Department of State Atomic Energy Files

Minutes of the Meeting of the American Members of the Combined Policy Committee,1 Washington, April 25, 1950, 2 p. m.

top secret


  • Members
    • Secretary of State, Mr. Acheson
    • Secretary of Defense, Mr. Johnson
    • Acting Chairman of Atomic Energy Commission, Mr. Pike
  • By Invitation
    • Adrian S. Fisher, Legal Adviser, State Department
    • General Bradley, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
    • Robert LeBaron, Deputy to Secretary of Defense on Atomic Energy Matters
    • General Burns, Special Adviser to Secretary of Defense on Foreign Policy
    • Gordon Dean, Commissioner, Atomic Energy Commission
    • Carroll L. Wilson, General Manager, Atomic Energy Commission
    • Joseph Volpe, Jr., General Counsel, Atomic Energy Commission
    • John A. Hall, Atomic Energy Commission
  • Secretary
    • R. Gordon Arneson

Secretary Acheson suggested that the meeting might first cover specific points on which decisions were needed immediately and that the members might then discuss how best to proceed on some of the longer term matters.

I. Raw Materials Problems

A. South African Negotiations.

Policy guidance for conduct of negotiations for purchase of uranium. It was agreed that negotiations with South Africa should continue to be carried on under the aegis of the CDA along the lines of the Memorandum of Discussion setting forth the agreement reached in Johannesburg in November 1949 between representatives of the CDA and the South African Atomic Energy Board.2 In this connection, Mr. LeBaron suggested the desirability of a general review of supply and requirement figures in the near future. It was agreed that such a general review should be made and that the Department of Defense and the Atomic Energy Commission would get together subsequent to the meeting to formulate a course of action for this review.
Intergovernmental negotiations in the event South Africa requests “a special position” by virtue of its potential importance as a supplier of uranium. It was agreed that the proposal set forth in para 4 of Tab A should be adopted.
[Page 549]

B. Notation of Interim Allocation of Uranium Ores.

The members took note of the interim allocation of Congo uranium as set forth in Tab B.

C. Consideration of U.K. Request for Brazilian Monazite.

It was agreed that the British request as set forth in Tab C should be approved. Note was taken, however, of the following points:

That this particular request should not be considered as a precedent for increased demands on Brazilian supplies but that further requests as they might arise would have to be considered on their merits.
That the rare earth industry would be told informally of this proposed action.
That the views of our Ambassador in Brazil as to possible effect of this action on current negotiations with the Brazilian Government would be obtained prior to informing the British.

D. Report on Belgian Talks.

The members noted the attached report on the status of negotiations with the Belgians. (See Tab D)

II. Current Status of Tripartite Relationships Outside Raw Materials Field

A. British Proposal for Examination of Comparability of Standards of Security.

It was agreed that the British proposal contained in Tab E be accepted.

B. Use of the Chalk River NRX Reactor for Irradiation.

Secretary Johnson expressed the view that the nub of the question was whether the information that was made available to the Canadians in connection with certain irradiation projects did or did not constitute weapons information. Commissioner Pike stated that in his view the information involved did not in fact constitute weapons data. He reported that the matter had been discussed at length with the Joint Committee and the point had been made to it that the information in question might be considered borderline, but that in view of the immense advantages to be gained from the proposed irradiations the Commission considered that the project should go forward. On this basis the Joint Committee had agreed. Recognizing that this question was a close one on which honest differences of opinion were justified, it was agreed that Dr. Karl Compton3 and some other person not directly connected either with the AEC or the Department of Defense should be asked to give their judgment as to whether the [Page 550] information involved did or did not constitute weapons information. Secretary Johnson indicated that the Department of Defense would be quite willing to go along with the irradiation projects provided the determination was made that the information incidentally given to the Canadians did not constitute weapons information. Mr. LeBaron inquired whether it was contemplated that many more cases would arise in which it would be desirable to use the Canadian reactor. Mr. Pike replied that it would not be possible to say at this time, that the number of cases would depend on as yet unforeseen developments in the hydrogen bomb program. If it seemed clear that valuable time could be saved in future by using the Canadian reactor, the Commission would propose that such individual cases be considered on their merits at the time they arose.

C. Areas of Exchange of Information—Definition of Weapons Data.

It was agreed that it would not be possible to lay down a hard and fast line on the definition of weapons data and that individual cases would have to be considered on their merits as they arose.

