Department of State Atomic Energy Files

Memorandum by Mr. R. Gordon Arneson to the Secretary of State

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Subject: Atomic Energy Policy

The attached paper deals with certain problems relating to procedure. Specifically it discusses the questions of (1) the Atomic Energy Act of 1946, (2) relations with the Congress, (3) public disclosure (the enclosure to the paper lists the various public statements that have been made on U.S.–U.K.–Canadian relationships in this field1), and (4) method of negotiation and sequence of events.

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This paper was prepared by the same group which produced the atomic energy policy study discussed with you at noon today.2 The group felt, however, that proposals on procedures should be handled separately and that the points made should be more nearly suggestive than definitive.

You may wish to be familiar with the contents of the attached for tomorrow’s meeting.

R. Gordon Arneson

Paper Prepared by the Working Group of the Special Committee of the National Security Council on Atomic Energy Policy

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Means of Bringing the Proposed Solutions to Fruition

The proposed line of action represents a policy different in kind from previous arrangements, both wartime and post-war, with the U.K. and Canada. The wartime arrangements under the Quebec Agreement were aimed basically at the single goal of producing in this country atomic weapons as quickly as possible. The allocation of materials carried out under those arrangements was pointed at this basic objective as was exchange of information. The initial post-war period was one of doldrums in which very little cooperation existed. As an interim measure, Congo uranium was delivered to the U.S. and U.K. on an approximately fifty-fifty basis, subject to future allocation.

The current arrangements under the modus vivendi exclude direct assistance to the British on the production of plutonium and atomic weapons.

Two major questions arise in considering the steps that should be taken in establishing the proposed new program of action. The first has to do with the question of public and Congressional acceptance of the proposals and the relation of the Atomic Energy Act of 1946 to the proposed course of action. The second concerns the negotiating situation itself whereby certain short term and long term objectives may be agreed upon by the three countries in the interest of mutual security.

congressional reaction and the atomic energy act of 1946

Questions have been raised as to whether the Atomic Energy Act stands as a bar to the course of action that has been proposed. While it may not be possible to give a definitive answer at this time, it might be helpful to consider the arguments advanced that the Act itself [Page 437]does not constitute an important obstacle to our moving ahead with exploration of the problem.

By the mandate of Section 1(a) of the Atomic Energy Act, the atomic energy policy of the United States is declared to be “subject at all times to the paramount objective of assuring the common defense and security.” The policy governing the Atomic Energy Commission’s control of atomic energy information is the declaration of Section 10(a) of the Act that “it shall be the policy of the Commission to control the dissemination of restricted data in such a manner as to assure the common defense and security.”

It will be recalled that, in giving effect to these directives of the Congress, this Government on January 7, 1948, entered into a modus vivendi with the Governments of the United Kingdom and Canada. Included in the modus vivendi were arrangements for technical cooperation in nine defined areas. These areas did not include information relating specifically and primarily to weapons, or to the design or operation of plants for the production of weapon materials or of weapon parts.

It will also be recalled that during the discussions which preceded the agreement of this Government to the modus vivendi the question of the proper interpretation of the Atomic Energy Act was carefully considered, first within the executive branch of the Government and at a later date with the appropriate representatives of the Congress. In these discussions there was agreement, within the executive and legislative branches, to the view that, in order to give effect to the above-mentioned directives of the Congress, this Government could properly enter into understandings with the United Kingdom and Canada of the type which had then been proposed, provided that this Government was satisfied it would be in the interests of our national security to engage in such technical cooperation. In other words, the technical cooperation program then approved and entered into was founded on a Governmental decision that the program was justified by and consistent with the basic policy of the Atomic Energy Act, which controls the narrower principle set forth in Section 10(a) (1) of the Act as one of the principles by which the Atomic Energy Commission shall be guided.

The course now proposed may well involve problems which are different from those previously considered. It is not unlikely, however, that the basic questions of policy will be essentially the same. Hence, the same approach to the question of statutory interpretation would seem to be proper. It will be necessary for a determination to be made by this Government whether such a new understanding was in the interest of the common defense and security of the United States. In making such a determination it would be both necessary and desirable, as before, to have appropriate consultation with the Congress.

