284 Evatt to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram United Nations 171 NEW YORK, 30 May 1946, 8.04 p.m.


Atomic 6.

After consultation with and full agreement of Professor Oliphant and Dr. Briggs, we propose to proceed upon the following general basis in connection with atomic energy, having regard to the unanimous decision of the United Nations Assembly in London. [1]

1. The general form of international control proposed in the Lilienthal-Acheson report [2] should be supported but the stepwise process of implementation requires modification for several reasons.

The report states that the proposals are designed to protect United States from atom bomb attack. it preserves her supremacy in atomic armament and industrial and scientific application for a considerable period. This will accentuate the disparity between the industrial power of the United States and other nations with smaller natural resources, such as Australia, in spite of the fact that the fundamental discoveries of atomic energy were made in Europe and the United States of America's sources of uranium are negligible. It is essential to ensure that the sequence of events involving control of raw materials, release of technical information, and finally the secrets of the bomb, to United Nations should occupy the minimum time in order to satisfy other nations, particularly those possessing raw materials. While international control of raw materials is acknowledged as the essential basis, the Lilienthal report asks the Nations to hand over control of their raw materials in return for a promise of United States to reveal to United Nations at some indeterminate time, subject to Congress, its 'Knowhow', factories and stocks of weapon.

2. The bomb as a military weapon-Control by Inspection.

The difficulty of control depends on the magnitude of the industrial effort required to produce sufficient bombs to be of importance in a major conflict. From a comparison with the bombing of Germany it is estimated that a thousand Nagasaki bombs are necessary for a serious blow against a major power which presumably will have taken some precautions against atom bomb attack. It is probable that the United States of America and U.S.S.R. would survive many thousands and United Kingdom or Australia some hundreds of such bombs. The United States of America and United Kingdom together would require many years to produce bombs sufficient in number to play a major part against U.S.S.R., and therefore attempts in the near future to coerce U.S.S.R. with the threat of atomic warfare would lead her to further dispersal of industry which could be most easily achieved by occupation of more territory in Europe and Asia.

A thousand Nagasaki bombs require 5000 to 50,000 tons of uranium, equivalent to 100,000 to 1,000,000 tons of crude uranium ore and very large production plants. Hence manufacture on this scale could not escape detection under any reasonable system of control.

Failure to detect small scale production by a rogue country is not of major importance.

3. Dangers of delay in control by United Nations.

Delay will aggravate existing tension between Nations. In the absence of detailed knowledge of American plants other countries may discover processes more valuable than those of United States which they may likewise refuse to reveal.

The problems at issue are the physical potentialities for destruction and the benefits of industrial power and scientific research. These are not parochial matters, hence delay must arouse the suspicions of the peoples of the world and shake their confidence in the abilities of United Nations to deal with the greatest destructive power known. Delay may create the suspicion that United States of America is playing for time to increase her stock pile of bombs until she is thereby in a really dominating position. That would cause other Nations to divert their uranium supplies to bomb manufacture to the greater exclusion of the development of the peacetime benefits of atomic energy.

4. The following recommendations to the Atomic Commission should therefore be supported.

(a) That prompt action be taken to invest in the United Nations all rights in raw materials, processes, plants and the products of plants for the exploitation of all forms of atomic energy, and that a system of control by inspection, as outlined in the Lilienthal report is feasible and should be adopted, subject to modification in the light of technical and political practicability of some of the proposals. (b) That all information of importance for the peaceful use of atomic energy be made available to all Nations through free and open publication, notwithstanding that some such information may be of military significance.

(c) That the manufacture of atomic weapons and the stockpiling of material for military purposes should cease as soon as the supremacy of United Nations, in the possession of atomic weapons is assured.

(d) That development of the peaceful uses of atomic energy should be accelerated, and that supplies of radioactive materials for use for Meca [3] and scientific purposes should be made available immediately from existing sources to all workers in these fields.

5. Full documents being sent you by air.

1 See Document 47, and note 3 thereto.

2 See Document 230, note 3 Presumably 'medical'.

[AA:A1838 T184, 720/1, i]