endorsed his statements, we still have not officially determined." At any rate, Jamieson pointed out that Canada's 1974 safeguards policy forbids Argentina from using Canadian technology to make a bomb. "In the event of non- compliance," he declared, "Canada may suspend cooperation, and may request that Argentina immediately cease to use any Canadian supplies." Yet similar signals continued to come from Argentina without provoking any such response.
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