110. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • V.S. y’Emelyanov, Chairman, Chief Administration for Atomic Energy, USSR
  • John A. McCone, Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission
  • Dwight A. Ink, Special Assistant to the Chairman, AEC
  • John Hall, Assistant General Manager for International Activities, AEC
  • Raymond L. Garthoff, Rapporteur
  • Natalie Kushmir, Interpreter

In reply to questions, Mr. y’Emelyanov indicated that he will accompany Mr. Khrushchev on the latter’s trip around the country, and will be in Washington and available for talks on the 24–26 of September. y’Emelyanov also stated that he will be in this country for meetings of the International Atomic Energy Agency Scientific Advisory Committee in New York on 27 October. He suggested he will have more free time in October than on the present trip.

McCone referred to the talks held with y’Emelyanov by Hall and Rabi in Vienna last June,1 and to the subsequent talks with Admiral Rickover,2 and stated that while he had no specific proposals to make he would like to continue exploring the possibilities raised in these talks.

y’Emelyanov stated that he had been surprised with the visit by Admiral Rickover. He had expected McCone to accompany Vice [Page 403] President Nixon, and had prepared a program of activities for McCone. He regretted that Rickover’s schedule had not allowed him to see additional things.

y’Emelyanov offered to show McCone everything appropriate that he would like to see during a visit to the Soviet Union, at any appropriate time. McCone replied that he well understood military matters such as plutonium production were not appropriate, and expressed his understanding that other laboratories and reactors were subject to discussion in connection with possible visits, as are ours. y’Emelyanov stated that this was also his understanding. Facilities for the production of U–235 and Plutonium are connected with the military program and are not open to discussion or collaboration. He indicated that they were ready to show us prototype, experimental, educational, and power reactors. y’Emelyanov further proposed direct collaboration between scientists of the two countries and suggested work on an agreement defining the scope of such collaboration. He stated that, for example, we could collaborate in the field of controlled thermonuclear reactions. He also stated that they are ready to exchange information and visits in the field of uses of nuclear energy for transportation (propulsion), for example, exchange of data on the Lenin for data on the Savannah. McCone replied that this would, indeed, be useful and suggested that such an agreement might be incorporated in the present exchange agreement by negotiators by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Department of State. y’Emelyanov noted that, according to his understanding, talks on the cultural exchange agreement for 1960–61 were to begin in Moscow in October or November, and would have a section governing activities in the field of the peaceful uses of atomic energy.3 This understanding was confirmed by Hall.

Hall commented that two matters were under discussion: 1) an exchange of visits by y’Emelyanov and McCone, and, 2) a formal agreement on further exchanges. y’Emelyanov stated his agreement with this understanding of the points under discussion.

y’Emelyanov proposed that, in connection with the visits by himself and McCone, they first decide on the things they want to see and on this basis the duration of the visits, and when these points are clear it would be easy to determine the most convenient timing of each of their visits. McCone noted that as for the things he would like to see, he was interested in any phases of peaceful uses of atomic energy; for example, research laboratories, experimental reactors, prototype reactors, power reactors, and propulsion reactors, such as on the Lenin. He repeated that [Page 404] exchanges on dual-purpose reactors and U–235 producers, being under a military classification, were not contemplated. y’Emelyanov noted his general agreement and inquired whether McCone would like to visit a uranium mine. McCone indicated his interest. y’Emelyanov continued by suggesting that McCone might be interested in visiting the Alpha and Ogra facilities working on controlled thermonuclear reactions. McCone replied that he would be interested, and suggested that y’Emelyanov might be interested in seeing ours.

y’Emelyanov stated that he had done much for increasing collaboration, although he had run into many difficulties. He gave an example of preferred treatment which he said he had given to the U.S. The only foreign specialist who had been able to visit the Lenin was Admiral Rickover. Although his good friend Professor Randers (Norway)4 had wanted to see the Lenin, he had refused to show it to him. (y’Emelyanov noted parenthetically that he himself had never visited the Lenin.) y’Emelyanov continued, making reference to the visit of Admiral Rickover with the comment that the Admiral had a difficult character. McCone indicated jocularly that this was the view of some people here, too.

y’Emelyanov returned to the question of suitable subjects for exchange. He noted that several prototype and experimental reactors were being built in the Volga region, but that this was proceeding more slowly than he would like. Consequently, in some cases construction had only begun or not even begun, and in those instances he could only show the plans of projects. McCone replied that the same situation prevails here. McCone noted that plans have the advantage of showing the future, whereas existing installations could only reflect the past. y’Emelyanov suggested that Soviet and American scientists might work together building some new reactor. He stated that he could not claim credit for originating this idea, as it had been advanced by Hall and Rabi in Vienna. But, he continued, he had not wasted time and he had discussed the idea in Moscow, and it had been well received by scientists there. Perhaps, he suggested, we could together build a reactor accelerator or controlled thermonuclear reactor.

