272 Evatt to Chifley

Cablegram EC29 LONDON, 26 September 1945, 10.45 p.m.


I have discussed with Prof. Oliphant [1] the content of your cable 213 [2] about information concerning the utilization of nuclear energy. He informs me that steps are now being taken to set up a research establishment to conduct investigations into the fundamental aspects of nuclear physics, to produce a prototype plant for the preparation of the essential materials and to develop the uses of these materials. The establishment will be responsible for the military aspects as well as the development of the peace-time uses of nuclear energy.

The Technical Committee has made strong recommendations to the Government that full scale plants for the production of fissile materials should be erected forthwith as development cannot proceed until such substances are available in quantity.

Full scale production must be considered in relation to an agreement made between Mr. Churchill and Mr. Roosevelt. [3] Under this agreement, which may be binding beyond the war period, detailed information cannot be released to the Dominions without the consent of the United States of America. At present Canada is the only Dominion to which information of a very restricted scope has been released and where a practical programme has been organised as a joint undertaking.

A committee of which Sir John Anderson [4] is Chairman, but which is without Dominion representation, is advising the Prime Minister on the future technical policy of Britain. An Anglo-American trust has been set up to secure all possible sources of raw materials throughout the world. These materials will be allocated by a Combined Policy Committee set up in Washington with two British, one Canadian and five American members. This committee is responsible for all arrangements for collaboration but deals only with the military aspects of the work. The United States is anxious that large scale production should be confined to the North American continent. It will be difficult, for technical reasons, to carry out the whole of the development and production programme in the United Kingdom but with the co-operation of the Dominions the project could be carried out on an adequate scale within the Empire.

I understand that thorium may replace uranium as the best raw material and Australia has large deposits which could be exploited. Further exploration for uranium and thorium and for other minerals of importance in the work should be carried out in the Dominions. Oliphant suggests that primary research and development is best carried out for the present in the United Kingdom where facilities exist and that the Dominions should send men to work in the experimental establishment until the best allocation of the effort can be agreed.

I will approach the United Kingdom Government and will ask for the release of information to Australia and for permission for Professor Massey [5] or Professor Oliphant to go to Australia to communicate this information.

1 Professor of Physics, University of Birmingham, seconded to the Manhatten Project.

2 Document 236.

3 There were two secret agreements, reached at the Second Quebec Conference and later at Roosevelt's residence, Hyde Park, in September 1944. These gave the British a veto over any decision to use the atomic bomb and covered the supply and control of fissionable material. The Hyde Park agreement also covered the exchange of information concerning atomic technology.

4 Until July, Chancellor of the Exchequer.

5 Technical Officer, U.K. Scientific and Industrial Research Department Mission to the University of California at Berkeley.