D. U.S. Government Reply to Norwegian Request of Atomic Energy Assistance.

The members took note of the reply which had been given the Norwegians by our Embassy and the Norwegian response thereto. (See Tab F.)

III. Consideration of Future Tripartite Relationships—Status of Talks Initiated by Presidential Approval of Negotiating Objectives Dated March 2, 1949

It was agreed that the question of future tripartite relations should be reviewed in the light of the various events that had occurred since the talks were placed in suspense with a view toward presenting to the President in due course recommendations as to the resumption of negotiations.

It was further agreed that it would be useful for the members to get together again briefly prior to the departure of the Secretary of State for Europe.4

As a starting point for a current evaluation of the situation, the Secretary of State suggested that a memorandum which had been prepared for him by Messrs. Fisher and Arneson might be circulated to the other members.5

R. Gordon Arneson
[Page 551]
[Annex A]

Memorandum Prepared for the American Members of the Combined Policy Committee

South African Negotiations

1. The United Kingdom Government has informed the United States Government* that in January the South African Minister for External Affairs raised with the British Foreign Minister the question whether South Africa would not, if it became an important supplier of uranium, be entitled to a “special position” in the field of atomic energy.

2. The United Kingdom Government considers this conversation as a diplomatic approach. The South Africans have not so far made a diplomatic approach to the United States Government, although they indicated intention to do this in due course.

3. The United Kingdom Government states a disposition to reply to the Union of South Africa along the following lines, providing the American and the Canadian Governments agree:

That there is no objection in principle to including in a raw material agreement with the Union provisions according some special relationship to the latter as a producer of uranium. These provisions might have the same effect as paragraph 9a of the Belgian Agreement, and might eventually have to be extended to include other advantages which might be granted the Belgians.

4. There is presented for the consideration of the American members of the Combined Policy Committee, the following alternative proposals in which the United Kingdom and Canadian members would be requested to concur:

That the arrangements with South Africa, if possible, be confined to a straight commercial contract between the CDA and the South African Atomic Energy Board, covering production and procurement of uranium, along the lines of the memorandum developed by the negotiators of the Agency and the Board in Johannesburg last fall.
That in the event the South Africans insist on a “special position”, a combined approach be arranged under the auspices of the Combined Policy Committee which would:
Be independent of the contractual negotiations.
Inform the South Africans of the basis for United States-United Kingdom-Canadian CPC and CDA arrangements.
Consider what special position in the atomic energy field might be granted South Africa on the basis of her potential uranium production and in the light of her scientific and technical capabilities.

April 18, 1950.

[Annex B]

Memorandum Prepared for the American Members of the Combined Policy Committee

Notation of Interim Uranium Allocation Agreement for 1950

The uranium allocation agreement approved by the Combined Policy Committee on January 7, 19486 expired December 31, 1949. Since it became apparent late in 1949 that an overall Tripartite agreement in the atomic energy field would not be reached before the expiration date of the raw materials agreement referred to above, the British were asked for assurances that the United States would receive in 1950 a sufficient tonnage of uranium ore from the Belgian Congo to meet the expanded requirements of the United States Atomic Energy Commission.

In response, the British on December 22, 1949 proposed an interim raw materials arrangement7 which the American side of the Combined Policy Committee agreed to accept under certain conditions.

On being informed of these conditions,8 the British incorporated them into a draft interim allocation agreement, which was submitted by the British Ambassador, under the cover of a letter of March 20, 1950 to the Secretary of State,9 for the consideration of the American members of the Combined Policy Committee.

Following receipt of the written approval of the Secretary of Defense and the Atomic Energy Commission of the terms of the agreement as they stood, the Secretary of State advised the British Ambassador by letter,10 with a copy to the Canadian Ambassador, that the agreement was acceptable to the American members of the Combined Policy Committee, and that therefore the agreement should now be considered as in effect. A copy of the agreement is attached for notation.

