Department of State Atomic Energy Files: Telegram

The British Prime Minister (Attlee) to President Truman 51

top secret

29. Lord Halifax has reported to me what happened at the meeting of the atomic energy Combined Policy Committee of 15th April and Mr. Byrnes has no doubt made a report to you.

I am gravely disturbed at the turn which the Combined Policy Committee’s discussions have taken over the implementation of the second and third paragraphs of the short document which you, Mr. MacKenzie King and I signed on 16th November last. I feel that unless you and we and the Canadian Government can reach a satisfactory working basis of cooperation at least to cover the period until we see the outcome of the discussions in the United Nations Commission on atomic energy, we in this country shall be placed in a position which, I am sure you will agree, is inconsistent with the document. As you know, the document stated that it was our desire that there should be “full and effective cooperation in the field of atomic energy between the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada”; and it seems to me that this cannot mean less than full interchange of information and a fair division of the material. Moreover, the interchange of information was implicit in the Washington declaration, paragraph 4 of which recognized as a matter of principle that our three countries possessed the knowledge required for the use of atomic energy, and paragraph 6 of which stated our willingness, subject to suitable safeguards, to share with other states information about the practical industrial applications. The declaration contained nothing about the sharing of information among ourselves and the clear indication [Page 1232] is that this was already provided for. The wartime arrangements under which the major share of the development work and the construction and operation of full scale plants were carried out in the United States have naturally meant that technological and engineering information has accumulated in your hands, and if there is to be full and effective cooperation between us it seems essential that this information should be shared. I would therefore urge most strongly that the Combined Policy Committee should make a further attempt to work out a satisfactory basis of cooperation. In the last resort a solution might be that the heads of the three governments should each issue instructions for the interchange of information, including, in particular, the technical information which each of us requires for the implementation of immediate programmes.

  1. Transmitted via United States military channels. Submitted to the President at 8:15 a.m., April 17.