Volume #13 - 248.|
Note du Conseil national de recherches|
le 7 janvier 1947|
COMMENTARY ON THE FIRST REPORT OF THE ATOMIC ENERGY COMMISSION TO THE SECURITY COUNCIL AND ITS IMPLICATIONS FOR THE INTERNATIONAL CONTROL OF ATOMIC ENERGY IN CANADA|
The First Report of the Atomic Energy Commission to the Security Council deals with the work of the Commission from its opening meeting on 14th June to the 31st December, 1946. With the exception of Part I, which recounts the procedural history of the Commission, and Part IV, which explains the scientific and technical aspect of the problem of control, the report records the Commission's conclusions and findings regarding the safeguards that are necessary to prevent those who would illegally manufacture and use atomic weapons from obtaining materials essential for that purpose. The report discusses safeguards to prevent the theft or secret diversion of the essential materials, uranium, thorium, plutonium, uranium 235 and uranium 233, at all stages in their preparation and use from the time they are mined or produced until they are finally consumed. The report also describes methods of discovering secret activities, such as the mining of uranium and thorium, and secret plants for processing these materials and for preparing plutonium, uranium 235 or uranium 233 for the manufacture of atomic weapons. It discusses also precautions which might be taken to reduce the advantages of seizing supplies of the essential materials, or seizing the mines and plants which may be used for their production and preparation.
Nearly all the findings in the report are the views of the representatives of all delegations to the Commission except the Russian. Many of them were acceptable to the Russian representative also. This agreement of opinion was made possible through the better understanding of this complex problem which resulted from detailed discussion in many informal meetings. The discussion in these informal meetings progressed from the least controversial aspects of the problem to those which raised questions of national sovereignty and other political considerations, a method of procedure which was adopted in these discussions on the motion of the Canadian representative. Throughout all the informal discussions, however, the political aspects of the subject were avoided and left for consideration in the General meetings of appropriate committees. Attention was confined to the scientific and technical aspects. Thus the report deals with the scientific and technical feasibility, effectiveness, necessity and desirability of various safeguards such as accounting for materials, guarding stocks, verifying assays and analyses, inspecting plants and shipments, supervising operations and managing operations, and carrying out aerial and ground surveys to discover clandestine activities.
Although political discussion was avoided in the informal discussions, the detailed technical findings did recognize by implication the very fundamental political conclusion that the control of atomic energy to the extent necessary to restrict its use for peaceful purposes could only be made effective by "an international system operating through special organs, which organs would derive their powers and status from the convention or conventions under which they are established" (This conclusion was first formally accepted in the General Assembly in its resolution of 14th December, 1946 on "Principles Governing the General Regulation and Reduction of Armaments"t and was included in the final draft of the report.) The findings also implied that the "special organs" of the international system of inspection and control would have wide powers in establishing and maintaining the various safeguards discussed.
On the 5th December the United States representative presented a text containing a series of findings and recommendations of a general character, and insisted on the inclusion of this text in the report. The events and difficulties which followed this action by the United States representative are described in Part I of this statement.† It is sufficient to mention here that after more than thirty alterations were made as a result of the criticisms by the Canadian delegation, the text which was finally incorporated in the report is consistent with the findings reached by general agreement in the informal meetings and with the General Assembly resolutions of 24th January and 14th December, with the exception of three paragraphs dealing with the veto and possibly a few sentences of uncertain meaning.
Throughout the meetings of the Commission the United States delegation pressed for the adoption of very thorough and comprehensive measures of control, requiring large, very costly organization, large staff with many scientists, and considerable encroachment on the sovereignty of nations. They opposed proposals of other delegations for measures based on a more practical regard of what was essential and feasible. This attitude of the United States delegation was understandable. It arose from their anxiety that, in surrendering the monopolistic possession of a very powerful weapon, they would not run the risk of having it used against them. Without doubt it reflected a strong public opinion in the United States which may have exaggerated the strength of their present position for bargaining and negotiation, and underestimated the scientific ingenuity and industrial resources of other nations.
The Canadian delegation from the beginning has been guided by the belief that the government and the people of Canada accepted the principles on which the United States plan was based, recognized that effective control of atomic energy would involve considerable surrender of national sovereignty but considered it to be not too great a price for deliverance from the menace of surprise attack by atomic weapons. The delegation believed, however, that Canada would not wish to make sacrifices beyond what was reasonable and necessary to make the international control of atomic energy effective. This led to some differences of opinion with the United States delegation on details, but nearly all of these have been reconciled, through discussion in private and in meetings of the Committee, to the satisfaction of the Canadian delegation.
