149. Editorial Note

The economic and technical feasibility study of the Israeli project was completed in late March 1966. One of the principal conclusions of the study was that “for the quantities of electricity (200 MWe) and water (100 MGD) involved, and the cost of fossil fuel and the fixed charge rates considered, a nuclear steam supply is more economical than a fossil-fueled source.” But the figure of 28.6 cents/1,000 gallons was exclusive of the costs of electrical transmission, water conveyance facilities, and the cost of land. (Memorandum from Udall and Ramey to the President, March 17; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Records of the Department of State, Central Files, 1964–66, E 11–3) Because of “a host of political, economic, and financial considerations,” Herman Pollack advised Secretary Rusk to transmit the report to the White House without State Department approval, which Rusk did on March 29. (Memorandum from Pollack to the Secretary, March 23; ibid.)

On June 15 President Johnson called a meeting of his key staff members to discuss, among other things, naming a high-level water projects coordinator. In a June 14 briefing paper, Rostow characterized the debate as one between “the desalters and the disarmers,” and he [Page 271] urged the President to ask, “If there is no other way, how much is the Israeli project worth to us?” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Subject File, Desalting Projects, Vol. I; scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, volume XVIII)

No official record was kept of the June 15 meeting, but 2 months later, Harold Saunders recorded his impressions. Saunders reported that the President asked Rostow “how fully committed to the Israelis we are on this project.” When Rostow said that it appeared that the United States was not committed “to any specific line of approach,” Johnson asked him to research the nature and extent of the commitment, “and then ‘tell me what I ought to do.’” (Memorandum for the Record, August 10; Johnson Library, National Security File, Harold H. Saunders Files, Israel-Nuclear-Dimona, 4/1/66–12/31/66; Saunders mistakenly recollected the date of the meeting as June 22.)