Note by the Executive Secretary to the National Security
The National Security Council, Mr. H. Chapman Rose
for the Secretary of the Treasury, the Director, Bureau of the Budget,
and the Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission, at the 240th Council meeting
on March 10, 1955, adopted the statement of policy on the subject
contained in NSC 5507/1, subject to the
amendments thereto which are set forth in NSC Action No. 1351–b.
The enclosed statement of policy, as adopted and approved, supersedes the
statement of policy (paragraph 7 of NSC
149/2) as transmitted by the reference memorandum of December 11, 1953,
and NSC 5431/1.3
STATEMENT OF POLICY ON PEACEFUL USES OF ATOMIC
1. On April 29, 1953, the President approved the first statement of
national policy on the development of atomic power for peaceful
purposes. The basic concept of that statement is still valid as
The early development of atomic power by the United States is a
prerequisite to maintaining our lead in the Atomic field. Such
development should be carried forward as rapidly as the interests of
the United States dictate, seeking private financing wherever
Peaceful Uses of Atomic
2. The national resource represented by U.S. atomic facilities and
technology can be a great asset in the effort to promote a peaceful
world compatible with a free and dynamic American society. U.S.
determination to promote the peaceful uses of atomic energy, with
calculated emphasis on a peaceful atomic power program abroad as
well as at home, can generate free world respect and support for the
constructive purposes of U.S. foreign policy. Such a program will
strengthen American world leadership and disprove the Communists’
propaganda charges that the U.S. is concerned solely with the
destructive uses of the atom. Atomic energy, which has become the
foremost symbol of man’s inventive capacities, can also become the
symbol of a strong but peaceful and purposeful America.
3. World acceptance of U.S. leadership in the peaceful use of atomic
power may be endangered by USSR and
possibly by UK activities in the near
future. To preserve for the U.S. the essential psychological and
political attributes of its leadership in this field makes important
the acceleration6 of U.S. programs and early
tangible action in the international field.
The Priority of Military
4. Programs for the peaceful utilization of fissionable materials
must be harmonized with military needs. Requirements for U.S.
fissionable material (not of weapons quality) for research reactor
programs will not cause any significant diversion of that material
or of trained personnel from the U.S. nuclear weapons program. As
for power reactors likely to be built in the next five years,
limited utilization of U.S. raw and fissionable materials is already
acceptable. As the U.S. reserve of nuclear weapons increases, such
materials may be increasingly devoted to power production.
5. The Atomic Energy Act of 1954 permits cooperation with other
countries or groups of countries in atomic power development. When
U.S. fissionable material or classified information is involved,
such [Page 48] cooperation must be in
accordance with statutory procedures which include negotiation of
“Agreements for Cooperation” between the U.S. and other nations. In
order to enter into an “Agreement for Cooperation”, the President
must determine that “the proposed agreement will promote and will
not constitute an unreasonable risk to the common defense and
6. Under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, activities abroad by U.S.
individuals, industry, and private institutions in the atomic energy
field require prior arrangements or authorizations by the U.S.
Significance of Atomic
7. a. Power plays a tremendous role in the increase of productivity.
If the world economy is to expand, ever-increasing supplies of fuels
for power will be needed. In many areas the high cost of power
production, the prospect of future depletion of fossil fuels, and
the utilization of the best hydro-electric sites make the
development of alternate sources of energy imperative. For these
reasons, rather than for immediate economic benefits, atomic power
b. Atomic power can provide a major extension of available energy
resources and will, in particular, have early value for areas with
heavy demand and high-cost fuel (like the UK). Power shortages and high power costs in
industrialized nations like Japan and Italy and in less highly
developed nations like Brazil may well make them economically
attractive locations for power reactors.
c. The ultimate economy of atomic power can be determined only as
technological and engineering problems are solved. The development
of economically competitive atomic power, through present
techniques, will not revolutionize the world economy. In
underdeveloped areas, the availability of atomic power will not ease
the basic problem of finding capital for economic development.