Preliminary Explanation of the Importance of Essential Materials
In discussing the control of atomic energy it is important to bear in mind the different roles played by the five essential materials.
Atomic energy can be released from plutonium, uranium 235 and uranium 233. The process by which the energy is released is called "nuclear fission" and the three substances are called "fissionable" or "fissile" materials, and sometimes "nuclear fuels". Each of these three fissionable materials may he used as the explosive component of atomic bombs if it is pure or is not mixed with too great a proportion of non-fissionable material (such as uranium 238). If mixed in a lower concentration it is unsatisfactory for a bomb, but may be used in a "reactor" as a source of power for industrial purposes. In still lower concentrations it is useless even as a source of power.
Ordinary uranium, as it occurs in the earth's crust, is a mixture of the fissionable uranium 235 and the non-fissionable uranium 238 in such a proportion that it can be used successfully in a reactor but not in a bomb, "Isotope' separation plants", such as those at Oak Ridge, are required to extract the uranium 235, or to increase its concentration in the mixture, so that it can he used in bombs. In order to obtain quantities of the extracted uranium 235 or concentrated mixture sufficient for military purposes the isotope separation plants must be huge and costly.
If a reactor contains ordinary uranium or uranium 238, the uranium 238 is slowly converted (or "transmuted") during operation into plutonium. This is the only method of producing plutonium for atomic bombs. Very large and costly reactors, such as those at Hanford, are required to produce quantities of plutonium of military significance.
Natural thorium does not contain fissionable material. It owes its importance for atomic energy to the fact that it can he converted (transmuted) slowly into uranium 233 if it is present in a working reactor.
There is an important difference in regard to control between natural uranium and thorium on the one hand and the concentrated fissionable materials on the other hand. Uranium and thorium occur widely distributed throughout the world in low grade deposits which could be exploited to meet military requirements, but their use for the production of significant quantities of fissionable material for atomic bombs requires very large and expensive reactors or isotope separation plants. In contrast, the fissionable materials, plutonium, uranium 235 and uranium 233, can be used immediately and directly in the manufacture of atomic bombs, and the quantities required are of small bulk and easily concealed. Hence more stringent control is necessary for the production and handling of the fissionable materials than for the mining, processing and handling of uranium and thorium.
Control of Uranium Mines
As one of the two major producers of uranium ore at the present time, Canada has a particular interest in the discussion of any plans for the international control of uranium mining operations.
The United States delegation has attached special importance to the control of uranium and thorium mining. They point out that, in older to prevent the diversion of essential materials for illegal use in the manufacture of atomic weapons, careful control and record of these materials must be maintained at all stages in their preparation, and should begin in the mines. The views of the United States delegation were expressed in Volume 6 "Technological Control of Atomic Energy Activities" of the "Scientific Information Transmitted to the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission by the United States Representative, 14 October." The following paragraphs, are quoted from that volume:
In locations containing relatively rich deposits of uranium or thorium, the Authority should be empowered, subject to principles set forth in the treaty, to decide which part of those deposits is to be developed for mining and which part should be held as an undeveloped operating reserve. The Authority should be able to specify the location of shafts and adits and the conditions of operation, including the rate of operation in some instances. Control of such developed locations would have as its primary objectives the assurance that the proper ore bodies are being mined at the specified rate and that all the ore mined is being delivered to the concentrating mill. In addition, the Authority must systematically guard undeveloped locations containing rich deposits and must occasionally check the regions containing leaner deposits, to insure that these regions are not being mined. When uranium or thorium can he obtained as by-products of other mining operations, appropriate measures must be taken to ensure the control of all uranium or thorium produced.
For its control measures, the Authority will require continuous participation in the operations at developed mines, and an inspection headquarters and assay and instrument laboratory in each producing region. Estimation of the amount of material which could be diverted without detection in the presence of a well organized control force obviously depends on the efficiency and the alertness of that force.
The principal problem which arises in the control of uranium and thorium mining is the delineation of the mining area which should be controlled by the Authority. Productive mines commonly occur in regions containing other structure which are geologically similar but are too lean in mineral values to warrant economical operation. These relatively lean deposits might, however, be worked surreptitiously as a source of uranium or thorium for unauthorized activities. Accordingly, when a region is known to contain deposits of uranium or thorium, it will be important for the Authority to make a geological and mineralogical survey which is sufficiently extensive to assure that all significant deposits of uranium or thorium in that region have been located. The Authority must then decide which of the deposits are sufficiently rich to warrant placing under control and which are sufficiently lean so that only an occasional check, to establish that mining operations are not being conducted, is adequate to prevent diversion."
