184. Memorandum of Discussion at the 383d Meeting of the National Security Council0

[Here follows a paragraph listing the participants at the meeting.]

1. Status of National Security Programs: The Atomic Energy Program (NSC 5819)1

The Special Assistant to the President, Mr. Gordon Gray, introduced the new Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, Mr. McCone, who stated that he would give the first portion of the report on the status of the atomic energy program. In the course of his report, Mr. McCone dealt with the following main subjects: First, U.S. commitments for the purchase of uranium ores at home and abroad for the next several years; second, availability of fissionable materials—U–235, plutonium, and tritium—in the light of requirements of various kinds; third, the aging and deterioration of U.S. reactors and forthcoming problems of replacement; and fourth, the program for nuclear power for peaceful purposes. On the latter subject, Mr. McCone indicated that the U.S. goal was to achieve economically competitive nuclear power in the United States in ten years, and in friendly foreign nations in five years.

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Following Mr. McCone, the remainder of the status report was presented by Dr. Willard F. Libby, of the Atomic Energy Commission, who discussed the following subjects: The U.S. basic research program; the program for the study of radioactive fallout; isotopes; the non-military uses of atomic explosions (Project Plowshare); forthcoming Plowshare plans; the U.S. atomic weapons program (Hardtack I); and the Hardtack II series of tests now proceeding in Nevada. (Copies of the reports by Mr. McCone and Dr. Libby are filed in the minutes of the meeting.)2

The President asked a question with respect to the use of atomic explosions to recover oil, and was answered by Dr. Libby. Thereupon Secretary Quarles indicated a desire to comment on the Department of Defense atomic weapons requirements. He pointed out that the Department of Defense had yesterday sent to the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission its estimates of its requirements over the next ten years for both plutonium and U–235. Secretary Quarles indicated that the minimum requirements for small tactical nuclear weapons would continue to exceed the plutonium estimated to be available. The President, with a smile, stated that he was at least perfectly certain that Secretary Quarles was not going to reduce the requirements for fissionable materials.

The Acting Director of the Bureau of the Budget, Mr. Roger Jones, asked whether these Defense Department requirements took account of the material discussed by Admiral Sides at the special meeting of the National Security Council on last Monday afternoon. The subject of this meeting was the evaluation of offensive and defensive weapons systems.

Secretary Quarles replied to Mr. Jones by stating that the Defense Department requirements were based on all the latest available information, including that presented at the special Council meeting on Monday.3 [2-1/2 lines of source text not declassified]

Mr. Jones pointed out that in view of the constant criticism by the Joint Congressional Committee on Atomic Energy of the alleged failure of the Department of Defense to indicate its future requirements, which criticism extended also to the Administration as a whole, it would be worth while to advise the Joint Committee that the Defense Department had just sent to the Atomic Energy Commission its requirements over the next ten years.

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The National Security Council:4

Noted and discussed the report on the status of the atomic energy program on June 30, 1958, prepared by the Atomic Energy Commission and transmitted as Part 3 of NSC 5819; as supplemented by an oral presentation by the Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission, and AEC Commissioner Libby, on developments in the program since June 30, 1958.

[Here follow Agenda Item 2. “Significant World Developments Affecting U.S. Security,” 3. “U.S. Policy Toward Iran,” and 4. “U.S. Policy Toward the Near East.”]

S. Everett Gleason
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret; Eyes Only. Drafted by Gleason on October 17.
  2. NSC 5819, “Status of National Security Policy as of June, 1958.” (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 273, Records of the National Security Council, Official Meeting Minutes File, 383rd Meeting) The portion of this paper on the atomic energy program is in the Supplement.
  3. Both in the National Archives and Records Administration, RG 273, Records of the National Security Council, Official Meeting Minutes File, 383rd Meeting. See the Supplement.
  4. October 13; see Document 183.
  5. The following paragraph constitutes NSC Action No. 1996, approved by the President on October 20. (Department of State, S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council)