- Underground Nuclear Test Program for the Third and Fourth Quarters of FY 1971 (EMERY III/IV)
An uneventful and successful half-year of nuclear weapons testing suddenly, with the venting of radioactive material in Nevada on December 18, 1970, turned into a period of intensive self-examination by the Atomic Energy Commission. The Under Secretaries Committee thus delayed until now its recommendation to you on the testing program proposed by AEC for the next six months, waiting for the results of AEC’s technical/managerial review of its testing procedures.
On the basis of the AEC investigation and of careful study of the issues involved, the Committee recommends your approval of the test program contained in Chairman Seaborg’s original request of November 25, 1970. While recommending approval, the Committee, in its Report to you, does draw your attention to a number of factors which may give ammunition to critics of the test program. On balance, however, we found these factors, as well as the psychological impact of the Los Angeles earthquake, containable for this testing cycle. I should point out that while public health, safety, and Test Ban Treaty obligations are well understood by all involved, the possibility of the minor release of radioactivity from future underground tests remains. A release, however small, could stimulate negative publicity.[Page 2]
We are preparing an analysis of public/Congressional attitudes toward testing in connection with our report on the high yield underground test—CANNIKIN—now scheduled for September of this year in the Aleutians. Our recommendations on CANNIKIN will be forthcoming shortly.
We have established, at the suggestion of the AEC, a USC Technical Working Group which will provide this Committee with inter-agency staffing on all forthcoming underground nuclear tests.
- Source: Washington National Records Center, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 330–74–83, 334 NSC–U (March–April). Secret; Restricted Data. The attachments to the Under Secretaries Committee’s report are not published. The President approved the test program in a May 5 letter to Seaborg. (Ibid., May 1971)↩
- Irwin reported on the underground nuclear test program for the third and fourth quarters of fiscal year 1971, focusing specifically on the venting of radioactive material into the atmosphere following the December 18, 1968 test at Baneberry.↩