A Decade of American Foreign Policy 1941-1949
Third Report of the Atomic Energy Commission to the Security Council, May 17, 1948 (1)

The Atomic Energy Commission reports that it has reached an impasse.

In almost two years of work the Commission has accomplished much and has succeeded in making clear the essentials of a plan for the control of atomic energy, in fulfillment of the objectives of the resolution of the General Assembly of 24 January 1946. Nevertheless, it considers that it cannot now prepare a draft treaty" incorporating its ultimate proposals" as urged by the resolution of the Security Council of 10 March 1947.

The difficulties which confront the Commission were first evidenced when the plan under consideration by most of the governments members of the Commission was rejected by the USSR, "either as a whole or in its separate parts," on the ground that such a plan constituted an unwarranted infringement of national sovereignty. For its part, the USSR insisted that a convention outlawing atomic weapons and providing for the destruction of existing weapons must precede any control agreement. The majority of the Commission considered that such a convention, without safeguards, would offer no protection against non-compliance.

This initial divergency of view did not deter the Commission from pursuing its task in the hope that the disagreements might be resolved as a result of further studies. Accordingly, the Commission decided to defer the consideration of the political aspects of the problem until it had first, determined whether control of atomic energy was practicable from a technical point of view. In September 1946 the Scientific and Technical Committee reported unanimously that

"we do not find any basis in the available scientific facts for supposing that effective control is not technologically feasible."

During the remainder of 1946, the Commission continued to study the technical and scientific aspects of control and adopted the broad outlines of a control plan set forth in the General Findings and Recommendations of the First Report. In 1947 it elaborated specific proposals in a Second Report which show, on many points, how control could be carried out.

The USSR abstained from voting on the First Report and voted against the Second Report.

In February 1947, the USSR submitted Amendments and Additions to the General Findings and Recommendations of the First Report, and in June 1947, it submitted control proposals of its own. The discussion of the USSR Amendments and Additions did not lead the Commission to revise its General Findings and Recommendations. The USSR proposals of June 1947 have been analyzed in detail. In April 1948 they were rejected by a 9-2 vote, in the following terms:

"They ignore the existing technical knowledge of the problem of atomic energy control, do not provide an adequate basis for the effective international control of atomic energy and the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons, and, therefore, do not conform to the terms of reference of the Atomic Energy Commission."

The analysis of the technical requirements of atomic energy control has been pursued as far as is possible. Unfortunately, this analysis has not led to agreement even on the technical aspects of control. During more than 200 meetings of the Atomic Energy Commission and its various committees, the USSR has had time to study the technical knowledge available to the Commission, to review its own position in the light of such knowledge, and to appreciate that the admittedly far-reaching proposals sponsored by the majority are based on the scientific and technical facts. But the USSR has not changed its fundamental position.

Thus, after twenty-two months of work, the Commission finds itself confronted by virtually the same deadlock that stultified its initial discussions. The Government of the USSR itself acknowledges the deadlock. It is now apparent that this deadlock cannot be broken at the Commission level.

Both political and technical considerations demand that no important areas of the world be outside the control system. It is therefore evident that the full co-operation of the USSR is indispensable for the establishment of a system of control which would prevent an atomic armaments race.

Whether the functions and powers of the International Control Agency as elaborated by the majority are politically acceptable or not, they provide the technically necessary basis for an effective control of atomic energy. The question is not whether those measures are now acceptable but whether governments now want effective international control.

The problems which have not been elaborated in detail, i.e., organization and administration, financing, strategic balance, prohibitions and enforcement, and the stages of transition from the present situation to one of full international control, are of a different nature. These questions do not affect the basic nature of the problem of control. Some questions, such as stages, which only concern the period of transition to full international control, will be conditional on future technological developments and the conditions of world security. The same considerations apply to the question of the strategic balance to be established in the location of nuclear materials and nuclear reactors between one part of the globe and another. Others, such as organization and administration of the agency--on which inconclusive discussions have recently taken place--and the question of the agency's finances, depend almost entirely on the existence of prior agreement on the nature and extent of the control system. Indeed, until agreement on the basic principles of control has been reached, the elaboration of proposals to cover these remaining topics would be unrealistic and would serve no useful purpose. On the other hand, given such agreement, solutions to these problems could be worked out.

The discovery of atomic energy has confronted the world with a new situation. The Atomic Energy Commission has studied and made recommendations on the international control of atomic energy to meet this situation. It has rejected proposals which do not meet the known facts of the problem.