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Whether any new understandings should take the form of an “international arrangement” as defined in Section 8 of the Atomic Energy Act, is a matter which can well be left for future consideration. However, in terms of continuity of policy, there would seem to be advantage in having the proposed course of action undertaken only after the Congress has expressed its general sentiment in favor, by a joint resolution or other appropriate means.

The important point is that in arriving at any Governmental decision there would be appropriate consultation with the Congress. Since such consultation would seem to be desirable for reasons unrelated to the provisions of the Atomic Energy Act, it is likely that any question of statutory interpretation will turn out to be rather incidental to the larger questions of policy which will have to be considered. In any event, any legal questions which might be raised could be resolved by a unity of view on the part of the executive and legislative branches of the Government.

extent of public knowledge (details in unclassified enclosure)

At various times and in various places references have been made to the broad outlines of cooperation that exist among the three countries. On August 6, 1945 Secretary of War Stimson in announcing details of the Manhattan District project,3 reported the existence of the Combined Policy Committee and referred to the cooperation that existed among the three parties. The Smyth Report, which gave the official history in some detail of the atomic bomb project refers to the fact that a team of British scientists under the leadership of Sir James Chadwick was stationed during the war at Los Alamos where they made important contributions to the work. The Truman–Attlee–King Declaration of November 15, 19454 speaks of “the three countries which possess the knowledge essential to the use of atomic energy.” On August 21, 1948 Mr. Lilienthal acting on the basis of a decision reached by the Combined Policy Committee, stated in a public speech5 that wartime collaboration among the three countries was continuing “in an expanded way.” He made reference to the existence of the Combined Policy Committee as the body supervising the cooperative arrangements among the three countries, such arrangements including exchange of information and “problems of raw materials supply common to the three governments.” Appropriate remarks in a similar [Page 439]vein were made subsequently by British and Canadian representatives in their respective countries. On May 12, 1948 the British Minister of Defense, Mr. A. V. Alexander, stated in response to a parliamentary question that “research and development continued to receive the highest priority in the defense field, and all types of modern weapons, including atomic weapons, are being developed.”6 In its fifth semiannual report (January 1949) to the Congress, the Atomic Energy Commission referred to the program of technical cooperation with the U.K. and Canada. In part, the Commission report stated that: “Relationships with the United Kingdom and Canada in the field of atomic energy have continued under the guidance of the Combined Policy Committee of the three nations, of which the Secretary of State of the United States is Chairman. This Committee was first established in 1943. The members for the United States, in addition to the Secretary of State, are the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission.”

Thus it is clear that there have been a number of public references to the existence of cooperative arrangements between the U.S., U.K., and Canada. It is also public knowledge that the Belgian Congo is the principal source of supply for uranium. As far as the Belgian public is concerned, it is generally known that Congo uranium is made available to the U.S. and U.K. under a wartime agreement which is presumed still to be in existence, although the term, price, and quantity data are not generally known.

The proposed solution, however, of full and effective collaboration with the U.K. and Canada on all phases of atomic energy including atomic weapons represents a different order of magnitude.

Discussion of the proposed solution may, however, afford an excellent opportunity to set this matter in its proper perspective. This development would represent the culmination of a trend first begun with the Bio Pact and about to be advanced still further by the North Atlantic Security Pact. It can be shown that the proposed solution is an arrangement designed to advance the common defense and security with our wartime partner which will soon have atomic weapons of its own. At the same time, it should of course, be made clear that the U.S. offer in the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission still stands. That offer represents the solution we most want but have been unable to secure because of the intransigeance of the Soviet Union. The program of full cooperation with the U.K. and Canada in this field should be stated to be a program of action made necessary by the impasse in the UNAEC and by the failure to achieve general collective security through the United Nations.

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A number of factors will have to be taken into account in laying plans for putting forward the proposed course of action.

1. The Effect on Public Opinion

It would be necessary to lay all relevant facts bearing on this matter before the public to minimize the risk that the proposed line of action may not receive fully informed public support.

