The Acheson-Lilienthal Report


Organization and Policies of Atomic Development Authority

In the light of the scientific and technological facts and of broad human and political factors, we have undertaken, up to this point, to describe the kind of functions that an Atomic Development Authority would have to be given in order to be effective. In considering the problems of organizational structure and detailed policies for such an authority it is also clear that the facts concerning atomic energy are decidedly pertinent. But as to these problems, there is much relevant experience in the general field of international organization. Obviously the systematic approach necessary for a solution of these problems must draw heavily on that experience.

But there is an important question of timing. It would be premature now to seek definitive answers to many of the questions as to organization and policy. For in order to have validity the answers will have to be the product of international discussion and deliberation rather than any unilateral statement of a detailed plan.

In considering the type of organizational problem involved in setting up an Atomic Development Authority under the United Nations, it should be readily possible to find helpful analogies in other international operations, public and private, and even in national activities. In the course of our discussions numerous questions concerning these matters have naturally occurred to us as they would to anyone studying the international issues created by atomic energy. It has been necessary to reflect intensively on the possible answers to such questions as a means of testing the soundness of our main conclusions. We present here some of the results of our own discussion and reflection, not in the form of a systematic statement but rather for the purpose of illustrating the types of questions that arise and possible answers which occurred to this group.

One of the key problems of course will be the question of personnel. It will be of the essence to recruit that personnel on a truly international basis, giving much weight to geographical and national distribution. It does not seem to us an unreasonable hope that the organization would attract personnel of high quality. For the field of knowledge is one in which the prospects for future development have become an absorbing interest of the entire world. Certainly

there is a far better chance that the Authority would attract personnel of a high calibre than that any purely policing organization would do so. At any rate, it is clear that the success of the organization would depend upon the quality of the administrators, geologists, mining experts, engineers, physicists, chemists, and other personnel, and every possible effort must be made to establish the kind of organization that will attract them.

It is not alone necessary for the organization to be thoroughly informed in the field of atomic energy. It will also be necessary for the nations of the world to be thoroughly informed at all times about the operations of the Authority. There are many ways of assuring this necessary degree of accountability on the part of the Authority to the nations and peoples whose instrument it will be. Some integral organ of the United Nations, perhaps the Security Council itself, will need to serve as the overseeing body for the Authority. But it could do so in ways generally comparable to those employed by congressional appropriations and investigating committees and the Bureau of the Budget in relation to governmental institutions in the United States. Detailed measures would have to be worked out to assure the proper connection between such an overseeing or "accountability" body and the Atomic Development Authority itself. Ways will also have to be worked out to assure that individual nations may maintain enough direct contact with the organization to give them a sense of intimate relations with it. This need will be served in part by the fact that the staff of the organization will be recruited from various nationalities. The operations of the Authority in its licensing activities, where it will be dealing directly with individual states, will also be one of the ways in which this objective is accomplished. For in this field there will be constant collaboration between the Authority and individual states in working out the detailed scientific, technological, and political problems which will cluster around the Authority's licensing activities. None of these matters appears to present insuperable difficulties.

The foregoing is intended merely as a statement of the possibilities for actually creating an organization that will have sound relations with the United Nations and with individual states. These possibilities must be made the subject of further exploration as intensive as that which we have directed to the scientific and technological facts concerning atomic energy itself.

Until qualified men set themselves the task of actually writing a charter, chapter by chapter, anything said about policies must be merely by way of preface. The actual statement of policy, like the form of organization, will have to grow out of the international discussions and deliberations.

The fundamentals governing the Atomic Development Authority must of course be those which have been so well stated in the resolution of January 18, 1946 setting up the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission, that is, the strengthening of security and the promotion of the beneficial use of atomic energy. In our report we have adopted as the first principle in the accomplishment of these fundamental objectives the proposition that intrinsically dangerous activities in the field must not be left open to national rivalry but must be placed in truly international hands. To establish the boundaries between international and national action, we have grasped the fortunate circumstance that a dividing line can be drawn between dangerous and non-dangerous activities. We have emphasized that not the least in the fortunate circumstances that we have observed is the fact that the field of non-dangerous activities is so challenging that it provides an opportunity to avoid such centralization of authority as might make the price of security seem too high. In this connection it is important that a purposeful effort should be made to keep as broad and diversified as possible the field of activities which is left in national and private hands. Every effort must be made to avoid centralizing exclusively in the Authority any more activities than are essential for purposes of security.

These are the kind of basic considerations which we assume the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission would seek to make explicit in its recommendations for the charter of an Atomic Development Authority. Many others can be added to the list. We mention some now which are typical and illustrative and which are drawn from the kind of questions which have arisen in our own discussions.

We would expect that the charter itself should, so far as practicable, define the areas that are clearly dangerous, in which there must be an exclusive international operation, and the areas which now seem clearly non-dangerous, in which there may be national and private operations. One of the most difficult problems will be the creation of charter provisions and administrative machinery governing the manner in which the line will be drawn between safety and danger near the middle of the spectrum of activities where the division becomes less sharp. Another difficult problem will be to provide the means to redefine as either "dangerous" or "safe" when new knowledge shifts the line. In these matters close questions will arise, of course, as to the issues which must be referred for approval to the individual nations, the issues which need only be referred to some organ of the United Nations, like the Security Council, and the issues which can be determined by administrative action of the Atomic Development Authority itself.

