Department of State Atomic Energy Files

Memorandum by the Director of the Policy Planning Staff (Kennan) to the Under Secretary of State (Lovett)

top secret
In accordance with the decision taken at your meeting with Secretary Forrestal and others on October 8, 1947,1 I have consulted with General Groves with a view to obtaining from him any information not already in our files concerning the history of our special relationships with Britain and Canada in atomic energy matters. He has kindly offered to make any such material available to the Department of State.
The General is preparing a chronological account of these matters but there appear to be some points of difference between himself and Dr. Vannevar Bush, more with regard to emphasis than to fact, which will delay submission of his report.
In the meanwhile I am confident, following my talks with General Groves, that our own records are complete enough to permit us to advance well founded opinions for interdepartmental consideration. General Groves is finding difficulty with the period from 1940 to 1944. Our own records are reasonably good for that time, and are clear and largely controlling for the period from 1945 to date, which is more pertinent to the decisions we are called on to make. They have been checked against the Groves material in its preliminary form. In any case our decisions should be based primarily on considerations of [Page 843] national security in the present circumstances rather than on an interpretation of the letter of war-time arrangements.
A decision on our future course is urgently required. Not only is the present state of our dealings with the British and Canadians in these matters quite unsatisfactory and detrimental to the general fabric of our international relations, but we have a letter from the Atomic Energy Commission, dated October 1, recommending that the Secretary consider urgently the means of improving this country’s unsatisfactory uranium position.2
Accordingly, Mr. Gullion has prepared, with my guidance and assistance, a study of the problem involved, consisting of a statement of the problem, discussion, and conclusions, which is attached as Annex I.3 He has prepared a dossier of source materials bearing on the subject which is attached as Annex II, together with other pertinent material.4
On the basis of the source material at hand and of the study Mr. Gullion has conducted, Mr. Gullion and I have drawn up a set of recommendations as to the future course which this Government should pursue in these matters. These recommendations, which should be considered as recommendations of the Policy Planning Staff, are set forth in the enclosure to this memorandum. You will see that they envisage early discussions with the British and Canadians directed not to the conclusion of another formal agreement at this time but to the achievement of a community of views which can be made the basis for further domestic executive action on the part of the respective governments.
I recommend that the memorandum of recommendations and the papers listed below be circulated to the American members of the Combined Policy Committee and that a meeting of these members be convened on November 3, 1947.5
George F. Kennan
[Page 844]

Memorandum by Messrs. George F. Kennan and Edmund A. Gullion


Recommendations Concerning a Program of Negotiations With the British and Canadian Governments Designed To Overcome Present Misunderstandings and To Increase the Amount of Uranium Ore Available to the United States

A. Procedure:

It should be made clear publicly in the immediate future that this Government is obliged to take full account, in its plan for national defense and in the conduct of its foreign policy, of the fact that no agreement has yet been reached with respect to the international control of atomic energy.
The program outlined below, after approval by the United States members of the Combined Policy Committee, should be discussed with members of the Joint Congressional Committee on Atomic Energy and the two Foreign Relations Committees.
Once we are assured of an understanding attitude among interested Congressional leaders, we should invite the British and Canadians to join us in informal and secret discussions, on the diplomatic level, concerning the situation arising from failure to reach agreement to date in the UNAEC and concerning our future dealings with one another in the procurement of materials and in the exchange of information.
Our position in these discussions should be as described below in B.
If agreement is reached in the discussions, we should ask the British and Canadian Governments to join us in a public announcement along the following lines:
Discussions have taken place among the three governments reviewing the course of events since the issuance of the Three-Nation Agreed Declaration on Atomic Energy of November 15, 1945,6 and examining the situation created by the failure thus far to achieve general agreement in the UNAEC, and that
The three governments have found themselves in complete agreement in their analysis of the situation and in their view of its implications for their respective national policies.
[Page 845]

Requests from the press for further details about the results of the discussions should be declined on the grounds that release of such information would not be in the interests of national security.

