Atomic Energy Files, Lot 57 D 688

Minutes of the Meeting of the Combined Policy Committee at the Department of State, August 27, 1951, 3 p. m.

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Members: The Secretary of State (in the Chair)
Mr. Robert LeBaron, as alternate for the Secretary of Defense
The Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission
The British Minister, Mr. C. E. Steel

By Invitation:

  • United States
    • Mr. H. Freeman Matthews
    • Mr. Robert A. Lovett
    • General N. F. Twining
    • Mr. John A. Hall
  • United Kingdom
    • Admiral Sir Cyril Douglas-Pennant1
    • Mr. E. E. Tomkins2
    • Mr. A. K. Longair
  • Secretariat:
    • Joseph Chase (for R. Gordon Arneson)
    • F.W.Marten
    • George Ignatieff3

I. Minutes of Meetings of September 20, 1949 and September 30, 19494

The Minutes were approved.

II. Resignations and New Appointments.

The Committee had before it a paper by the Joint Secretariat on this subject (see Tab A). The Committee accepted and approved the resignations and new appointments described therein.

III. Interim Allocations for 1950 and 1951.

The Committee approved the exchange of correspondence between the Chairman and the British Ambassador as a United Kingdom member on the interim ore allocations for 1950 and 1951 for incorporation in the Minutes (see Tab B).5

IV. “Proposals Relating to the Trial of First British Atomic Weapon in U.S.A.”

Mr. Acheson stated that the American members had studied the United Kingdom proposals at length (Tab C)6 He regretted to inform the United Kingdom that it was not possible for the United States to accede to these proposals in their present form. Those who would be in technical charge of carrying out the program concluded that in the implementation of the proposals as outlined in the document under discussion, there would inevitably be involved a disclosure of Restricted Data. Such disclosure being contrary to Section 10 of the Atomic Energy Act, the proposals as made could not be carried out. However, the American members had come to the conclusion that it might well be possible to revise the proposals so as not to involve the disclosure of Restricted Data. They felt that the Commission and the Department of Defense should attempt to draw up terms under which a test program could be conducted, provided certain information was made available by the United Kingdom. In ten days to two weeks it would be possible to give the United Kingdom an idea of what could be done.

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Mr. Acheson recalled that when Sir Oliver had raised the matter on August 2 he had indicated that the United Kingdom wished to get an answer by the end of the month in order that it might proceed with its plans. Mr. Acheson asked the United Kingdom member whether this was correct.

Mr. Steel stated that he had received no further instructions since those embodied in the United Kingdom proposals submitted to the Department of Defense, except that he could now indicate the United Kingdom would reluctantly be willing to forego the shallow water test at this time in order to have a joint test with the Americans. He remarked, however, that a shallow water test was very important to the United Kingdom from the defense point, in that the United Kingdom believed that its harbors would be primary targets for Soviet atomic weapons. However, this sort of test was not a sine qua non. He stated further that he could not say what the answer of his Government might be in advance of seeing what changes would be made in the United Kingdom proposals. He repeated that the time limit of the end of August still stood. It was possible that two weeks might not matter so much, but Mr. Steel was not in a position to give at this time an indication of what the United Kingdom answer would be. It was also true that the United Kingdom would need time to study the United States counter proposals when they were ready. He inquired whether he could be given an indication now of what these counter proposals might be.

Mr. Acheson stated that he would like to know whether the time limit could be slightly deferred.

Mr. Dean stated that the United States proposals were at present under preparation. He remarked that it was very risky under the statute to conduct a joint test program.

Mr. Lovett suggested that we might explore what would be the maximum of information we could give to the United Kingdom and still comply with the law. He thought this could be done in less than a week.

Mr. Dean agreed, stating that the Division of Military Application of the Atomic Energy Commission was working jointly with the members of the Department of Defense on this matter. The second point causing Mr. Dean concern was the dimensions of the test. He pointed out that under the United Kingdom proposals there would be 50 scientists participating on the United Kingdom side and participation on this scale made him fearful because inevitably the United Kingdom and United States scientists would talk together and quite involuntarily atomic energy Restricted Data would be disclosed. He thought that perhaps participation could be scaled downward. He believed that the United States study could be completed in a week.

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Mr. Steel remarked that although he could not question the legal advice which indicated that the degree and scope of the activity would be contrary to the law, it did not appear to him that this was a valid legal argument as it was based upon the question of degree. He pointed out that it would not be all the United Kingdom participants who might acquire valuable information, but a few of the top men, such as Penney, who were just the ones whom the United Kingdom would send over even if numbers were restricted.

Mr. Dean remarked that this point was by no means the most important one in the consideration of the Commission.

Mr. Steel hoped that the United Kingdom might be able to hold up its decision for one week. He pointed out that this problem had been under consideration for some time and that the first approach had been made as long ago as April.