Atomic power plants will not make obsolete modern efficient
hydroelectric and steam electric plants at any early date.7 The
principal causes for high power cost to the consumer are the
transportation and production of fuel, old inefficient plants, small
units which are less efficient and economical than large plants, low
rates of use with resultant high unit cost of power, high cost of
investment capital, and power distributing systems. As opposed to a
new conventional plant, an atomic plant would be advantageous with
respect primarily8 to the cost of transportation
and production of fuel. In technologically advanced countries these
[Page 49] facts are recognized. In
some less advanced countries there is a tendency to view U.S.
proposals for international sharing of benefits of atomic power as a
panacea for basic economic ills.
Types and Sizes of Atomic Power
8. Atomic power reactors are of various types, depending upon the
nature and enrichment of the fuel, the nature of the moderator and
coolant, etc. The power output of atomic power reactors may range
from about 1,000 kilowatts up to several hundred thousand kilowatts.
For convenience, atomic power reactors producing 1,000–20,000
kilowatts are defined as “small-output” and atomic power reactors
producing 50,000 kilowatts or more are defined as
9. Generally speaking, the larger the output of the reactor the
smaller the capital cost per kilowatt; therefore, large-output
reactors offer the most promising approach to achieving economic
electrical power. With the exception of its work on the Army package
power reactor (1,500 kilowatts), which is a specialized
(air-transportable) form of small-output reactor for military use,
AEC has logically concentrated
its developmental efforts upon large-output reactors.
Reasons for Interest in
Small-output Power Reactors
10. A small-output reactor produces higher-cost power than a
large-output reactor. However, its construction cost is much less
than that for a large-output reactor (say, $4–$10 million9 for a 10,000 KW
reactor vs. $50 million plus for a 100,000 KW reactor). So long as the economics of power reactors
are uncertain, or in areas where power demand is small, small-output
power reactors may be attractive in that they may provide the means
of securing psychological advantage in international cooperation at
a much lower cost per installation than for large-output power
Present Status of U.S. Reactor
Programs (Research and Power)
11. Research reactors are not designed for
production of power for civilian purposes. Research reactors are
useful for research, medical, and related purposes, and for training
personnel in reactor operation. Most research reactors presently
available in the U.S. use small amounts of fissionable material of
weapons quality, but research reactors can be designed to use small
amounts of non-weapons quality fissionable material. Research
reactors and the supporting training and information programs are a
natural step in the development of any nation’s capability to
utilize atomic power when it becomes economically attractive.
12. Power Reactors of any type can be built
either for a large output or a small output of civilian power.
Presently authorized U.S. programs for power reactors are unlikely
to produce economically competitive atomic power for a decade or
more, except in a few power-short or high-cost areas. However, a
technological advance or break-through anywhere might appreciably
shorten the time scale. Furthermore, if the presently authorized
U.S. program should be expanded as proposed in the President’s
FY 1956 Budget, it might be
possible to achieve competitive atomic power by 1960.
13. a. A private utility company, with the assistance of the U.S.
Government, is now building at Shippingport, Pa., a large-output
power reactor for experimental purposes, rather than to produce
economic atomic power. The power output will initially be supported
in part by the U.S. Government. The reasons for building this
prototype in the U.S. include private capital participation,
convenience, safety, security, and the avoidance of unfortunate
repercussions from difficulties with an insufficiently tested power
b. Besides the successful submarine power reactors, one type of which
now powers the USS Nautilus and another type
of which is operating at the West Milton plant and will also power
the USS Seawolf,11 the only
prototype of a small-output power reactor presently authorized by
the U.S. is the Army package power reactor designed to meet unique
military specifications. This reactor is not designed to produce
power for civilian purposes, but might be adapted to civilian
c. If it were desired quickly to construct a small-output power
reactor for civilian use, an earlier completion date could be
achieved by scaling down the Shippingport-type large-output power
reactor than by adapting the Army package power reactor or one of
the submarine reactors.12 However,
construction of a small-output reactor by scaling down the
large-output reactor before it is fully tested may involve high cost
and difficult engineering problems. Nevertheless, these
disadvantages should not preclude U.S. willingness to help foreign
countries build such scaled-down reactors adaptable to their [Page 51] needs. At the same time,
immediate efforts to develop other and better small-output reactors
should be encouraged.13
Pros and Cons of Building Power
14. a. Because of the Soviet programs described below, it is
desirable for the U.S. to cooperate in the near future, in the
construction of one or more power reactors, either large- or
small-output, in some foreign power-short area. Such an action
should have great psychological advantages. However, it should be
recognized that a power reactor built abroad at this time might
operate irregularly or with lower performance and higher cost than
predicted. Selecting a single location for a reactor without causing
resentment among disappointed claimants would be difficult. (The
estimated cost of building reactors and of the subsidies to operate
them is indicated in the Financial Appendix.) Nevertheless, the
advantages to the U.S. of continuing its leadership by helping in
the construction abroad of one or more power reactors should
outweigh the disadvantages.
