Department of State Atomic Energy Files

The British Embassy to the Department of State

top secret


atomic energy—norway

In a note of the 20th August 19481 Mr. Donald Maclean of the British Embassy informed Mr. Arneson of a request which had been made to the British Government by the Norwegian Atomic Energy Institute for the treatment of uranium oxide. Subsequently Mr. Arneson spoke to Mr. Henderson of the British Embassy informally about this subject and said that the State Department, without having reached a final decision, were not disposed to welcome the idea that the British Government should meet the Norwegian request for the purification of the oxide. He said that if the British Government were to meet the Norwegian request, it would enable the latter to find out the exact degree of purity of oxide required for use in the pile. This had certain dangers from the point of view of security. There was also the risk that the Russians might occupy Norway and get hold of the purified oxide.2 It was explained that the Norwegians had expressed [Page 787] their intention to build a refining plant of their own should the British Government not be able to refine the oxide for them. In that event, and if the Russians were to invade Norway, they would obtain not only pure oxide but also the plant itself. Mr. Arneson countered by saying that the Norwegians would not be able to build a plant at any rate for two years. He emphasized, however, that the United States Atomic Energy Commission had not yet commented on this subject and that his views could in no way be considered as the final response of the United States Government.

2. The British Government have reviewed the matter again in the light of Mr. Arneson’s views. While grateful to learn these preliminary views, they conclude that there is little danger involved in meeting the Norwegian request and that continued delay in doing so can only bring unfortunate results. The matter has been hanging fire for a considerable time and the British Government believe that it would be unfortunate to maintain a negative attitude on what is a relatively straightforward matter since it is desirable that the Norwegians and other European governments should look to Britain rather than to France for help and guidance in atomic energy developments. The British Government would therefore be grateful if the State Department could give this subject urgent attention so as to enable them to give a favourable reply to the Norwegians.

  1. Ante, p. 746.
  2. In a memorandum to Lovett, November 22, Arneson stated that the present aide-mémoire had omitted the most important argument which had been presented to the British: that the Norwegian case should not be considered alone, but in accordance with an over-all review of atomic energy policy (Department of State Atomic Energy Files).