Hall noted that the International Atomic Energy Agency could gain a good deal from such a Soviet-American project. He noted that y’Emelyanov had often said that the Agency only talks, and that this seemed a good opportunity to permit it to sponsor a useful activity. y’Emelyanov agreed and suggested that the two countries make an agreement and register it with the Agency. He commented that frankly there was at present a strange situation. The Agency talks over no major [Page 405] matters. Life is passing the Agency by. We should work out something on our own. McCone noted that this situation also troubles him, and that he too would like to help the Agency have a more active role. y’Emelyanov adverted to the following example of a difficulty in working with the Agency. He had sought to get accreditation by the Agency for Cern and Dubna, but the Agency did not want to do so for a long time. When it finally agreed, he discovered that the scientists at Dubna were no longer interested because they felt they would only lose time by going there since the work at the Agency was not fruitful. y’Emelyanov stated that he had favored the proposal of Eisenhower of 1953,5 that he still favored the proposal, and that he would continue to favor it, but that it would be necessary to do something to revive the Agency. McCone expressed his general agreement, but noted that the work of the Agency was by no means wholly sterile. The Agency, he recalled, had done much in the educational field, if not much in scientific work. y’Emelyanov agreed and remarked that the Agency has done more in the past year than before.

McCone inquired whether y’Emelyanov was going to the meeting of the Agency in Vienna. He mentioned that he himself was going there on the 27th of September for one week. y’Emelyanov said that he was not planning to attend unless his presence should be necessary, and that he would go only if his deputy there should in the next fortnight advise him that his presence would be required.

y’Emelyanov referred to the fact that he was now conducting talks with others. For example, he was in touch with Professor Cockcroft6 concerning exchanges on fast neutron reactors, and in this connection they will soon send a group to England in return for a recent visit of British scientists. Also, they are soon sending a group to France in connection with an exchange on thermonuclear controlled reactions.

y’Emelyanov declared that there was a difficulty peculiar to Soviet contacts with American scientists. The British come, see things, go home—but with the Americans it’s a little different. It is true, he said, that we have shortcomings, as do you, but Americans always seem to criticize. They are like guests who after dinner complain that the meat was burned or salted too little or too much. Americans seem to seek out the worst, then exaggerate it, and give it to the press. For example, said y’Emelyanov, Admiral Rickover told him that he had had difficulties in seeing certain things on the icebreaker Lenin, but that he would not want [Page 406] to cause any difficulties in the press on such misunderstandings. But y’Emelyanov learned that the New York Times had carried accounts quoting Admiral Rickover on the run-around he had been given on the Lenin.7 When I (y’Emelyanov) had visited Shippingport, our press asked me for comments, but I didn’t give them anything.

Garthoff noted that he had been present with Rickover at the Lenin and could perhaps clarify the situation to which y’Emelyanov referred. Initially Rickover had not been permitted to see the reactors or to discuss them in any detail, despite his prior understanding that it would be possible to do so in the same way that y’Emelyanov had been permitted fully to inspect the Savannah and Shippingport.8 This fact became known to newsmen present at the Lenin. Subsequently, when the misunderstanding was cleared up and the Admiral had been permitted to inspect the Lenin, the Admiral sought out the press directly upon his return to the hotel and informed them that contrary to the impression that all had received at the time, he had finally been allowed to see it. Unfortunately, some press stories had already been filed. And, Garthoff noted, the New York Times did subsequently carry the revised account of the Admiral’s visit to the Lenin and his words of praise for it.9

McCone commented that Nixon’s reports on his visit were very complimentary, that Admiral Rickover had been most complimentary in his report to Congress, that Mr. Cisler of Edison Electric an Mr. McCune of General Electric had also both been most complimentary.10 He suggested that what y’Emelyanov was referring to might be something in the past. y’Emelyanov stated that he had not meant to reproach us but that he wanted to mention certain difficulties that he had with Americans, though never with the French and British. For another example, Professor Weisskopf after his visit to Dubna had written a critical article.11 But, concluded y’Emelyanov, he was in favor of these [Page 407] contacts and merely wanted to note that we must strive to end such problems.

y’Emelyanov declared his surprise that Rickover was at all satisfied with his visit, because he came at a bad time for him so that he (he’Emelyanov) couldn’t do anything else for Rickover. McCone took the occasion of this remark to express his own surprise that y’Emelyanov had thought that he, McCone, would be accompanying the Vice President on the latter’s recent visit. y’Emelyanov replied that he had merely been thinking in terms of his talks with Hall and Rabi and that when he heard that Rickover was coming he was perplexed, but connected the fact with his talks with Hall. McCone clarified the point that Rickover had accompanied the Vice President at the latter’s request, and y’Emelyanov commented that he had merely inferred some connection with the earlier talks.

y’Emelyanov suggested that since both he and McCone were not physicists but engineers, practical men, he would like to conclude the conversation with some concrete practical steps, and he offered two proposals:

That we work on a treaty agreement specifying certain areas for collaboration in the nuclear energy field. We can, he suggested, each draft a proposal and then give them to one another, and when we have reached an agreed draft send it to our governments. McCone agreed.
Can we decide what you would like to see in the Soviet Union, the duration of your visit, and when you would like it to take place. McCone replied that he would like to think over the specifics of the visit. He noted that y’Emelyanov knows in general from the conversation what he would want to see. He would like to bring several people with him. As for y’Emelyanov’s visit here, perhaps it could be made immediately after the meeting in October. y’Emelyanov said probably it could.

y’Emelyanov then sketched a tentative sample program of the sort he envisaged for McCone’s visit. The Ural power station (where Rickover had been); the Voronezh power station (where Cisler had been); a good uranium mine; the icebreaker Lenin; experimental thermonuclear reactors at Moscow and Leningrad; a big accelerator (7 million kwts) now building at Moscow; a new nuclear center and reactor at Tashkent; etc. McCone stated that he would do the same in outlining a program of y’Emelyanov’s visit. He remarked that he thought that y’Emelyanov had seen Brookhaven several times (y’Emelyanov replied six times) and Shippingport, but not the Argonne laboratory, Dresden, the test reactors in Idaho, the materials laboratories at Ames, Iowa, and the Lawrence Laboratory at Berkeley. (y’Emelyanov indicated that he had not been to any of these places except Berkeley.) McCone noted that we now had two experimental gas-cooled reactors that y’Emelyanov might find of interest. y’Emelyanov noted that the Soviet scientists had long been prejudiced against such gas-cooled reactors but were now starting to [Page 408] show interest; at present their work on such reactors is only in the planning stage. McCone commented that there had been similar prejudices here, and that we used for the most part water reactors. The two new gas-cooled reactors that we are starting to work on are in the 30–40 megawatt scale. y’Emelyanov said that they had used mostly pressurized and field tube reactors, and in planning a joint project with the Czechs had offered either, while favoring field tubes, but the Czechs decided in favor of pressurized tank. In response to a question he stated that this joint project was for a reactor producing 70 thousand kwts (electrical).

McCone inquired whether the Soviets had found that electrical power from nuclear stations was expensive. y’Emelyanov strongly indicated that they had. He further stated they have much cheap coal in the Soviet Union. He stated that there remained many complex engineering problems—for example, that they have not yet decided which thermal-producing elements are best. McCone noted that we both seem to have the same problems and y’Emelyanov agreed.

It was agreed that upon y’Emelyanov’s return to Washington on the 24th arrangements will be made to continue talks, and that at that time each will present his suggested proposals in connection with the visits. McCone inquired on a tentative basis whether y’Emelyanov thought that early October, following the meeting in Vienna, might be an appropriate time for his visit to the Soviet Union. y’Emelyanov replied that he couldn’t say at the present because he was not certain what plans Khrushchev might have for him at that time, but that he would be in a position to say when he returns on the 24th.

A brief press release drafted by the AEC was approved by y’Emelyanov for release at the conclusion of the talks, and was released.12

  1. Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 64 D 560, CF 1472. Confidential. Drafted on September 16 but no further drafting information appears on the source text. The meeting was held at the Atomic Energy Commission headquarters.
  2. Documentation on the talks among Yemelyanov, Hall, and Isidor I. Rabi, member of the Science Advisory Committee of the Office of Defense Mobilization, is scheduled for publication in volume III.
  3. No record of talks between Rickover and Yemelyanov has been found. Regarding Rickover’s meetings with Kozlov, see footnote 3, Document 93, and Document 98.
  4. Regarding the negotiations leading to a cultural agreement with the Soviet Union, including an additional memorandum on atomic energy cooperation, see Part 2, Documents 1 ff.
  5. Gunnar Randers, Director of the Norwegian Atomic Energy Institute.
  6. For text of Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace” speech to the United Nations on December 8, 1953, which among other things called for the creation of an international atomic energy agency under the aegis of the United Nations to provide peaceful power from atomic energy, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1953, pp. 813–822.
  7. Sir John Cockcroft, British physicist and master of Churchill College, Cambridge.
  8. See The New York Times, July 28, 1959.
  9. No evidence has been found that Yemelyanov was part of the tour that visited the Savannah on June 30 and Shippingport on July 11. Reference may be to one of Yemelyanov’s numerous visits to the United States from 1955 to 1957.
  10. Not found.
  11. Regarding Nixon’s public comments on his visit to the Soviet Union, see The New York Times, July 28, 1959, and the transcript of his news conference, August 2, in Toward Better Understanding, pp. 24–31. For Rickover’s report to Congress on August 18, see Report on Russia by Vice Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, USN: Hearings before the Committee on Appropriations, House of Representatives, 86th Congress, 1st Session (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1959). The remarks by Walker Cisler, President of Detroit Edison Co., and Francis K. McCune, vice president of atomic business development in marketing services, General Electric, and President of the Atomic Industrial Forum, have not been further identified.
  12. This article, presumably by Victor F. Weisskopf, professor of physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has not been further identified.
  13. Not found.