b. Consequently, the U.S., on the basis of discussions with the
countries concerned, should seek to identify at an early date
locations for a limited number of power reactors abroad. This
identification should especially take into account economic
conditions and appeal to the imagination of the free world.
The Soviet Program
15. The Soviet Union is continuing its atomic developments at a rapid
pace and is seeking to reduce the present superiority of the United
States in the atomic field. It must be anticipated that the USSR will make the maximum use of
atomic energy not only for military and industrial purposes, but
also as political and psychological measures to gain the allegiance
of the uncommitted areas of the world. Although the USSR faces technical problems similar
to those faced by the U.S., in a relatively short time the USSR may offer a small-output atomic
power reactor to a country such as India, Pakistan, or Burma. If the
United States fails to exploit its atomic potential, politically and
psychologically, the USSR could
gain an important advantage in what is becoming a critical sector of
the cold war struggle.
The U.S. Program
16. U.S. production capacities and efficiency in producing U–235 and,
less importantly, in producing heavy water and processing spent fuel
elements, give the U.S. the ability to maintain a commanding
international position in the atomic power field.
17. U.S. cooperation with other countries in advancing the peaceful
uses of atomic energy should be both bilateral under “Agreements for Cooperation” under Section
123 of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, and multilateral through an International Atomic Energy Agency
as proposed by the President on December 8, 1953.
18. a. The U.S. has already earmarked 100 kg. of fissionable material
for eventual use by other countries for peaceful purposes. The U.S.
is now negotiating bilateral “Agreements for Cooperation” with
Belgium, the UK, and Canada covering
the general field of power reactor technology. A number of other
countries have indicated varying degrees of interest in bilateral
“Agreements for Cooperation”.
b. Negotiations for establishment of an International Atomic Energy
Agency are now in progress. To fulfill the expectations aroused by
the President’s speech, the Agency should be active in the field of
atomic power as well as in the fields of research reactors,
training, isotopes and exchange of information. The U.S. would make
available only declassified information to the Agency, because it
would be an international body with a broad membership. But in order
to give the Agency the necessary support, the U.S. should make
available power reactor information as rapidly as it can be
declassified. If U.S. participation in a satisfactory International
Atomic Energy Agency is negotiated, the U.S. will in time also find
it necessary to make available fissionable material to support the
work of the Agency in the field of atomic power. It is now
tentatively planned that, if the USSR participates in the Agency, any materials
allocated by the USSR, the U.S. and
other participants will be transferred to the Agency and held in an
19. During the interim period of a year or longer while the treaty
for an International Agency is being negotiated and the consent of
the Senate sought, the U.S. should proceed vigorously with direct
actions to demonstrate its resolve to assist other nations and
maintain its world leadership in peaceful uses of atomic energy.
Some of these activities might in due course be taken over by the
20. Maximum psychological advantage should continue to be taken from
the substantial actions of the U.S. in this field. The timing of
release of declassified atomic energy information can be made a
political and psychological asset to the U.S.
21. The U.S. should also constantly explore further possible ways of
utilizing its atomic potential to its maximum political and
psychological advantage (for example, applications of industrial
radiation, nuclear propulsion, etc.).
22. In the interests of national security, U.S. programs for
development of the peaceful uses of atomic energy should be directed
- Maintaining U.S. leadership in the field, particularly in
the development and application of atomic power.
- Using such U.S. leadership to promote cohesion within the
free world and to forestall successful Soviet exploitation
of the peaceful uses of atomic energy to attract the
allegiance of the uncommitted peoples of the world.
