309 Australian Delegation, United Nations, to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram United Nations 194 NEW YORK, 13 June 1946, 9.36 a.m.


Atomic 9.

Reference A.35. [1] Your helpful comments on our cable have been provisionally studied by Oliphant and Briggs.

In view of further discussions by Oliphant and Briggs with American, British, French and Canadian atomic scientists and engineers, it is probable that the proposals set out in the Lilienthal Report may need modification in the light of further technical considerations. Information from a number of sources suggests that Baruch is likely to put forward modified proposals at the first meeting of the Atomic Energy Commission on June 14th.

Revision may be necessary because of the grave difficulty of organizing and implementing effectively any formal system of technical inspection which would involve interference with all national undertakings in every form of scientific effort, mining and engineering production and development, and which would require colossal numbers of highly skilled inspectors. However, it is believed by experts that if all rights in atomic energy of all forms were invested in the United Nations, the actual operations of mining and exploitation of atomic energy could be carried out by individual States and industries under proper provision for control by the world authority. If it were the duty of every nation or industry to allow free interchange of information and of technical personnel in the plants and mines under its jurisdiction, with those of every other nation, through the central authority, it is believed that a natural method of inspection would result, and if this were coupled with a free interchange of personnel in other branches of science and in other fields of human activity, this unofficial inspection could be effective and free from undue irritation. The whole of the development of atomic energy would thus be carried out as a world- wide co-operative effort. Such a system could be extended at a later date to include other subjects which are potentially capable of creating weapons of mass destruction.

The separation of activities into dangerous and non-dangerous categories as made in the Lilienthal Report can hardly be made the sole basis of control, for though such a division can be very helpful it has too many loopholes for evasion arising from the limited effectiveness of the denaturing process and from the rapid progress in technique which is thought already to be practicable.

Contact with the American experts, especially through Oliphant, suggests that the development of atomic energy for peaceful purposes could proceed more effectively and much more rapidly than was at one time thought practicable. Some of the information necessary to enable this development to proceed in countries other than United States of America and United Kingdom (to which namely United Kingdom atomic power for industrial purposes may be of greater industrial importance than to United States of America) is of some significance in the preparation of the military weapon, but early release of this knowledge would not be dangerous provided satisfactory agreement has been reached on a co-operative scheme of operation. If agreement broke down it would not change significantly the time required for an aggressive nation to make bombs.

It will be noted that the changes which seem likely to be made in the Lilienthal proposals are changes in emphasis and in timing of release of information rather than changes in principle. It is possible that further modifications will become necessary in the light of the work done on the technical side of the Atomic Energy Commission.

1 Document 301.

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