3. Editorial Note

On January 16, 1964, President Johnson sent a letter to AEC Chairman Seaborg approving Niblick III, an AEC proposal for a total of 13 underground nuclear tests to be conducted in the third quarter of FY 1964. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Subject File, Nuclear Testing—U.S. Testing Program, Volume II, Niblick Series—FY 1964, Box 27) Seaborg proposed this series in a December 21, 1963, letter to President Johnson. (Ibid.)

In a January 16 memorandum to McGeorge Bundy, Charles E. Johnson noted that the proposed test program had been circulated to all members of the Review Committee on Underground Nuclear Tests on January 6 for comments and no negative comments or objections had been made. Thus, he and Spurgeon Keeny recommended that the President’s previously signed letter of approval be dated and sent to Seaborg under cover of a transmittal memorandum from Bundy. (Ibid.) The Review Committee on Underground Nuclear Tests was established by President Kennedy in NSAM No. 269, October 31, 1963. For text, see Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, volume VII, Document 372.

Bundy’s January 16 memorandum to Seaborg reads in part: “In making his approval, the President noted that your submittal was based on the understanding that there must be no untoward risk of violation of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty limitations concerning delivery of radioactive debris beyond national boundaries, and your assurance to him that the test program proposed is consistent with such understanding.” (Ibid.) The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was signed in Moscow on August 10, 1963, and entered into force on October 10, 1963. (14 UST 1313)

In a March 26 letter to President Johnson, Seaborg said that 10 shots were carried out under Niblick III, which had been completed, and he requested 14 weapons development tests and 2 Plowshare events for the Niblick IV series in the fourth quarter of FY 1964. “The Plowshare events,” Seaborg wrote, “are directed toward the development of clean explosives and techniques for their employment in the excavation program.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Subject File, Nuclear Testing—U.S. Testing Program, Volume II, Niblick Series—FY 1964, Box 27)

In a memorandum to President Johnson, April 9, McGeorge Bundy wrote that the Review Committee on Underground Nuclear Tests and his office had reviewed the AEC request for the President’s approval. The President initialed his approval of the Niblick IV program on this memorandum. (Ibid.) Bundy conveyed the President’s approval in an April 10 memorandum to Seaborg. (Ibid.)

Ultimately, the U.S. Government conducted 10 tests, including 1 Plowshare event, during the third quarter of FY 1964 and 13 shots, [Page 7]including 2 Plowshare events, in the fourth quarter. (United States Nuclear Tests, July 1945 Through September 1992, pages 20-22)