By concentrating on the technical facts which, irrespective of any political situation, must be met by any satisfactory plan of control, the Commission has prepared findings and recommendations which, in the view of the majority, will stand as the basis of any further study of this subject. This is a substantial achievement. These findings and recommendations are summarized in Annex 2 as the best evidence both of the scope of the problem and of the realism with which it has been faced.

In addition to thus summarizing what it has done, the Commission has a duty to set forth the reasons why it has not achieved more, for it is important that Governments and peoples may understand the findings it has made, the lessons it has drawn from the difficulties it has met, and the conclusions it has reached.

General conclusions and recommendations.-The mandate given by the General Assembly is clear evidence that all Members of the United Nations share the conviction that, unless effective international control is established, there can be no lasting security against atomic weapons for any nation, whatever its size, location, or power.

The First and Second Reports of the Commission show how and to what extent the world must adapt itself if it wants to be protected against the misuse of its new discovery. Ways and means to eliminate the dangers of diversion, clandestine activities, and the seizure of atomic materials and facilities have been studied at length. Specific proposals have been put forward, together with principles for the governance of national policies and of the policies to be pursued by the International Control Agency itself.

The principles submitted in the two Reports of the Commission provide an alternative to the armaments race that results from the absence of international control and which would not be prevented by the establishment of an inadequate system of control. These principles require that atomic energy must not be developed on the basis of national interests and needs, means and resources; but that its planning and operation should be made a common enterprise in all its phases.

Only if traditional economic and political practices are adapted to the overriding requirements of international security can these proposals be implemented. Traditional conceptions of the economic exploitation of the resources of nature for private or national advantage would then be replaced in this field by a new pattern of co-operation in international relations.

Furthermore, secrecy in the field of atomic energy is not compatible with lasting international security. Co-operative development and complete dissemination of information alone promise to remove fears and suspicion that nations are conducting secret activities.

The unprecedented character of its conclusions has not deterred the majority of the Commission from adopting them, since the scientific and technical evidence makes such conclusions inescapable. Past experience has shown that unless there is a novel approach to the problem of controlling a force so readily adaptable to warfare, atomic weapons--notwithstanding their vastly superior destructive power--will continue just as uncontrolled as other weapons have been and still are, and the threat of atomic war will remain.

The majority of the Commission is fully aware of the impact of its plan on traditional prerogatives of national sovereignty. But in the face of the realities of the problem it sees no alternative to the voluntary sharing by nations of their sovereignty in this field to the extent required by its proposals. It finds no other solution which will meet the facts, prevent national rivalries in this most dangerous field, and fulfil the Commission's terms of reference.

The new pattern of international co-operation and the new standards of openness in the dealings of one country with another that are indispensable in the field of atomic energy might, in practice, pave the way for international co-operation in broader fields, for the control of other weapons of mass destruction, and even for the elimination of war itself as an instrument of national policy.

However, in the field of atomic energy, the majority of the Commission has been unable to secure the agreement of the Soviet Union to even those elements of effective control considered essential from the technical point of view, let alone their acceptance of the nature and extent of participation in the world community required of all nations in this field by the first and second reports of the Atomic Energy Commission. As a result, the Commission has been forced to recognize that agreement on effective measures for the control of atomic energy is itself dependent on co-operation in broader fields of policy.

The failure to achieve agreement on the international control of atomic energy arises from a situation that is beyond the competence of this Commission. In this situation, the Commission concludes that no useful purpose can be served by carrying on negotiations at the Commission level.

The Atomic Energy Commission, therefore, recommends that, until such time as the General Assembly finds that this situation no longer exists, or until such time as the sponsors of the General Assembly resolution of 24 January 1946, who are the permanent members of the Atomic Energy Commission, find, through prior consultation, that there exists a basis for agreement on the international control of atomic energy, negotiations in the Atomic Energy Commission be suspended.

In accordance with its terms of reference, the Atomic Energy Commission submits this report and recommendation to the Security Council for consideration, and recommends that they be transmitted, along with the two previous reports of the Commission, to the next regular session of the General Assembly as a matter of special concern.

(1) AEC/P.V.15,May 7,1948. This document is the Three Power declaration which was presented to the Commission on May 7 and adopted as the body of a Third Report at the Commission's meeting on May 17, 1948. The fully assembled Third Report contains the proceedings of the Commission and a series of annexed documents. Back

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