Department of State Atomic Energy Files

The Chairman of the United States Atomic Energy Commission (Lilienthal) to the Chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Atomic Energy (McMahon)


Dear Senator McMahon. At our meeting with the Joint Committee on February 4, 1949,1 interest was expressed in the present status of the program, about which the Committee was informed on October 5, 1948,2 for securing the cooperation of other countries in control of exports of important atomic energy materials and equipment to the U.S.S.R. and its satellite areas.3 Interest was also expressed in the extent to which this program has thus far been successful in preventing or controlling the export of mass spectrometer [Page 431]type instruments from the United Kingdom in view of information which had reached the Committee to the effect that Metropolitan Vickers, Ltd. in England is manufacturing and exporting this type of equipment.

There is enclosed a report from the Director of Production outlining the present status of the program through which export control action by other countries is being sought. As the Committee was informed in our letter of October 5, 1948, this program has been undertaken by the Department of State and the Department of the Army with the advice and assistance of the Commission.

As a result of the close working relationships established with the United Kingdom through the Combined Policy Committee, the Commission is in current consultation with the British on these problems and we have been assured that any requests for export of mass spectrometers from England will be discussed with us. In response to the Committee’s expressed interest in Metropolitan Vickers, specific inquiries have been instituted through appropriate British authorities to obtain an up-to-date report on the status of manufacture and export of mass spectrometer type instruments by this company and others in the United Kingdom. Preliminary information from the British is that no mass spectrometers of any kind have been exported from England by any company at any time. The British have been alerted to the possibility of a request from the Asiatic Petroluem Corporation, whose application to export a mass spectrometer from the United States was recently denied.

The Commission will continue to keep the Committee informed of significant developments in these fields.

Sincerely yours,

David E. Lilienthal

Report by the Director of Production of the United States Atomic Energy Commission (Williams)

Present Status of Program To Secure International Cooperation in the Export Control Field

This is a summary report on the present status of action taken by the Department of State and the Department of the Army to secure the cooperation of other countries and authorities in the occupied areas in a program aimed at denying exports of important atomic energy materials and equipment to the U.S.S.R. and its satellite areas.

The program being pursued falls into three general categories: 1) establishment of similar controls by the Combined Policy Committee [Page 432]governments, namely, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States, 2) establishment by the Department of the Army of controls in Japan, Korea, and the American Zone in Germany, and 3) diplomatic representations by the Department of State to urge the establishment of controls in important Western European countries. It is recognized that this program may need to be extended to other areas as circumstances require.

As a basis for this program, the Commission last year prepared two lists of items suggested for control. One list (List “A”) consists principally of those items directly controlled by the Commission through its regulations pertaining to source materials and production facilities. The other list (List “B”) consists of items of general industrial use which have important applications in the atomic energy field and which are informally controlled by the Commission through the cooperation of the Department of Commerce or through liaison with industry.

Late last summer, the Department of State instructed certain of its missions abroad to approach the respective governments with the view of securing the establishment of effective controls in those countries.4 The missions were instructed to attempt to narrow discussions of List “B” items to those actually produced in the respective areas. In all cases it was desired that the establishment of controls appear as autonomous moves on the part of the other governments. Following is a summary of the progress made in the various areas. Except for information relating to the occupied areas, the data presented has been received from the Department of State:

United Kingdom. An Atomic Energy Commission representative visited London in May, 1948 and left with British officials lists of those items which the United States considered should not be exported to Soviet areas. These lists were discussed a short time later with the British representatives in Washington.

Substantial agreement has been achieved regarding items to be controlled. In November, 1948, an order was issued by the British Government expanding the list of materials subject to export control in the United Kingdom. With the institution of this order practically all items controlled by the United States are subject to either formal or informal export controls by the United Kingdom. Discussions are continuing to reconcile differences of classification and terminology and to establish an exchange of information regarding licensing actions.

