248. Memorandum of a Conference With the President, White House, Washington, June 24, 1957, 9 a.m.1


  • Admiral Strauss
  • Dr. Ernest O. Lawrence
  • Dr. Mark M. Mills2
  • Dr. Edward Teller3
  • General Goodpaster

Admiral Strauss reviewed public statements that have been made regarding fall-out from large weapons, including a recent statement on the progress being made in developing “clean” weapons4 … .

Dr. Teller said that we have been seeking to develop tactical weapons, easily packaged, which could be used for the defense of our allies and for air defense …. While any estimate of time required to achieve this is extremely uncertain, he thought that a matter of six or seven years would be the best probability. … It cannot be done simply on the basis of theory and calculation. Some tests must be conducted as experiments, the results of which would guide further work … . He said we can easily demonstrate ….

Dr. Lawrence said it would be wonderful to have a United Nations team attend our tests, and the President strongly agreed ….

Dr. Teller then went on to say that, in the last month, we have started some thinking on how to use atomic explosions for peaceful purposes. Examples of such use cited at this point and later in the [Page 639] meeting included the use of … thermonuclear weapons in deep, large cavities (perhaps lined with steel) filled with water to produce steam, to break up taconite ore, to release oil from oil strata, to cut through large earth barriers and modify the flow of rivers ….

The President said that no one could oppose the development program they had described. We are, however, up against an extremely difficult world opinion situation and he did not think that the United States could permit itself to be “crucified on a cross of atoms,” so to speak. He added that the proposals for stopping testing are in the context of stopping war. We have not thought of stopping tests without some kind of package deal.

… Dr. Teller said that he did not think an agreement to stop tests could be policed with certainty.

The President returned to the question of world opinion, saying that we are witnessing not only intense Soviet propaganda but an actual division of American opinion and other opinion as to the harmful effects of testing. He asked if we could not find the places where weapons and instruments for tests were being made… .

Admiral Strauss returned to the President’s question as to what would be the best line to follow in these circumstances, and suggested that the President might invite UN observers to be present at the next Pacific tests, and invite them to prepare instrumentation and monitor the resulting radioactivity (through use of rockets) to show how low it is. The President asked if we could say that there would be no possible harm to humanity in general from the tests. He was told that we can say this is essentially correct, although there may be some miniscule effects—extremely low in relation, for example, to the difference in radioactive exposure of people at sea level as against people at the elevation of Denver, Colorado.

Dr. Teller commented, in reference to discussion of Dr. Pauling’s recent statement,5 that there are 5,000 scientists on the Berkeley Campus and only 27 of them signed his statement. This 27 included no biologists and no physicists engaged in atomic studies.

The President recognized that the Pauling comment may be quite invalid but he said that so many nations and people are reading in the press these fearsome and horrible reports that they are having a substantial result. All present stressed the need to clarify this matter publicly. The President said he thought he could do this at his next press conference, if he were asked a question such as “Why has the United States declined to join unreservedly in a banning of tests?”6

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… He could say that we invited the UN to put in instruments to verify this. Dr. Lawrence said there should be no implication that the testing that has been, and is now being, conducted will have any appreciable adverse effect ….

The President suggested that perhaps in the long run we may want … to turn over our techniques to him. The scientists thought (and commented to me after the meeting) that our weapons incorporate other technological advances of great value that we do not wish to give to the Soviets.

Dr. Teller said he has had a great deal of concern as to the situation that might exist if the Soviets secretly were to continue testing and developing … bombs and peaceful uses of … atomic explosions while we, having stopped our tests, are left only with … weapons which we are inhibited through world opinion from using.

. . . . . . .


Brigadier General, USA
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, DDE Diaries. Top Secret. Drafted by Goodpaster.
  2. Head of the Theoretical Division, University of California Radiation Laboratory.
  3. Physicist and Associate Director, University of California Radiation Laboratory.
  4. Presumably a reference to the President’s “recent statement” on fallout at his news conference, June 5, printed in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1957, pp. 429–430. See also Ibid., pp. 434–435 and 443–444.
  5. Regarding this statement on the radiological hazards associated with nuclear testing, see The New York Times, June 4, p. 17, and June 12, p. 6.
  6. For Eisenhower’s comments on nuclear testing at his next news conference, June 26, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1957, pp. 497–499, 500–501, and 504–505.