13 Note for File by Department of Defence

Canberra, [December 1953]

Secret

President Eisenhower's1 Proposal for an International Atomic Energy Agency

Summary of Proposal

  1. In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly on 8th December, 1953, President Eisenhower proposed that 'to the extent permitted by elementary prudence' the Governments principally involved in atomic development should make joint contributions from their stockpiles of normal uranium and fissionable materials to an International Atomic Energy Agency to be established under the aegis of the United Nations. Such an Agency could be responsible for the storage of the contributed materials and for allocating them for application to peaceful purposes, e.g. in the fields of agriculture, medicine and electrical power.

[matter omitted]

  1. (e) Australian Reactions: The Minister, Mr. Casey, in a press statement issued on 11th November, 1953 said:

    'The Australian Government welcomes President Eisenhower's initiative as a new and hopeful approach to the solution of atomic problems. While the implementation of the President's proposal for a new international atomic energy agency would not lead immediately or directly to the elimination or large-scale reduction of armaments, yet any diversion of the world supply of fissionable materials and of scientific knowledge to peaceful ends would help to create a better international atmosphere and lessen our present preoccupation with the destructive aims of atomic research.'

  2. All major Australian newspapers joined in lauding President Eisenhower's new approach to the problem of atomic control and in welcoming the Soviet Union's readiness to join in discussions on the Eisenhower proposals, which was described as a 'hopeful' sign. Most newspapers, however, suggested that caution should be observed lest we should expect too much from the discussions.
  3. The proposal may, however, be viewed as an indirect approach to the settlement of the general problem of disarmament and the President himself hoped that it would 'initiate a new approach to the many different problems that must be solved ... if the world is to make ... positive progress towards peace'. From the point of view of disarmament, the main value of the President's proposal is its attempt to break the deadlock that has existed since the Baruch proposals of 19462 in discussions on the problems of the control of atomic energy. Although it does not in itself represent a change in any major U.S. policy on this issue, it does indicate that the U.S. is willing to consider a new approach to the Soviet Union in the light of the changed conditions since 1946, at which time the U.S. believed itself to have a monopoly concerning the manufacture of atomic weapons.

Problems in Implementation

  1. Practical difficulties in the way of implementation may be-
    1. Insistence by the Soviet Union on parallel discussion, in the talks on the Eisenhower proposal, of unconditional pledges not to use atomic, hydrogen or other weapons of mass extermination.3
    2. United States internal legislation on atomic energy information. In his address before the General Assembly, Mr. Eisenhower expressed his readiness to submit his plan to the U.S. Congress 'with every expectation of approval'. The implementation of his proposal would involve amendments to the McMahon Act4 designed to permit the U.S. to contribute fissionable material to the proposed Agency and to allow the release to the Agency of many types of information which are at present highly classified.
    3. Difficulties of a technical nature, such as the determination of the ratios and types of contribution of participating 'contributing' countries, the functions of the Agency, and its constitutional structure.

Possible Developments

  1. The United States wish to have further discussions with the Soviet Union alone before bringing other interested parties into the discussions. If the present series of bilateral U.S.A./ Soviet Union talks progress satisfactorily they will probably be enlarged to include the United Kingdom, France and Canada in addition to the United States and U.S.S.R. If anything concrete should emerge from these 'second round' talks, then a conference of all the interested states would probably be called to consider the terms of an agreement to establish the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Australian Attitude

[matter omitted]

  1. As a potential contributor Australia is a known source of uranium, which is mined, treated and exported under existing agreements with the United Kingdom and the United States. Whether any of this material in the form in which we export it or in its later reduced form of 'fissionable' or 'fissile' material, might be diverted to an International Atomic Energy Agency pool, is a matter for later consideration.
  2. As a potential recipient, Australia could well claim that-
    1. We are power starved in the sense used by President Eisenhower in that we lack alternative resources, e.g., hydroelectric or oil.
    2. We have established and are developing a nucleus of scientific facilities in the shape of trained personnel and equipment.
    3. Therefore, there would be a good claim that with assistance we could physically construct, operate and benefit from atomic power-houses.
    4. We are in need of and are in a good position to use, some of the isotopes for application to problems of agriculture and medicine, stocks of which will presumably be made available to members by the Agency.
  3. To determine the potential importance of an international agency to Australia to help us on these lines requires a comparative estimate of the value of what we are receiving and expect to receive bilaterally from the United Kingdom and from the United States. It may well be that direct bargaining and collaboration with the United Kingdom represents the most promising source of-
    1. training facilities for our own scientists;
    2. expert advice on the practical utilization of atomic energy for peaceful purposes;
    3. power-house equipment; and
    4. fissile material.

[matter omitted]

[NAA: A816, 3/301/621]