Department of State Atomic Energy Files

Memorandum by the Director of Central Intelligence (Hillenkoetter)

top secret
Memorandum to: Senator B. B. Hickenlooper
Mr. Robert A. Lovett
Rear Admiral Thomas B. Inglis1
Major General S. J. Chamberlin2
Major General George C. McDonald3
Major General L. R. Groves
Dr. Vannevar Bush
Admiral John Gingrich4
[Page 904]

Subject: Status of Russian Atomic Energy Project.

There is attached hereto the latest study on the Russian atomic energy project prepared and coordinated with Scientific Branch—ONI, Scientific Branch—MID, and Director of Intelligence—AEC.
The study contains many items of sensitive intelligence information and it is strongly urged that its circulation be under appropriate safeguards.
R. H. Hillenkoetter

Interdepartmental Intelligence Study


To estimate the state of development of atomic weapons in the USSR and probable future progress.

facts and discussion

See Appendix “A”5


The USSR does not have atomic weapons now.
Present activities relative to uranium development include:
Prospecting for uranium.
Exploitation of all known deposits in Russia and controlled territories.
Stockpiling of uranium.
Developing methods of producing pure uranium metal.
These and presumably other aspects of the development of atomic weapons are being pressed with vigor by the Russians.
Shortages of equipment and apparatus are retarding the development program.
Reserves in the form of salts and unprocessed ore are estimated to be sufficient for the production of 300 to 450 tons of uranium metal. The current ore production will yield 80 to 100 tons of metal per year. This schedule can be maintained for three to five years after which it will drop to 55 to 65 equivalent tons of metal.
The above stockpiles of uranium salts and ore combined with the ore-to be mined within the next three to five years should be sufficient for the production of 8 to 15 atomic bombs. The estimated ore production rate, thereafter, would be sufficient for the production of 1 to 2 bombs per year.
This estimate presupposes that no hitherto unknown ore deposits of appreciable magnitude will be developed and that no revolutionary [Page 905] process for the extraction of uranium from low grade ores will be developed. These developments, however, would not alter the minimum estimated date given below, although the quantity of bombs produced could be materially increased.
Many reports, often conflicting and vague, have been received relative to the location of Soviet atomic activities. Analysis of these reports with the basic intelligence available indicates that important centers of atomic development are:
Fergana Valley, near Tashkent, chemistry and mining.
Elektrostal, near Moscow, metal refining and research.
South Central Urals—possibly isotope separation and engineering development.
Evidence indicates that the major effort is directed toward a plutonium project.
There is no evidence that the USSR has a means for large scale separation of uranium isotopes. Evidence that the plutonium project would absorb all known uranium resources implies that isotope separation is not in progress, although pilot plants are probably contemplated.
Only limited quantities of uranium metal, if any, are believed to have been produced.
In the light of intelligence information as to the date at which it is likely that the Russian project could have started and the direction in which it appears to be going, and assuming that the USSR could not proceed faster that the U.S. and possibly not so fast, it is doubtful that the Russians can produce a bomb before 1953 and almost certain they cannot produce one before 1951. A probable date cannot be estimated.
  1. Chief of Naval Intelligence.
  2. Director of Intelligence, United States Army.
  3. Assistant Chief of Air Staff, Intelligence.
  4. Director of Security, United States Atomic Energy Commission.
  5. Not printed.