Canada is on the verge of resuming uranium shipments to the European Common Market on an interim basis and allowing customers countries to use it in existing reprocessing plants.
The announcement of the near-agreement came today from West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt following talks here with Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, who has consistently said that Canada has the most stringent nuclear safeguards in the world.
Canada halted unranium shipments to Europe Jan. 1, when it was unable to get a safeguard agreement with Euratom, the Common Market's nuclear agency. Canadian officials say that West Germany and Britain were the two countries most affected by the embargo.
They add that West Germany has missed out on 1,500 tons of uranium because of the ban, a worrying situation for a country that plans to generate 40 per cent of its power through nuclear means by 1985.
The use of reprocessing, which Trudeau and President Carter have opposed because the end product could be used to manufacture nuclear weapons, was a major stumbling block in talks between Canada and Euraton.
Ottawa has insisted on veto power over the use of Canadian-supplied uranium for the mineral's entire life and his objected to its reprocessing. Under the terms of an interim agreement, officials says, Canada would have to give its prior consent for any European use of uranium for reprocessing, but its position on a long-term veto would remain unchanged.
Schmidt said he is sure that the embargo will be lifted on an interim basis by the end of the summer, pending the international nuclear study agreed to by the Western powers at the London summit in May.
The chancellor, who begins talks in Washington Wednesday with President Carteer, got general support for his statement from Canadian External Affairs Minister Don Jamieson, who agreed that limited supplies may soon be provided on an interim basis.
The Trudeau-Schmidt agreement, which the West German leader expects to be settled in detail within a few weeks would limit the supply of uranium the Common Market customers' current needs.
Canada's anti-reprocessing stand and its desire for veto power remain the long-term position, but Schmidt indicated it would be held in abeyance until the International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation Program set up in London has been completed.
Jamieson said Trudeau and Schmidt agreed that the Soviet Union and perhaps developing and neutral nations should be invited to join the study, which was agreed to by the United States, Britain, Canada, West Germany, France, Italy and Japan.
The Canadian minister added that he expects Schmidt to raise that prospect with Carter.
Ottawa has been extremely sensitive about supplying nuclear supplies abroad since India used Canadian-supplied technonoly in 1974 explode an atomic device.
One of the immediate benefits to Canada of a relation in its policy appears to be increased good will with the Common Market, with which it has negotiated a so-called contractual link. That agreement, intended to promote trade, investment, joint industrial ventures and technological cooperation between Canada and the Common Market has been slow getting results in its first year.