In strengthening security, one of the primary considerations will relate to the geographical location of the operations of the Authority and its property. For it can never be forgotten that it is a primary purpose of the Atomic Development Authority to guard against the danger that our hopes for peace may fail, and that adventures of aggression may again be attempted. It will probably be necessary to write into the charter itself a systematic plan governing the location of the operations and property of the Authority so that a strategic balance may be maintained among nations. In this way, protection will be afforded against such eventualities as the complete or partial collapse of the United Nations or the Atomic Development Authority, protection will be afforded against the eventuality of sudden seizure by any one nation of the stockpiles, reduction, refining, and separation plants, and reactors of all types belonging to the Authority.

This will have to be quite a different situation from the one that now prevails. At present with Hanford, Oak Ridge, and Los Alamos situated in the United States, other nations can find no security against atomic warfare except the security that resides in our own peaceful purposes or the attempt at security that is seen in developing secret atomic enterprises of their own. Other nations which, according to their own outlook, may fear us, can develop a greater sense of security only as the Atomic Development Authority locates similar dangerous operations within their borders. Once such operations and facilities have been established by the Atomic Development Authority and are being operated by that agency within other nations as well as within our own, a balance will have been established. It is not thought that the Atomic Development Authority could protect its plants by military force from the overwhelming power of the nation in which they are situated. Some United Nations military guard may be desirable. But at most, it could be little more than a token. The real protection will lie in the fact that if any nation seizes the plants or the stockpiles that are situated in its territory, other nations will have similar facilities and materials situated within their own borders so that the act of seizure need not place them at a disadvantage.

Various auxiliary devices, in addition to a strategic geographic division of plants and facilities and stockpiles, will also be necessary. Some of these have already been referred to. The design of primary production plants should make them as little dangerous as possible. The stockpiles of materials suitable for the production of bombs should be kept as small as possible consistent with sensible economics and engineering. So far as practicable, stocks should be denatured or kept in low concentrations unsuitable for the production of bombs. In other words, the design and operating procedures should definitely prevent the accumulation of substantial amounts of material quickly convertible into important quantities of explosives.

All these matters must be the subject of the most careful consideration in the writing of the charter itself.

With appropriate world-wide distribution of stockpiles and facilities; with design rendered as little dangerous as possible; with stockpiles of dangerous materials kept at the lowest level consistent with good economics and engineering; there will be no need for a sense of insecurity on the part of any of the major powers. Seizures will afford no immediate tactical advantage. They would in fact be an instantaneous dramatic danger signal, and they would permit, under the conditions stated, a substantial period of time for other nations to take all possible measures of defense. For it should be borne in mind that even if facilities are seized, a year or more would be required after seizure before atomic weapons could be produced in quantities sufficient to have an important influence on the outcome of war. Considering the psychological factors in public opinion, the fixing of danger signals that are clear, simple, and vivid seems to us of utmost importance.

There are other basic problems of only slightly less difficulty which will also need to be dealt with in the international deliberations. These have to do with such matters as compensation to nations and private agencies for the raw materials which the Authority would take over, they have to do with the problem of initial financing, they have to do with allocations and distribution of the materials and the facilities which the Authority will license or sell to individual nations and, through them, to their citizens. One of the difficult problems in this respect will be the question of priority in establishing non-dangerous power plants within various nations and the relation between these licensed activities and the power-producing activities of the Authority itself. A special word needs to be said on this subject.

The needs of nations for new power resources vary not only with industrial conditions, but also with their proximity to water power, coal, and petroleum. As we have emphasized before, the power supply from fissionable materials is of two entirely distinct kinds. Power will be produced in the very process of operating the production plant which make fissionable materials. These plants are of the dangerous kind which must be owned and operated by the Authority. The decisive consideration in determining the location of such plants will have to be strategic; otherwise the physical balance between nations will be impaired. In other words, the distribution of these plants throughout the world will have to be based primarily on security considerations. But there will still be ample room for an individual nation, once it is decided that such a plant can be located within its borders, to determine where the plant shall be situated in relation to its own economic and social needs. It also appears fair to assume that the charter could provide specifically for the Authority to turn the power over to the nation or its designee at the bus bar of the power plant, thus leaving it to each individual state to determine policy in relation to transmission, distribution, and use, or the Authority might deliver steam to the individual state, leaving all electrical operation in national or private hands as determined by the policies of the particular nation. Problems of price will be difficult, but here again it should be possible to state basic policies in the charter which will give reasonable assurance of fairness in the fixing of cost.

The problem of power producing piles should be somewhat less difficult in the case of the non-dangerous plants. In these, fissionable materials will be denatured. The charter should be able to provide for their allocation of this type of plant in accordance with more conventional economic standards. It might be possible to provide that they should be located on the basis of competitive bids among interested nations. On such a basis, countries with ample power resources in water, coal, or oil would limit their bids to those warranted by the costs of alternative sources. Those countries having few or expensive ordinary sources of power might bid higher, but below the cost of other alternatives. In this way the maximum usefulness of fissionable materials with the greatest conservation of other sources of power would be secured.

Many other questions of the same order as those we have discussed can readily be imagined. These are enough to illustrate the nature of the problem.