Mr. Lovett remarked that if August were a real deadline, then the United States must regretfully refuse. He agreed with the Commission’s views on the legal difficulties. He stated that the reason the Department of Defense was now willing to support the principle of the test was that during a visit to London by Mr. LeBaron and Mr. Glennan, the request that was made to them was discussed with the understanding that the United Kingdom proposals would have to be compatible with the United States legal requirements. Involved would be the use of a United States range with the United Kingdom getting the instrument readings. Nevada was considered a possibility, as the test could be done there at less expense and more quickly. The Department of Defense had approved the idea of this more restricted test, provided it could be reduced to simple terms which could be handled within the Atomic Energy Act. The question was not the number of scientists—whether 50 or less—but of how much data would be required and whether it would be possible to provide this within the confines of the Act, and what instrumentation and instrument readings would be divulged. The Commission was anxious to amend the Act in a way which would make fuller collaboration possible, but the Department of Defense has taken the position that its support of the proposed test was contingent upon its being conducted within the present law.

Mr. Steel stated that he would ask his Government whether it would be willing to wait a week while the experts were working out details of a test program the United States might be willing to undertake. He repeated that the underwater burst was very important to the United Kingdom. To forego such a test might be difficult and might have a bearing on the reaction of his Government.

Mr. LeBaron described Dr. Penney as being very competent, and he might find a number of ways of obtaining the results he wanted even from a test in Nevada which did not quite come up to the full [Page 767] desiderata set forth in the proposals of the United Kingdom. He stated, therefore, that arrangements might be worked out without involving Restricted Data. Dr. Penney would perhaps feel that the test would help answer a number of still unresolved questions, and that its main purpose would be to help the United Kingdom proceed with the task during a difficult period. Mr. LeBaron personally felt that the United States could do for the United Kingdom much of what was desired without violating the Act.

Mr. Lovett remarked that Mr. Dean had a very real problem. He pointed out that if we were to set off a British bomb in the United States and then run into some difficulties—for example, if the blast were too big and caused damage—the Commission would be in considerable difficulties.

Mr. Steel stated that there was a 30 kiloton limit on the size of the bomb.

Mr. Dean remarked that he would want to know more than the energy release. He would need a number of facts about the bomb for purely safety reasons.

Mr. Steel remarked that he saw nothing in the proposals of his Government to indicate that the United Kingdom would object to disclosure by it of any pertinent information. He further stated that in any event, the United Kingdom would test a bomb during 1952, not later than the fall.

Mr. Dean remarked that for logistic reasons Eniwetok was impossible, since the United States had no present plans for using Eniwetok during 1952. The Las Vegas site was the only one presently available for such a program at the date indicated.

The meeting adjourned at 3:30.

R. Gordon Arneson

F. W. Marten

George Ignatieff
[Tab A]

Popper Prepared by the Joint Secretariat of the Combined Policy Committee

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Statement on Committee Membership by the Joint Secretariat

resignations and new appointments

The Combined Policy Committee is requested to note the following changes in Committee membership which have been agreed to informally since the meeting of September 20, 1949:

American Side

The resignation of former Secretary of Defense, Louis Johnson, and the appointment of the present Secretary of Defense, George Marshall, as his successor.

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The resignation of former Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, David Lilienthal, and the appointment of the present Chairman of the Commission, Gordon Dean, as his successor.

British Side

The resignation of Sir Derick Hoyer-Millar, British Minister, and the appointment of Mr. C. E. Steel, British Minister, as his successor.

The Committee is also invited to take note that Robert LeBaron has replaced William Webster as alternate to the Secretary of Defense; that General Sir William Morgan was replaced by Lord Tedder as Military Adviser to the United Kingdom members; and that Lord Tedder has now been replaced by Air Chief Marshal Sir William Elliot.

  1. Member of the British Joint Services Mission in Washington.
  2. First Secretary, British Embassy.
  3. Counselor, Canadian Embassy.
  4. The minutes under reference are printed in Foreign Relations, 1949, vol. i, pp. 529 and 548.
  5. Tab B consists of copies of the following communications on the allocation of uranium ore, none of which is printed: Secretary Acheson to Ambassador Franks, January 26, 1950; Ambassador Franks to Secretary Acheson, March 20, 1950; Secretary Acheson to Ambassador Franks, April 18, 1950; Ambassador Franks to Secretary Acheson, April 25, 1950; Ambassador Franks to Secretary Acheson, June 21, 1950; Secretary Acheson to Ambassador Franks, September 9, 1950; Minister Steel to Secretary Acheson, June 21, 1951; and Secretary Acheson to Ambassador Franks, July 20, 1951. (Atomic Energy Files, Lot 57 D 688)
  6. Tab C, the British paper “Proposals Relating to the Trial of First British Atomic Weapon in U.S.A.” of July 12, is not printed.