Department of State Atomic Energy Files

Minutes of the Meeting of the American Members of the Combined Policy Committee, Washington, September 7, 1950, 4 p. m.

top secret


  • Members
    • Secretary of State, Mr. Acheson
    • Secretary of Defense, Mr. Johnson
    • Chairman of Atomic Energy Commission, Mr. Dean1
  • 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
    • Joseph Volpe, Jr., General Counsel, Atomic Energy Commission
    • Walter Williams, Acting General Manager, Atomic Energy Commission
    • John A. Hall, Atomic Energy Commission.
  • Secretary
    • R. Gordon Arneson

I. British Request for Interim Allocation

The Members had before them a communication from the British Ambassador requesting an interim allocation of 505 tons of U3O8 from the unallocated stocks located in the United Kingdom. (Tab A2) In discussing the matter the following points were developed: Secretary Johnson pointed out that the Joint Chiefs of Staff are getting ready to inform the Atomic Energy Commission that its requirements for atomic weapons had been doubled. The Defense-AEC working group, established pursuant to the President’s directive of August 8,3 was in the process of firming up a recommendation that the AEC production program should be increased to the extent of one and one-half billions of dollars over the next few years. On the supply side, the Secretary of Defense inquired whether steps were being taken to see whether production in the Congo could be appreciably increased. Chairman Dean stated that Mr. Gustafson, former Director of Raw Materials of the Commission and currently a consultant to the Agency, was now in Brussels conferring with Mr. Sengier on this question. Mr. Sengier was scheduled to arrive in the United States early in October at which time it was hoped that he would have in hand proposals for increased output. Chairman Dean estimated that it probably would not be possible to increase the annual output of the Congo by more than 500 tons. As to other sources of supply, he pointed out that South Africa could not be expected to come into production until 1953 or probably 1954. It was estimated that within a few years U.S. production would be at an annual rate of from 500 to 600 tons. Prospects were good of securing 250 tons from Canada this year with the possibility of a like amount in 1951. The Commission has given the highest priority to the Redox process4 but this could not be brought fully to bear for another year and a half.

The Committee agreed that the British request for 505 tons should be granted, but that in communicating this decision to them it should be pointed out that U.S. requirements in the immediate future would [Page 574] be substantially increased and would run at a much higher level for ensuing years and that, accordingly, the U.S. members would like in the near future to discuss the question of future allocations.

II. Over-all Tripartite Arrangements

Chairman Dean stressed the need from the Commission’s point of view for an early resolution of our over-all tripartite relationships. He felt that it would not be feasible to discuss future allocations with the British and the Canadians without also discussing what over-all arrangement, if any, we would be prepared to negotiate. The Commission felt that an arrangement whereby the United States could secure the plutonium output of British piles for fabrication into weapons would constitute a substantial net gain to the weapons production program. Such an arrangement might involve supplying the United Kingdom with a stockpile of weapons for their own use. The desirability of an arrangement of this sort, however, must be considered in the first instance from the military point of view.

In response to a question from Chairman Dean, General Bradley stated that if there were no legal obstacles in the way he felt that it would be highly desirable from a strictly military point of view to establish all-out cooperation with the British in the weapons field. He would favor an arrangement whereby the United States would secure the U.K. plutonium output in exchange for furnishing the U.K. with a suitable number of weapons on which there would be the fullest cooperation on all military aspects. He doubted, however, whether the U.S. would be successful in attempting to disbar the British from producing at least a token number of bombs by their own efforts. Chairman Dean reported that the British had raised the question of the use of Eniwetok for testing their first weapon when available. He felt that it would be unfortunate if the British felt impelled to make their own weapon with their own resources for it would be not only a waste of time but of plutonium as well. He would much rather have it possible for the British to make some of their best scientists available to Los Alamos to work in closest cooperation with our scientists there and in turn for the United States to turn over to the British a suitable number of weapons of the most advanced and efficient designs.

On the matter of the law, there was general agreement that the sort of arrangement which was being discussed would undoubtedly require Congressional action. It was also agreed that prospects were very dim for a change in the law before the next session of Congress. It was agreed that the question of changing the law would be academic unless there were accord on the type of tripartite arrangement which was wanted and, accordingly, that present efforts should be directed toward securing an agreed proposal on the American side with a view [Page 575] toward discussing such proposal with the British and the Canadians if possible within a month or six weeks. It was recognized that the commitment which the Secretary of State made to the Joint Committee last October5 in no way precluded having informal discussions with the British and the Canadians provided no final commitments were made or agreements reached without further consultation with the Congress.

Secretary Acheson expressed the view that inasmuch as the Department of Defense has the greatest interest in arrangements involving military security the most expeditious way to go about firming up a U.S. position would be to have the Department of Defense come up with its recommendations. Once these were in hand the Atomic Energy Commission and the Department of State could make their respective contributions. Secretary Johnson agreed that this would be the most suitable way to proceed. He stated that Mr. LeBaron, in close consultation with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Joint Secretaries, would proceed immediately to firm up the views of the Department of Defense. At this juncture it would not be concerned with the question of the law which would be taken up in due course when it was established what over-all arrangement was deemed desirable.

The meeting thereupon adjourned.

R. Gordon Arneson
  1. President Truman appointed Commissioner Cordon E. Dean Chairman of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission on July 11.
  2. Tab A, a letter from Sir Oliver Franks, the British Ambassador, to the Secretary of State, June 21, is not printed.
  3. See p. 570.
  4. The Redox process for the recovery of uranium is described in Richard G. Hewlett and Oscar E. Anderson, Jr., The New World, 1939–1946: A History of the United States Atomic Energy Commission, vol. i (University Park, Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1962), p. 630.
  5. In a meeting with the Joint Congressional Committee on Atomic Energy, October 13, 1949, Executive Branch representatives, including Secretary Acheson, reiterated assurances that no binding tripartite arrangements would be concluded without the prior knowledge of the Joint Committee. The transcript of the meeting is not printed. (Department of State Atomic Energy Files)