The Acheson-Lilienthal Report


Security Through International Cooperative Development


In the preceding section of this report we have outlined the course of our thinking in an endeavor to find a solution to the problems thrust upon the nations of the world by the development of the atomic bomb--the problem of how to obtain security against atomic warfare, and relief from the terrible fear which can do so much to engender the very thing feared.

As a result of our thinking and discussions we have concluded that it would be unrealistic to place reliance on a simple agreement among nations to outlaw the use of atomic weapons in war. We have concluded that an attempt to give body to such a system of agreements through international inspection holds no promise of adequate security.

And so we have turned from mere policing and inspection by an international authority to a program of affirmative action, of aggressive development by such a body. This plan we believe holds hope for the solution of the problem of the atomic bomb. We are even sustained by the hope that it may contain seeds which will in time grow into that cooperation between nations which may bring an end to all war.

The program we propose will undoubtedly arouse skepticism when it is first considered. It did among us, but thought and discussion have converted us.

It may seem too idealistic. It seems time we endeavor to bring some of our expressed ideals unto being.

It may seem too radical, too advanced, too much beyond human experience. All these terms apply with peculiar fitness to the atomic bomb.

In considering the plan, as inevitable doubts arise as to its acceptability, one should ask oneself "What are the alternatives?" We have, and we find no tolerable answer.

The following pages contain first a brief summary of the plan we recommend, and then an expansion going into some detail.

Summary of Proposed Plan-- The proposal contemplates an international agency conducting all intrinsically dangerous operations in the nuclear field, with individual nations and their citizens free to conduct, under license and a minimum of inspection, all non-dangerous, or safe, operations.

The international agency might take any one of several forms, as a UNO Commission, or an international corporation or authority. We shall refer to it as Atomic Development Authority. It must have authority to own and lease property; and to carry on mining, manufacturing, research, licensing, inspecting, selling, or any other necessary operations.

This chapter is not an attempt to write a corporate charter for such an international agency. It is the aim, rather, to show that such a charter can be written in workable terms, and that the nature of the organization and its functions will have decisive consequences for world security. We are satisfied that the differences between national and international operations can be exploited to make the problem of atomic energy manageable. This idea, we think, can become as familiar as the fact that the differences between individual enterprise and corporate enterprise have important consequences in the conduct of business.

If we are to do anything constructive in relation to atomic energy it must inevitably be novel and immensely difficult. We think that the weeks that we have spent in analysis of the problem have made it appear somewhat less difficult and somewhat less novel. A succession of such processes will be necessary, each building on the preceding analysis, before even the major ramifications of the problem can be understood and the major questions partially answered. What is chiefly important now is to describe the right course of action in terms sufficiently practical and valid to show that the further exploration is worthwhile.

The proposal contemplates an international agency with exclusive jurisdiction to conduct all intrinsically dangerous operations in the field. This means all activities relating to raw materials, the construction and operation of production plants, and the conduct of research in explosives. The large field of non-dangerous and relatively non-dangerous activities would be left in national hands. These would consist of all activities in the field of research (except on explosives) and the construction and operation of non-dangerous power-producing piles. National activities in these fields would be subject to moderate controls by the international agency, exercised through licensing, rules and regulations, collaboration on design, and the like. The international agency would also maintain inspection facilities to assure that illicit operations were not occurring, primarily in the exploitation of raw materials. It would be a further function of the Atomic Development Authority continually to reexamine the boundary between dangerous and non-dangerous activities. For it must be recognized that although the field is subject to reasonable division, the dividing line is not sharp and may shift from time to time in either direction.

The development agency itself would be truly international in character. Its staff would be recruited on an international basis. Its functions would be such as to attract a calibre of personnel comparable to our own activities in raw materials during the war and our own primary production and experimental work. It would be set up as one of the subsidiary agencies of the United Nations, but it would have to be created by a convention or charter establishing its policies, functions, and authority in comprehensive terms.

Whatever the formal organization, its integration with national structure would of course be one of the major problems. Measures to assure the proper degree of accountability to the United Nations and to individual nations, measures to assure that individual nations would have ample opportunity to be informed of the agency's activities, measures to make the agency responsive to the changing needs of nations--all these would have to be worked out with extraordinary care and ingenuity. But certainly our experience with business and government institutions, national and international, would afford a wealth of guidance in the development of such measures.

In the actual conduct of its operations the development organization would at all times be governed by a dual purpose, the promotion of the beneficial use of atomic energy and the maintenance of security. We believe that much can be done in a convention or charter to make these purposes concrete and explicit, to draw the line between the dangerous and the non-dangerous, to establish the principles determining the location of stockpiles and plants so that a strategic balance may be maintained among nations, to establish fair and equitable financial policies so that the contributions of nations to, and their receipt of benefits from, the organization will be justly apportioned. The most careful and ingenious definitions will be required in order to accomplish these purposes.

In what follows we shall attempt to develop and expand the foregoing statement of essentials.

We can best visualize the Atomic Development Authority in terms of the answer to these concrete questions:

  1. What will be the functions of the agency; what are the things that it will do?
  2. What kind of of organization is necessary to carry out these functions?
  3. How will the organization be related to the United Nations and the individual nations that it will represent?
  4. What policies will guide the agency in determining its manifold actions?