Department of State Atomic Energy Files

Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Theodore C. Achilles of the Division of Western European Affairs

top secret

Subject: Belgian Participation in Industrial Application of Atomic Energy

Participants: The Belgian Prime Minister
The Secretary (Ambassadors Silvercruys1 and van Langenhove2 and Mr. Achilles were present.)

M. Spaak stated that the continuing secrecy of the Belgian-United States agreement on uranium was causing him increasing difficulties. Communist insistence for disclosure of its terms had led many prominent non-Communists to request information, but he had not yet felt at liberty to take even his cabinet into his confidence. He said that the only real secret in the agreement was its duration, and that he, for his part, saw no objection to making the whole agreement public.

M. Spaak said that the pressure to which he was subjected had been intensified by press reports that the atomic pile now being built in England would be providing industrial power in a year or two. He thought that the time had come to begin giving effect to the clause in the agreement providing for Belgian participation on equitable terms in the benefits of industrial utilization of atomic energy derived from Congo uranium.

The Secretary stated that he was not in the position to give a definite reply at the moment, but that he would take up both points with his associates in order that a definite answer might be given the Prime Minister without delay.

M. Spaak stated that he would not press unduly his point on making the agreement public. He would like, however, if pressed hard, to be able to say that Belgian interests were fully safeguarded by provision in the agreement for Belgium to share equitably in the benefits of industrial utilization. That was the basic point. If a pile could be built in England to supply electricity for the use of England, could not a second pile be built, and, possibly at Belgium’s expense, to supply electricity to Belgium? The scientists assured him transmission of the power from England to Belgium would be practicable. He had not discussed this matter in any way with the British.

The Secretary said that both psychological and technical problems were involved. He understood the difficulties caused M. Spaak by Communist [Page 842] propaganda. The United States was facing similar problems in its efforts to secure international control of atomic energy. Any public statement on the agreement would have to be very carefully framed to minimize the propaganda advantages which might be taken of any loopholes. As to the construction of atomic piles, he had had heavy personal responsibilities in this field during the war. The width of the Atlantic Ocean provided invaluable protection, and he had not been happy over the decision to build a pile in England. However, M. Spaak’s suggestion of a second pile in England to provide power for Belgium offered an interesting possibility. He reiterated that a definite reply would be given on the points M. Spaak had raised.

While leaving the building, van Langenhove asked Achilles if his understanding was correct that our major worry was the construction of a pile in Europe. He was advised that this was certainly one of our principal worries.

  1. Baron Silvercruys, Belgian Ambassador in the United States.
  2. Fernand van Langenhove, Permanent Belgian Representative at the United Nations.