[Page 553]

Interim Uranium Allocation Agreement for 1950

Sufficient raw material to meet the full expanded U.S. requirement of 2,934 tons for 1950, after allowing for supplies from other sources, shall be shipped and allocated to the United States of America from Congo production.
If, as estimated, the total quantity available from U.S., Canadian and Congo sources exceeds the figure of 2,934 tons by 131 tons, 130 tons of material shall be shipped from the Congo to the U.K. If the excess production is less than 130 tons, the lesser figure will be shipped to the United Kingdom.
It is understood that this interim allocation does not apply to stocks presently unallocated.
This arrangement shall be subject to immediate review at the request of any of the three Governments.
The U.S. members of the Combined Policy Committee wish to have it recorded that in the event that the above-mentioned U.S. requirements cannot be met from supplies from other sources, they will be obliged to request an allocation to meet the deficiency from presently unallocated stocks in the U.K.
[Annex C]

Memorandum by the British Members 11 of the Combined Policy Committee to the United States Members

Brazilian Monazite

The U.K. members of the Combined Development Agency request the concurrence of the U.S. members, in conformity with para. 4 of the Exchange of Notes between Lord Halifax and Mr. Acheson regarding the Brazilian-U.S. Agreement,12 to the importation into the United [Page 554] Kingdom from Brazil of 250 tons of monazite per annum for a period of two years. The U.K. members understand that the importation would be by Thorium Limited and that the monazite would be obtained from various suppliers in Brazil through the good offices of Orquima.

2. This is the first request made for the importation into the U.K. of Brazilian monazite. As the U.S. members of the C.D.A. are aware, the U.K. has not been able to obtain supplies of monazite from India for the past two or three years. During that time the U.K. has not, therefore, been able to import any monazite. It is believed that during the same period the U.S. has imported considerable tonnages from Brazil.

3. The matter is one of considerable urgency as legislation is being promoted in Brazil to ban the export of monazite. It is therefore desired to conclude the contracts before this legislation takes effect. The U.K. members would therefore be grateful if the U.S. members could give urgent consideration to this request. They suggest that in the interest of speed it is not necessary to hold a formal meeting of the C.D.A. to discuss the request but they would, of course, be ready to do so if the American members wish it.

4. If the U.S. members are agreeable to the U.K. request, it is suggested that the U.S. Ambassador in Rio should be requested to inform the Brazilian Government that there is no objection on the U.S. side to the export of 250 tons of monazite per annum over a two-year period to the U.K., so that the necessary arrangements can be made by Thorium Limited with the least possible delay.

[Annex D]

Memorandum Prepared for the American Members of the Combined Policy Committee

Status of the Belgian Talks

Talks which the Belgians initiated for the purpose of reviewing with the United States and the United Kingdom certain aspects of the Congo Uranium Agreement of 1944, with special reference to Section 9a thereof, commenced on January 30, 1950.

In the course of the discussions, it soon became apparent that the Belgians desired assistance which neither the United States nor the United Kingdom, because of security considerations, were prepared to give, and, furthermore, which the United States under the Atomic [Page 555] Energy Act of 1946 could not give. The Belgians, therefore, expressed considerable disappointment over the Memorandum of Conversation which was presented to them on February 9, 195013 outlining the type of unclassified assistance the United States and the United Kingdom felt could be afforded Belgium under present circumstances.

Belgian Foreign Minister Van Zeeland voiced this disappointment in a personal message to the Secretary of State14 requesting the latter’s intervention in arriving at an agreement more favorable to the Belgian Government.

In reply, the Secretary explained the American position and proposed a text for a Joint Communiqué summarizing the background of the talks and the maximum assistance which the United States and the United Kingdom were prepared to render at this time.15 After presenting the message to Mr. Van Zeeland, Ambassador Murphy informed him orally (1) that as soon as future developments or any change in the Atomic Energy Act of 1946 occurred which might make possible further assistance along the lines proposed by Belgium, the United States would give sympathetic consideration to Belgian wishes, and (2) that we would be willing to consider making a suitable financial contribution toward Belgium’s efforts in the field of atomic research as soon as a more detailed program had been worked out.

Mr. Van Zeeland was also informed that the United States and the United Kingdom were aware of the fact that he must answer an interpellation on March 7th in the Belgian Senate regarding Belgian Congo uranium, and that the Communiqué had been drafted with this necessity in mind.

Mr. Van Zeeland subsequently accepted the Communiqué, subject to formal approval of the Belgian Cabinet, and proposed publication time for March 7 at 10 a. m. Prior thereto, however, Mr. Van Zeeland requested that the date of publication be postponed until further notice, since additional time was required by the Belgian Cabinet for considering certain suggestions it wished to make in connection with the Communiqué, even though the latter was acceptable in principle. On March 7, therefore, Mr. Van Zeeland answered the Belgian Senate interpellation by referring to Mr. Spaak’s previous statement on this subject and promising a more detailed reply when negotiations were finally concluded.