Canada. The control lists were transmitted to the Atomic Energy Control Board of Canada in May, 1948. Implementation of an official control mechanism has not yet been completed. Discussions and correspondence with the Canadian officials regarding technical aspects of the program are continuing.

[Page 433]

Germany. The Commission has been in consultation with the Department of the Army in Washington regarding the establishment in Germany of export controls on atomic energy materials and equipment. A Commission representative proceeded to Germany in May, 1948 and discussed this matter with appropriate American and British occupation authorities. Suggested control lists were submitted by the Commission representative and the principle of such controls was accepted by the occupation authorities at that time. It was stated, however, that lack of adequate administrative mechanisms prevented immediate institution of these controls. The Department of the Army now reports that satisfactory administrative procedures have been devised and that discussions are being held with the British authorities in Germany with the view of obtaining agreement regarding the establishment of the control measures.

Japan. The control lists were transmitted by the Department of the Army to American authorities in Japan in May 1948 with the instruction that these lists be used in screening exports from Japan. In the reply it was stated that the controls were understood and that the instructions would be followed without difficulty.

Korea. The authorities in Seoul reported that steps have been taken to avoid shipment of listed items to Soviet areas. Only two items on the lists were believed applicable: monazite and beryl.

Sweden. In response to an American Embassy approach, the Swedish Foreign Office identified the limited number of List “A” items which are produced in Sweden. The Foreign Office stated that these items were being manufactured solely to meet the requirements of the Swedish atomic energy program and none are being exported. The American scientific attaché has been instructed to ascertain Swedish potentialities with respect to production of items on List “B”. He will also report on the operation and organization of the Swedish export control system.

Norway. The American Embassy has been informed by the Foreign Office that there is no production of items on List “A” except uranium required for the Norwegian atomic energy pile. Regarding List “B” items, the Foreign Office reports that sizeable shipments of heavy water have been made to France but that only laboratory amounts are shipped to Eastern European countries. A proposed shipment of beryl to Czechoslovakia was blocked by the Foreign Office on representations from the Embassy. Norwegian potentialities regarding other items on List “B” are to be studied by the American scientific attaché.

Switzerland. The American Legation reports that satisfactory progress is being made through conversations of the Military Attaché with a highly placed Swiss official. This official is sympathetic to this program and is attempting to have the Swiss Government establish the desired controls.

Netherlands. The American Embassy has left with the Foreign Office a questionnaire concerning List “A” items. The Netherlands Government has promised to reply in the near future. Significant atomic energy items produced by the Netherlands include certain categories of electrical equipment which can be manufactured by the Phillips firm at Eindhoven, and small tonnages of monazite derived as a byproduct of tin mining in the Netherlands East Indies.

Belgium. The Foreign Office has been given List “A” and has stated it is studying the matter. The American Embassy is attempting to [Page 434]narrow List “B.” to items applicable to Belgium and the reduced list will be presented to Prime Minister Spaak who may then be expected to issue instructions prohibiting the export of those items to the Soviet dominated areas. In view of the excellent cooperation received from the Belgians with respect to uranium, little difficulty is anticipated in securing establishment of controls over items on either list.

Frame. Due to the delicate political situation in France during the past months communication with the French Government regarding parallel export controls has been held in abeyance. Recently, however, an opportunity has been presented to initiate high level discussions with the French looking toward the establishment of controls and the American Embassy is proceeding along these lines.

Pending the institution of formal export control measures by the various governments, the Department of State has followed an interim policy of approaching the individual governments in specific cases when information is received indicating that negotiations are underway or contemplated with respect to the shipment to Soviet controlled areas of items which might be used in an atomic energy program.

  1. No record of this meeting has been found in the files of the Department of State.
  2. Letter of October 5, 1948, not printed.
  3. For documentation on United States policy on trade in general with the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, see vol. v, pp. 61 ff.
  4. The circular airgram of August 16, 1948, transmitting Lists “A” and “B”, is printed in Foreign Relations, 1948, vol. i, Part 2, p. 739.