The Canadian delegation has felt that the measures of control of uranium mines which were at first proposed by the United States representative (who spoke of "dominion over raw materials") would involve the surrender of Canadian rights of national sovereignty, make it difficult for this country to protect and conserve its natural resources of this valuable metal, and present practical difficulties in the division of responsibility between international, Dominion, and provincial authorities, to an extent unnecessary for adequate and satisfactory international control of atomic energy.
The Canadian delegation considered it particularly important that no external authority should have the power to determine the manner and the extent of exploitation of uranium ore bodies. There is grave danger that these natural resources might be rapidly depleted through extremely wasteful utilization of the material. The tremendous concentration of potential energy in uranium has been stressed repeatedly in popular scientific articles, but present uses involve the release of only a very small fraction of it. On account of the low cost of the uranium, there is a temptation to use it in atomic energy plants in a manner which releases a fraction of I% of the potential energy and leaves the uranium after use in a condition that would make it economically impossible to release the remainder of the energy. Thus all but a small fraction of the energy contained in the uranium would be wasted. The Canadian delegation has felt that the Canadian government should be in a position to prevent our deposits from being despoiled prodigally by short sighted or selfish mining policy.
The Atomic Energy Commission was finally able to agree on measures of control of uranium and thorium mines and mills which are less rigorous than those advocated by the U.S. delegation. The report contains the following summary finding: "Adequate safeguards against diversion from declared mines and mills are possible by a system of inspection, including guards, similar to normal managerial operating controls, provided that the inspectorate has unrestricted access to all equipment and operations and has facilities for independent weighing, assay, and analysis."
The word "inspection" as used in this summary finding means close and careful independent scrutiny of operations to detect diversion of materials. Inspection may include the use of guards to prevent the unauthorized removal of ore and concentrates, and the observation of the activities within the mine and mill and at gates and fences to ensure that materials and supplies are flowing in the authorized manner. Inspection also implies accounting for the ore from the time of its removal at the working face of the mine, throughout its handling, grinding and concentrating until it is shipped to the refinery. The accounting for materials would normally be accompanied by measures of analysis and auditing to ensure conformity between the accounts and the facts. "This necessitates adequate independent observation of the measurements, tests of the accuracy of scales and other measuring instruments, and possibly independent duplicate measurements either on a sampling basis or as a whole. It also implies the right to obtain explanations of discrepancies."
The Commission found, however, that: "the system of accounting, guarding and inspection of uranium mines and mills could follow the normal patterns ordinarily used in the control of mining and milling operations"; and `the number of guards and inspectors required for uranium mines and mills would not be great as compared with the operating staff." It also found that `the comparison and weighing and assay of the material at the exit from the mill and on arrival at destination would provide the necessary check on possible diversion in transit."
Control of Declared Refineries. Chemical and Metallurgical Plants
For the control of the refineries, such as those at Port Hope, Ontario, and other plants for the extraction and chemical and metallurgical processing of uranium and thorium, the United States delegation urged that the operations in the plant should be under either supervision or management by officers of the international control agency. They argued that a quick and precise inventory of the quantity of the materials in process throughout the plant was difficult on account of the nature of the processes and that therefore inspection alone did not provide sufficient control.
The informal discussions led finally to the proposal of less rigorous control as recorded in the following summary finding: "Adequate safeguards against diversion from declared refineries and chemical and metallurgical plants are possible by a system of inspection including guards," similar to that which is normally practised in the operational control of ordinary refineries, chemical and metallurgical plants to ensure efficiency of operation and protection against the theft of materials, "provided that the inspectorate has unrestricted access to all equipment and operations and has facilities for independent weighing, assay and analyses and provided that it has the right to require the plant to be shut down for purposes of clean up and accounting at appropriate times and to require efficient operating procedure." The report states: "An adequate system of inspection could be so organized as not to interfere seriously with normal refining and chemical and metallurgical operations."