On March 10, the Belgian Ambassador in Washington conveyed to the Department certain points which Mr. Van Zeeland wished the Secretary of State to agree to as a condition of final Belgian acceptance [Page 556] of the Communiqué.16 The American negotiators felt that these points, one of which called for a yearly contribution of five million dollars toward the development of atomic energy in Belgium, were in many respects unacceptable and, in any case, required most careful consideration; especially when viewed against the background of a Belgian Memorandum dated February 14,17 which, although superseded by the substance of the points mentioned above, was left with the Department for notation. The Memorandum was particularly unfortunate in its tactless phrasing and the impression that it left that the Belgian Government doubted the sincerity of American assurances concerning the remoteness of the commercial use of atomic energy.

Since Assistant Secretary of State Perkins was then about to leave for London, it was decided that no reply to the Belgians should be made until he had had an opportunity of discussing with Ambassador Murphy the points raised by the Belgian Foreign Minister.

At their meeting, Mr. Murphy told Mr. Perkins that he felt there was no longer any urgency connected with the talks due to the domestic crisis in Belgium created by the question of the King’s return.18 He felt, however, that he could be of assistance in working out a reasonable attitude on the part of the Belgians on the basis of the explanation of our views which Mr. Perkins had given him.

The subsequent fall of the Eyskens Government and the inability on the part of the Belgians to form a new government have resulted in a temporary suspension of negotiations, although the Belgian Foreign Office has indicated its continuing interest in an eventual resumption of the talks.

It is thought that the Foreign Office has now been convinced of our good faith in the position we have taken in the negotiations. It would seem, however, that the Belgians are less convinced of the practical value of the assistance we have offered them in contributing toward the establishment of a reasonable and soundly based research and developmental program in Belgium.

Mr. Perkins will again be in London soon in connection with the meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Atlantic Pact countries. It is anticipated that Mr. Van Zeeland, or at least Baron de Gruben of the Belgian Foreign Office, will also be in London for this occasion. Mr. Perkins plans, therefore, to try to impress upon the Belgians the positive benefits we think will accrue to them from the assistance we have [Page 557] offered. We will intimate that upon the establishment of a stable government in Belgium, if that has not already been accomplished, we would be happy to resume negotiations with a view toward arriving at a final understanding on the basis of the Joint Communiqué, which all parties have agreed to in principle.19

[Annex E]

Memorandum by the British Members of the Combined Policy Committee to the Combined Policy Committee

United Kingdom Ministers have recently considered the desirability, especially in view of the recent case of Dr. Fuchs, of examining the comparability as between the United States, United Kingdom and Canada of the standards of security in the field of atomic energy.

2. The United Kingdom members of the Combined Policy Committee have therefore been instructed to propose to their United States: and Canadian colleagues that a meeting should be held in the near future to examine security arrangements in the field of atomic energy at present existing in the three countries. As a point of departure for such a meeting, para, (d) of Section I of the Memorandum20 drawn up during the tripartite talks last autumn by Sub-Committee III—Information at its meeting of September 26, 1949, might be taken. This paragraph reads as follows:—

“Full exchange of information will depend, as in the past, on acceptance by each of the three countries of the security clearances of the other two countries. An exchange of views on the methods and criteria used in security clearances should be arranged, perhaps most easily by exchange of visits of security officers. It is not necessary for the procedures to be identical provided they achieve the same standards.”

3. If it is agreed to hold such a meeting the United Kingdom members of the Combined Policy Committee feel that representatives, of the security services interested in the safeguarding of classified atomic energy information of the three countries should be included In the respective teams, together with persons who have a general responsibility for the direction of the atomic energy programmers in the three countries.

4. The United Kingdom members would be glad to learn the views of their United States and Canadian colleagues on this proposal.