2. The Effect on Other Countries

A program of full collaboration among the CPC countries would probably give rise to many inquiries from non-CPC countries. France, for example might urge that she be made a member of the family. Unwillingness to admit her and others might have serious repercussions on the North Atlantic Security Pact and on whatever military assistance programs may subsequently be worked out. In this eventuality, it is suggested that the three CPC countries would have to take a very firm line, pointing out that the Pact does not provide for a sharing of any and all types of weapons but rather for mutual assistance in the event of aggression. Efforts of the U.K. and U.S. to strengthen their common defense and security through collaboration in atomic weapons should be considered a strengthening in the interests of all members of the Pact.

3. Effect on the UNAEC Negotiations

It might be argued that the proposed solution would furnish the Soviets an important propaganda advantage. This objection is more apparent than real. The U.S. record in the UNAEC has been built with sufficient care and over a long enough period of time so that no legitimate doubt can be raised about the sincerity of the American offer. To be sure, the Communist line attempts to cast doubts on the sincerity of that offer on every possible occasion. This is likely to be true no matter what line of action this Government takes, not only in this field but in all others. Provided any publicity which is given to the proposed course of action makes crystal clear the fact that the first objective of the United States is still to attain a fully effective enforceable international system of control, the Communists can have no real basis for propaganda.

4. Coordination of Public Discussion with the U.K., Canada and Other Countries

The views of the U.K. and Canada with regard to the timing and handling of public discussion should be clarified at an early stage in the negotiations. It would be important also to ascertain the reaction of the Belgian Government in this matter as well as the reactions of other countries with whom the British and ourselves have raw materials arrangements.

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5. Methods of Negotiation and Sequence of Events

If the proposed course of action is adopted by this Government after initial clearances in the executive and legislative branches, it will be exceedingly important to secure informally with the British and the Canadians an indication whether the main aspects of the proposal would be acceptable. Informal soundings should be taken to ascertain first whether the U.K. and Canada are willing to accede to the proposed principles concerning the location of production facilities in terms of strategic considerations, the coordination of programs in such a way as to make the most effective use of joint resources, the coordination of the disclosure of information to other governments, and the establishment of cooperation among the three parties with respect to bases necessary for delivery of atomic weapons; and second whether the U.K. and Canada have any specific suggestions as to how these plans should be implemented. As regards relations with non-Curtain countries, the United States should ascertain whether the U.K. and Canada are willing to accept the view that the three nations should oppose the development of atomic energy at this time in other countries. If the U.K. and Canada express their willingness to give consent to these undertakings and to implement these plans in a way satisfactory to this Government, negotiations should then be commenced through the CPC on the basis of the proposed line of action.

In summary, it is believed that:

The Atomic Energy Act of 1946 does not stand as a bar to the course of action that has been proposed.
The proposed course of action should be undertaken only after the Congress has expressed its general sentiment in favor, by a joint resolution or other appropriate means.
After initial clearances in the executive and legislative branches, it will be exceedingly important to secure informally from the British and the Canadians an indication whether the main aspects of the proposal would be acceptable.

  1. The enclosure is not printed.
  2. No record of the briefing of the Secretary, presumably by Kennan and Arneson, has been found in the files of the Department of State. For the policy study, see p. 419.
  3. For text of the statement by Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, August 6, 1945, see Raymond Dennett and Robert K. Turner, eds., Documents on American Foreign Relations, July 1, 1945–December 31, 1946 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1948).
  4. For text of the Agreed Declaration by President Truman, Prime Minister Attlee, and Prime Minister Mackenzie King, signed at Washington, November 15, 1945, see TIAS No. 1504, or 60 Stat. (pt. 2) 1479.
  5. Reference is to Lilienthal’s address at the preview supper for the opening of the Atomic Energy Exhibit at the New York City Golden Jubilee Exposition. The text of the address was released as a United States Atomic Energy Press Release, August 21, 1948.
  6. Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons, May 12, 1948, vol. 450, cols. 2128–2129.