Atomic Energy Files, Lot 57 D 688

Minutes of the Meeting of United States, British, and Belgian Representatives at the Department of State, April 5, 1951, 4 p. m.

top secret

Subject: Anglo-American-Belgian Atomic Energy Talks—Presentation of Anglo-American Reply to the Belgians.

Those present were:


Mr. George W. Perkins, Assistant Secretary } State Department
Mr. R. Gordon Arneson (S/AE)
Mr. David H. McKillop (S/AE)
Chairman Gordon Dean } Atomic Energy Commission
Mr. Sumner Pike1
Mr. John A. Hall
Major Parsons } Defense Department


  • Ambassador Silvercruys
  • Governor-General Ryckmans
  • Mr. Harford


  • Mr. Steel2
  • Mr. Marten
  • Mr. MacFarlane3
  • Mr. Longair4

Mr. Perkins opened the meeting by stating that our response to the latest Belgian approach5 was contained in a memorandum6 which he suggested the Belgian side read and then ask any questions or make any comment that might occur to them.

After about ten minutes study, Governor Ryckmans stated that our reply would make presentation of the matter to the Belgian Parliament very difficult. During the war it had been impossible to impose a tax or give any publicity to arrangements for the sale of uranium to us and as a result, the Belgian Parliament and public in general were to a large extent in the dark on the whole subject. Therefore, the Belgian Government was now faced with the necessity of justifying the wartime arrangements to Parliament, which it wished to do by showing [Page 714] there had been a substantial increase in taxes on uranium since the initiation of the Agreement, proceeds from which were being used for the overall benefit of Belgium and the Congo. It appeared this could not be adequately done within the frame of reference of our reply.

Mr. Perkins pointed out that we also had our public relation problems, including the necessity of demonstrating to Congress the validity of the grounds on which we would make financial assistance available to the Belgians in the light of the Uranium Agreement.

Mr. Steel in this connection drew attention to the prodigious figures which the United States, and to a lesser extent the United Kingdom, had spent in developing atomic weapons, which constituted one of the chief deterrents to Soviet aggression in Europe.

Governor Ryckmans mentioned that the cost of uranium in comparison to the cost of our total AEC program is quite small. Mr. Perkins replied that the cost was only proportionately smaller, and Mr. Dean pointed out that an increase in the cost of uranium would be reflected throughout the entire program.

Governor Ryckmans stated that even though uranium was now used chiefly for military purposes, nevertheless, it was a great potential asset, and the possibility existed that when commercial uses of atomic energy became possible, there would be no more Congo ores or even substantial financial benefits as a result of the Uranium Agreement. The inhabitants of the Congo could then well ask what they had to show for their valuable former asset.

Governor Ryckmans continued that Mr. Van Zeeland had suggested the negotiations in order to assure the continued existence of the Agreement, which he was having to justify not only to the Opposition but to the Government Party as well. If no substantial benefits could be shown, the public might well ask why the mines were not nationalized at the very beginning in order to protect the national interest of Belgium and the Congo in so strategic a raw material. In 1944, however, the Governor had agreed that the whole matter should be handled on a commercial basis with the Government adopting a hands-off policy to the extent possible. On a nationalization basis, it would have been much easier for the Government to impose whatever uranium taxes it wanted. Governor Ryckmans further remarked that since the present tax rate on uranium was public knowledge, it might be difficult to publicize the proceeds from the tax.

Mr. Marten, however, felt the total tax revenue could be announced; that is, the total that had been received to date plus an estimate of what would be received between now and the end of the Agreement, but without identifying sums received in any particular year within the life of the Agreement. He thought that the amount of revenue already [Page 715] collected indicated that the Congo Government has received substantial benefits from its uranium resources.

Governor Ryckmans then stated that he would have to obtain Brussels views on our reply.

Baron Silvercruys agreed, and said there was no use at this time to set a definite date for another meeting since it would depend largely on how soon Brussels views could be obtained. He feared that our reply would be disappointing to Mr. Van Zeeland due to the lowness of the figure constituting our offer of financial assistance and also to our rejection of the Belgian approach regarding benefits to the Congo and insistence upon limiting our aid to the atomic energy field. He felt that there would probably be Belgian counter-suggestions, and that our reply should be considered as another step in the over-all negotiations.

Ambassador Murphy expressed surprise that there should be disappointment over the fact we had limited our consideration of financial support to the atomic energy field since to the best of his knowledge, Mr. Van Zeeland had never mentioned anything except atomic energy as being the object of the negotiations.

Governor Ryckmans stated that actually the Congo should have all uranium tax revenue since uranium was the Congo’s resource and not Belgium’s. Current taxes imposed after the war had been made retroactive and so far all revenue therefrom had gone to the Congo. Using some of the revenue from an increased tax, however, to support an atomic energy development program in Belgium could be justified since such development would be directed toward goals involving increasing the value of uranium as a Congo product.

  1. Member of the United States Atomic Energy Commission.
  2. C. E. Steel, Minister, British Embassy.
  3. Dr. W. A. MacFarlane, Scientific Attaché, British Embassy.
  4. A. K. Longair, Assistant Scientific Attaché, British Embassy.
  5. Reference is to the position set forth in an informal Belgian memorandum dated March 12, not printed (Atomic Energy Files, Lot 57 D 688).
  6. Infra.