- Increasing progress in developing and applying the
peaceful uses of atomic energy in free nations
- Assuring continued U.S. access to foreign uranium and
- Preventing the diversion to non-peaceful uses of any
fissionable materials provided to other countries.
23. U.S. programs for development of the peaceful uses of atomic
energy should be carried forward as rapidly as the interests of the
United States dictate, seeking private financing wherever
Courses of Action
24. As part of an over-all U.S. effort to develop the peaceful uses
of atomic energy:
- Accelerate the early development of atomic power by the
- Continue activities in the development and application of
- Furnish limited amounts of raw and fissionable materials
(not of weapons quality) required to effectuate “Agreements
for Cooperation” (subject to military requirements for such
materials, and recognizing that completion of construction
abroad of only a few large-scale reactors is likely before
25. Carry forward the development of the peaceful uses of atomic
energy as rapidly as the interests of the United States dictate,
seeking private financing wherever possible.15
26. Utilize the U.S. information program and participation in
appropriate international conferences (e.g., the 1955 International
Conference) to stress the benefits which might accrue from the
development of atomic power, while making clear the problems
27. Initiate a program of U.S. assistance to other countries in
construction of power reactors. To this end:
- Continue current bilateral negotiation of “Agreements for
Cooperation” with Canada, the UK and Belgium, which will cover, inter alia,
the exchange of information on power reactor
- Make an early announcement of U.S. readiness to enter into
discussions relating to cooperation with other countries in
their power reactor planning and programs.
- Enter into discussions with other free world countries
responding to paragraph b above, looking toward “Agreements
for Cooperation” which will cover exchange of power reactor
information, and provide in accordance with paragraph 24–c
above for the sale or lease or (where sale or lease does not
serve the best over-all interests of the U.S.) other
transfer of atomic materials or equipment.16 In such
discussions, seek opportunities for maximum U.S. cooperation
in those power reactor projects abroad which offer political
and psychological advantages.
- Assistance to foreign governments involving U.S.
Government grants in connection with the construction and
operation of power reactors shall be in accordance with
policies governing U.S. foreign assistance programs and from
funds provided for such programs. Beginning with the FY 1957 budget, any foreign
assistance funds required for this purpose should be
- Design and construct in the U.S. as soon as possible,
within the acceleration program as proposed in the FY 1956 budget, a small-output
civilian power reactor in the 10,000 KW range, as a step toward constructing
small-output power reactors most promising for use
- In furtherance of this policy and in accordance with Sec.
142 of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, continue the
declassification of information on nuclear reactor
technology, as security considerations will permit.
- Encourage and facilitate participation of U.S.
individuals, industry and private institutions in atomic
power activities abroad, such encouragement to include
governmental arrangements and authorizations as required by
the Atomic Energy Act of 1954.
28. Make an urgent study, including estimates of cost and time of
completion, of installing at the earliest possible date a nuclear
reactor propulsion unit in a U.S. merchant ship, which ship might
travel throughout the free world to dramatize the U.S. program for
developing peaceful uses of atomic energy.19
29. Initiate a program of aid in construction of research reactors in
selected countries, under “Agreements for Cooperation” which will
cover exchange of information, and provide, in accordance with
paragraph 24–c above, for the sale, lease, or other transfer
(whichever is in the best over-all interests of the U.S.) of atomic
materials and equipment.
30. Continue training and educational exchange activities, such as
reactor training courses for foreign scientists.
31. Take the necessary steps to proceed with the organization of an
International Atomic Energy Agency which will be brought into an
appropriate relationship with the United Nations.
32. If U.S. participation in a satisfactory International Atomic
Energy Agency is negotiated, utilize and support such Agency as an
instrumentality in the field of atomic power as well as in the
fields of training, information, isotopes and research reactors, and
be prepared to support its operations with limited amounts of
33. To safeguard against diversion of fissionable materials to
non-peaceful uses, ordinarily require:
- Chemical processing of used fuel elements in U.S.
facilities or under acceptable international
- Adequate provision for production accounting, inspection,
and other techniques.20