B. Position in which we would seek UK–Canadian concurrence:

The Combined Policy Committee and the organization now known as the Combined Development Trust, will continue in existence along the general lines provided in the war-time agreements but all other provisions of these agreements shall be mutually considered as suspended in toto. The Combined Policy Committee shall undertake a revision of the charter of the Combined Development Trust, with a view to changing its title and to introducing any alterations that may be called for by the spirit of present relationships or by new developments with respect to supplies of source materials.
No new formal obligations will be entered into by the three governments at this time. Each will confirm to the others in an exchange of notes, or by conclusions to be recorded in the minutes of the CPC, or other such informal means as may be appropriate and agreeable to the parties, its intentions with respect to the policies it proposes to follow, as developed in these discussions.
The three governments will recognize that their atomic energy programs shall be conducted in such manner as to contribute in maximum degree to the common military security.
The three governments will take measures so far as practicable to secure control and possession, by purchase or otherwise, of all deposits of uranium and thorium, and such other materials as the Combined Policy Committee may direct, situated in areas comprising the United States, its territories or possessions, the United Kingdom and Canada. They will also use every endeavor with respect to the remaining territories of the British Commonwealth, and other countries, to acquire all possible supplies of uranium and thorium and such other materials as the Combined Policy Committee may direct. All supplies acquired under such arrangements will be placed at the disposition of the Combined Development Trust, under that title or as renamed as provided in 1 above.
The materials thus acquired shall be allocated to the three governments in such quantities as may be needed in the common interest for scientific research, military and humanitarian purposes. In making such allocations the three governments will recognize the principle that, in the interests of the common security, all source and fissionable material not required for operating needs of current industrial projects in the United Kingdom and Canada and elsewhere, as defined by the CPC, will be allotted to the United States.
The government of the United Kingdom will ship to Canada and [Page 846] the United States all of its present stocks of source material and fissionable material beyond the operating needs of its present project as defined by the Combined Policy Committee and will no longer stockpile source materials or fissionable material in the United Kingdom beyond these needs.
The United States Government will recognize the desirability in principle of assisting the United Kingdom and Canadian Governments in the execution of programs of development of atomic energy for peaceful uses. Without endorsing the general desirability or prospects for early success of projects for large scale atomic energy development for industrial uses in the United Kingdom, the United States will recognize that existing projects of this nature represent a legitimate claim on raw materials.
There shall be full and effective cooperation in the field of basic scientific research among the three countries. In the field of development design, construction, and operation of plants such cooperation, recognized as desirable in principle, shall be regulated by such ad hoc arrangements as may be approved from time to time by the Combined Policy Committee as mutually advantageous.
The United States Government will seek at the next regular session of Congress, wider authority to exchange information with other countries when, in the opinion of the President to do so would contribute to the national security. Meanwhile, it will, subject to the restrictions of existing legislation and in order to promote the national defense and security, do its best to answer specific queries arising from practical difficulties encountered by the two other governments in the execution of these programs.
The Governments of the United Kingdom and Canada will keep the United States Government currently informed of their atomic energy projects and will follow practices with regard to the exchange of information no less liberal than those followed by the United States Government in respect to them.
The Combined Policy Committee, already established and constituted so as to provide equal representation to the United States on the one hand and to the Governments of the United Kingdom and Canada on the other, shall carry out the policies provided for, subject to the control of the respective governments. To this end, the Committee shall:
Review from time to time the general program of work being carried out in the three countries.
Allocate materials in accordance with the principles set forth in paragraphs 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 above.
Settle any questions which may arise concerning the interpretation and application of arrangements regulating cooperation between the three governments.
The three governments will not disclose any information or enter into negotiations concerning atomic energy with other governments or authorities or persons in other countries except in accordance with agreed common policy or after due prior consultation with one another.
The three governments reaffirm that their policy with respect to international control of atomic energy remains that set forth in the Three-Nation Agreed Declaration of November 15, 1945, and regret that the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission has been unable to resolve the differences between the Soviet Union and Poland on one hand and thirteen other countries, now and sometime members of the Commission, on the other. They recognize that should full and effective international agreement be achieved, the present tripartite arrangements would be subject to basic review.
  1. No record of this meeting has been found in the Department of State files.
  2. The letter read in pertinent part as follows:

    “The United States at present faces a shortage of natural uranium to sustain the current atomic energy program. This program, in the view of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and of the Atomic Energy Commission, cannot now be reduced without an adverse impact on the national security.

    “Indeed, national security requires expansion rather than curtailment of the United States atomic energy program and preemption of as much as possible of world production of uranium.

    “According to the best available estimates regarding technological improvements which may be achieved, the United States cannot expect any reduction in the requirements for raw materials for the present program before about the end of 1951. So far as can now be said with any certainty, the quantities of raw materials necessary to see us through this critical period can be obtained only from the Belgian Congo, material shipped to the United Kingdom but unallocated by the Combined Policy Committee, and possibly, beginning about 1950, from South Africa.” (Department of State Atomic Energy Files)

  3. Not printed.
  4. Source material not printed here.
  5. Lovett wrote “OK” beside the final paragraph.
  6. Reference is to the Joint Declaration by the Heads of Government of the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada, November 15, 1945; for text, see Department of State Treaties and Other International Acts Series (TIAS) No. 1504, or 60 Stat. (pt. 2) 1479.