[Page 558]
[Annex F]

Memorandum Prepared for the American Members of the Combined Policy Committee

Subject: Reply to Norwegian Request

In January 1949 Dr. Randers, Head of the Norwegian Institute for Atomic Energy Studies, made formal request in a letter to the Atomic Energy Commission for assistance in the construction of the projected Norwegian heavy water reactor.21 In addition to unclassified information, he wished to secure from the United States purified uranium and reflector graphite.
In a letter dated April 12, 1949,22 Dr. Randers was informed by the Atomic Energy Commission as to the necessary arrangements for obtaining declassified technical information released by the Commission. It was indicated that answers to the other questions raised would require careful consideration and that the United States views would be transmitted by the Department of State in due course.
In March 1950 Dr. Randers approached the Embassy at Oslo, requesting some early definite reaction from the United States with regard to the original requests for uranium and graphite. He recognized that recent events such as the Fuchs case and the announcement of the H-Bomb diminished changes that assistance would be available from the United States to smaller countries for furthering their progress in atomic energy.
The Department of State is requesting the American Embassy at Oslo to inform Randers orally and informally that in the present circumstances, the United States Government is unable to provide direct assistance to Norway or Norway and its affiliates in furtherance of their atomic energy development. A telegram containing instructions for the guidance of the Embassy has been despatched23 after review by the Department of Defense and the Atomic Energy Commission.
The British have been informed of the position the United States Government will transmit to the Norwegians. It will be recalled that the United Kingdom, at the insistence of the United States Government did not agree to refine uranium ores for the Norwegians in connection with an approach by the latter in 1948.
  1. The Combined Policy Committee was established under the terms of the “Articles of Agreement Governing Collaboration Between the Authorities of the U.S.A. and the U.K. in the Matter of Tube Alloys [atomic energy research and development]” signed by President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill at Quebec, August 19, 1943; for the text of the Quebec Agreement, see Foreign Relations, The Conferences at Washington and Quebec, 1943 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1970), pp. 1117–1119.
  2. The Memorandum of Discussions, November 1949, an agreed basis for subsequent negotiations regarding contractual arrangements, is not printed (Department of State Atomic Energy Files).
  3. Physicist; President of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1930–1948: since 1939, served in numerous governmental and advisory governmental positions concerned with military research and development.
  4. On May 6, Secretary Acheson departed for Europe to attend a meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Council and to meet with British Foreign Secretary Bevin and French Foreign Minister Schuman. For documentation on various aspects, of Acheson’s trip, see vol. iii, pp. 828 ff.
  5. Memorandum on January 18, p. 499.
  6. See letters to Mr. Arneson from Mr. Marten, British Embassy, February 24 and from Mr. Wilson, Atomic Energy Commission, April 10. [Footnote in the source text. The letters are not printed.]
  7. For the text of the allocation agreement of January 7, 1948, see Foreign Relations, 1948, vol. i, Part 2, p. 685.
  8. The letter from the British Ambassador to the Secretary of State, December 22, 1949, is not printed.
  9. The letter from the Secretary of State to the British Ambassador indicating United States agreement, January 26, 1950, is not printed.
  10. Not printed.
  11. Letter of April 18, 1950, not printed.
  12. Sir Oliver Franks, British Ambassador in the United States, and Sir Derick Hoyer Millar, Minister, British Embassy.
  13. Reference is to an exchange of letters between Lord Halifax, the British Ambassador in the United States, and Dean Acheson, the Acting Secretary of State, September 19 and September 24, 1945; for texts, see Foreign Relations, 1945, vol. ii, pp. 4445 and 4748. By means of the letters, the United States and United Kingdom agreed that the United Kingdom had acquired the same rights and assumed the same responsibilities that it would have acquired and assumed had the U.S.-Brazilian Agreement of July 6, 1945 ( ibid., pp. 2023), been concluded with Brazil by the United States and the United Kingdom acting jointly. Paragraph 4 of each letter stated that the Combined Development Trust would act on behalf of the United States and United Kingdom in all matters relating to the fulfillment of the agreement.
  14. Not printed.
  15. Message of February 17, p. 528.
  16. For Secretary Acheson’s reply, see telegram 243 to Brussels, February 22, p. 531.
  17. Note from the Belgian Ambassador to the Department of State, March 10, not printed.
  18. Memorandum from the Belgian Embassy to the Department of State, February 14, not printed.
  19. For documentation on United States interest in the governmental crisis in Belgium, see vol. iii, pp. 1347 ff.
  20. Perkins, Van Zeeland, and Sir Roger Makins, British Deputy Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, reviewed the atomic energy situation at London on May 18. The memorandum of this inconclusive conversation is not printed. (Department of State Atomic Energy Files)
  21. Not printed.
  22. Letter from Dr. Gunnar Randers to the United States Atomic Energy Commission, January 19, 1949, not printed.
  23. Not printed.
  24. Telegram 261 to Oslo, April 18, 1950, not printed.