Control of Reactors
The terms "reactor" and "pile" are used interchangeably in referring to installations for the release of atomic energy. They may be of many types, including the very large reactors at Hanford and the small pilot plant at Chalk River, Ontario, that are capable of producing plutonium which, after extraction in the chemical plant associated with the reactor, may he used directly in the manufacture of atomic weapons. Reactors intended primarily for the production of industrial power are likely to be very large because the use of small units for power purposes is difficult to justify economically. These large power units will either produce plutonium or other fissionable materials as by-products or can be easily adapted to that purpose. A plant of size sufficient to supply power requirements of an industrial city is capable of producing fissionable materials at a rate having considerable military importance for use in atomic weapons. For this reason the United States delegation has contended that such reactors, with their associated chemical plants for the extraction of fissionable materials and radioactive by-products, should be under the direct management of the international control agency.
Some of the other delegations, particularly that of the United Kingdom, expressed opposition to control through management by the international control agency. They believed that management might be necessary for the chemical extraction plant but that adequate control of the reactor was possible through inspection:
Canadian interest in the discussion of the control of reactors was concerned chiefly with its application to the reactor in Chalk River. This plant, which was designed originally as a pilot plant for the investigation of an alternative method of producing fissionable materials for military purposes, is regarded in Canada as purely a research plant. It will be used as a source of radiation for research in atomic energy and its peaceful applications, and as a means of producing radioactive materials for the treatment of disease and for research purposes. Owing to the small power level at which it can be operated it is incapable of producing material for atomic weapons at a rate sufficient to have great military significance. For this reason it has been the hope of the Canadian delegation that it would not be necessary to impose rigorous control measures in this plant which might interfere with its full use in fostering research in atomic energy in Canada and in the training of young Canadian scientists.
The control measures which are applied in large power producing reactors are a matter of less concern to Canada than perhaps to other nations less well provided with waterpower or favourably located near sources of fuel. Operation of such plants has many disadvantages, particularly in regard to maintenance difficulties and the protection of operating personnel, in comparison with the use of coal or water power. Canadian scientists have generally been less optimistic than enthusiastic persons in the United States regarding the early advent of large scale atomic power production. They believe that atomic power on a scale of national industrial importance is economically unsound at the present time. Until great technological difficulties are overcome large scale utilization of atomic power would rapidly exhaust the medium grade uranium and thorium ore resources of the world which are being worked at the present time. The attitude of the Canadian delegation, therefore, is influenced by a regard for the conservation of our natural resources of uranium and by the fact that we possess undeveloped waterpower beyond our present needs. The report records the following summary finding: "Safeguards required for the control of reactors will depend on their size and design and especially on their content and possible rate of production of nuclear fuel (plutonium or uranium 233). The safeguards available to the international control agency should include licensing and inspection, supervision and management of the operation of the reactors. In addition, close supervision of the design and construction of the reactors is essential in all cases"
The word "supervision" in this finding means "continuous association and cooperation in day to day operations with the management together with authority to require that the management comply with certain conditions so as to facilitate the execution of measures of control. For example, it may include the right to require that plants be designed and constructed in such a manner as to hinder diversion of materials, the right to require that the processes be conducted in a specified manner or the right to order cessation in order to take a complete inventory of materials in process."
The word "management", as used here, means "direct power and authority over day to day decisions governing the operations themselves as well as advisory responsibility for the planning," such management being established by and responsible to the international control agency.
The purpose of the close supervision of the design and construction of the reactor, which is called for in the above finding, is to ensure that features are not built into the reactor which would facilitate the secret diversion of materials.
The report further finds that "adequate safeguards for chemical extraction plants associated with all except small research reactors are only possible through management by the international control agency." The insistence on a more rigorous method of control in the case of the extraction plant than in the reactor is based on the fact that it is very much easier to steal the plutonium or uranium 233 after it is extracted and separated from the accompanying radioactive products which emit dangerous radiations.
The report also includes the finding that: "Periodic inspection together with licensing is an adequate safeguard in the case of small research reactors and their associated chemical plants unless their total content of nuclear fuels or potential rate of output in any area is of military significance. The Chalk River plant might perhaps be considered to fall within this category. If not, some degree of supervision might be required in addition to inspection. Quite apart from the size of the Chalk River plant, however, the manner in which it is constructed would make the secret diversion of materials more difficult than in some other types of plants, and the Canadian delegation feels that a strong case can be presented for limiting the international control of this plant to inspection.
Control of Isotope Separation Plants
The findings in the report state that the plants for the separation of the isotope uranium 235 from natural uranium should be controlled through management by the international control agency. These plants are not essential for any peacetime applications of atomic energy now foreseen and will probably never he constructed in Canada. The opportunities for diversion of materials are very great and these materials could be used directly in the manufacture of atomic weapons. For this reason control through management is considered necessary.
