Department of State Atomic Energy Files

Statement by the British Ambassador (Halifax)31

top secret

At its meeting on October 13th, 1945, I informed the Combined Policy Committee that His Majesty’s Government had decided to set up a Research Establishment in the United Kingdom to deal with all [Page 1216] aspects of atomic energy, and that they were considering plans for large-scale production of fissile material.32

2. His Majesty’s Government have now further considered this question and have decided to put into effect the following programme:—

The Experimental and Research Establishment will be situated in Harwell near Didcot. It will be concerned as much with the development of atomic energy for peaceful purposes as with its military application. In addition to work on the determination of the necessary physical, chemical and metallurgical data, the activities of the establishment will include the construction on a pilot scale of plants for the production of useful energy from fissile materials. The equipment of the establishment will include a small air-cooled graphite pile dissipating 6,000 kilowatts. In addition, a small number of units of the type used in the electro magnetic process for the separation of U.235 will be installed, for the separation of other isotopes as well as those of uranium and for general experimental purposes. The establishment will be the source of supply of tracer elements, both stable and radioactive, for use in biological and chemical research. It is intended that, subject to the needs of military security, the work of this establishment will be carried on under conditions which, as regards freedom of discussion and publication of results, will approximate as closely as possible to those of a university.

In order to produce adequate supplies of fissile material—
for the use of the Research Establishment and
for eventual industrial or military application. His Majesty’s Government have decided to undertake the construction of a large-scale graphite pile for the production of plutonium. His Majesty’s Government have, of course, in mind the fact that the conclusions reached by the United Nations Commission on Atomic Energy will affect the eventual use to be made of any material produced in the United Kingdom.
His Majesty’s Government are also preparing a Bill for the control of all atomic energy activities in the United Kingdom which will be shortly introduced into Parliament.
  1. Delivered at the meeting of the Combined Policy Committee, February 15, the minutes of which are printed supra.
  2. For extracts from the minutes of the meeting of October 13, 1945, see Foreign Relations, 1945, vol. ii, p. 57.