10. Editorial Note

Because of budgetary constraints, the AEC developed possible schedules for power reductions at its gaseous diffusion plants, which in turn would result in further reductions in the production of U-235 beyond the 25 percent cut President Johnson announced on January 8, 1964. Seaborg outlined the alternatives in a February 11 memorandum to McGeorge Bundy, which is reproduced in Seaborg, Journal, Volume 7, pages 363-365.

At a meeting among Bundy, Charles Johnson, Keeny, Ambassador Thompson, Seaborg, and AEC Commissioners Gerald F. Tape and John G. Palfrey on February 12, the conferees agreed to a schedule for reducing power and U-235 production. They further agreed to announce these reductions by February 15 because “a long delay on this matter would cost on the order of $16 million in penalty payments” to the utilities, which required long advance notice of power cutbacks. When Bundy asked Thompson whether there would be any value in delaying this decision in order to use this possibility of a cutback in the current disarmament negotiations with the Russians, Thompson said that “it wouldn’t be worth the cost of delay on the basis of the slight hopes that the Russians would go along with mutual reductions in production.” It was further decided that Seaborg would write a letter to the President recommending these actions. (Ibid., pages 373 and 382)

Seaborg’s February 13 letter, which did not mention the possible disarmament implications, is reproduced ibid., page 383. McNamara cleared this letter on the telephone subject to Secretary Rusk’s concurrence, but the disarmament people at State and ACDA apparently demurred. (Ibid., pages 386 and 392) In his memorandum to Bundy, February 14, ACDA Acting Director Fisher argued that a premature announcement of the pending additional reduction in U.S. production of U-235 would undercut the President’s earlier call for the Soviets to respond to the earlier U.S. cutback and to accept some inspection, and he proposed first “that an effort be made to elicit a favorable Soviet response.” Fisher’s memorandum is reproduced ibid., pages 393-394. Bundy agreed to go ahead with a message to the Soviet leadership and to defer the announcement of the cutback until April 20. (Ibid., page 400)