Detection of Clandestine Activities
In discussing the use of aerial surveys and ground surveys as a means of detecting clandestine mining operations and other activities related to the production and use of atomic energy, the Commission was unable to reach general agree ment. The United States delegation attached great importance to such methods of discovering secret illegal activities and advocated wide unhampered use of them with little or no restriction. The United States delegation felt that they were particularly necessary as a means of i discovering secret uranium and thorium mines, because the illegal manufacture of atomic weapons must depend on such mines for materials if the diversion from authorized legal plants is prevented by satisfactory control. Professor Alexandrof, who represented the U.S.S.R. delegation in these discussions, stated "that the proposals made in this connection by the United States delegation had, to a great extent, touched more on economic and other spheres not related to atomic energy than on the question of the detection of clandestine activity in the mining and refining of uranium' and thorium ores. On this basis he declined to participate in the discussion of those sections of the report dealing with this type of detection." The Canadian delegation has also been opposed to the unrestricted authorization of aerial survey in search of secret mining activity. They have felt that the importance and value of this method of control has been exaggerated, and that it would be an extremely costly undertaking to carry out a satisfactory survey of the entire land surface of the earth.
The report as finally accepted by a vote of 10 to 0 on the 30th of December includes the following summary finding: "The international control agency will require broad privileges of movement and inspection including the rights to conduct surveys by ground and air. These privileges should, however, be very carefully defined to ensure against misuse."
With more particular reference to mining, the report states: "Safeguards against the dangers of clandestine mining would be provided by the right of inspection with air and ground surveys based on adequate geological knowledge. Neither air surveys nor ground surveys alone provides adequate information; both are essential and they must be used in combination." In further explanation the report continues: "Aerial surveys are essential in some circumstances for the detection of clandestine operations in areas difficult of access or sparsely populated. The international control agency must therefore be granted;the right, under appropriate limitations, to conduct such surveys. In some cases it will be necessary for the agency to have the permanent right to conduct periodic aerial surveys over areas where uranium and thorium ores are known or likely to be found. The air survey should be authorized in every case where grounds for suspicion of clandestine operations are shown, in accordance with the procedural requirements referred to in Finding I."
"Finding 1" mentioned in the above paragraph, states: "The right of authorized personnel of the international control agency to direct access and inspection subject to appropriate restraints, and the right of travel without restraint, is essential in the detection of clandestine activities." The report explains further: "It would in general be necessary to require that demonstrable ground for suspicion exists as a justification for inspection and to establish reasonable legal procedures for the regulation of inspection. The procedures must not delay legitimate access by the international control agency." However the report points out that the mere exisfence of mining operations and ores known or likely to contain uranium or thorium in significant amounts is justification for their inspection. Another finding reads: `The international control agency would need periodic reports from states on categories of information directly related to the production and use of atomic energy." These reports would include information upon:
(a) geological formations in which uranium and thorium might occur,
(b) mining operations large enough to be potential sources of uranium or thorium,
(c) production, shipments, location and use of certain specified types of specialized equipment and supplies.
The report then cites the following finding: "The international control agency should coordinate the available information and thereby determine what areas and installations required further inspection to resolve reasonable doubt that they contain clandestine activities."
The Atomic Energy Commission's report marks the completion of the preliminary stage of its work. Its purpose in this stage was to discover by what measures atomic energy might be controlled to ensure its use only for peaceful purposes. The next stage of its work presents a more difficult and complex problem: the nature of the international agency required to carry out the control measures, its organization, powers and duties, privileges and limitations, its relations with the organs of the United Nations and with national governments and persons, its financing and the enlisting of qualified scientific staff. The assistance of many specialists, consultation with nations, organizations and persons concerned, and months of discussion and negotiation may be required for a clarification of this subject to a degree necessary to form a basis for the drafting of a treaty to establish a suitable international control agency.
Fear has been expressed that the action of the United States representative on the 30th December, in forcing a vote on the Commission's report to the Security Coun cil, including its controversial paragraphs, might result in developments in the Security Council that will make it difficult for the Commission to undertake its next duty of discussing the nature of the international control agency. It was the hope of most, if not all, delegations that this will not prove to be the case and that the Commission can proceed with the discussion early in the new year.
1L'annotation suivante a été dactylographiée sur noire copie du document : The following was typed on this copy of the document: