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Thursday, 1 August 1946

It is inevitable in the first instance that any nation will be inclined to approach the problems of atomic energy from the point of view of its own security and welfare. World security and world welfare cannot be successfully promoted if we fail to recognize this tendency. Each nation will wish to avoid the use against itself of the devastating weapons which the release of atomic energy makes possible. Each nation will seek to enjoy as soon as possible the benefits which atomic energy can bring, in scientific development, in the art of medicine and as a source of industrial power. Again, some nations possess in their territories sources of new wealth in ores and concentrates of uranium and thorium. Atomic energy development is not solely or even mainly dependent upon the existing military strength of the powers because the known source of materials are not situated only in the territories of the major powers; in fact, the significant deposits are in the territories of less powerful nations.

It is to be expected that countries which are relatively poor in existing power resources, and particularly those countries which also possess significant deposits of uranium ores and thorium concentrates, should be concerned with the possibility of rapid application of nuclear energy for the production of industrial power. There are nations whose industries may decline in the absence of an alternative to coal as a source of power, and to such countries even the terrors of atomic warfare may often appear more remote than a dwindling economy or decreasing standards of living. There are other countries where supplies Of power not involving the transport of large quantities of coal or the building of long electricaltransmission lines would open up new areas of agricultural or of mineral development. Abundant power at reasonable cost is thelifeblood of modern industry. Power from atomic energy may enable modern communities to flourish in regions remote from existing sources of power. Such nations, for whom the peaceful uses of atomic energy are of more immediate importance, will be likely to demand access at the earliest possible moment to such materials and information as may be necessary for them to develop atomic energy for peaceful purposes.

Need for Just and Equitable Time-table.

These considerations should all be borne in mind when the time-table for the world developmental authority, the exchange of information, and the imposition of controls and sanctions are being discussed and planned. On the one hand the very special position reached by the United States of America in the field has to be fully understood and an immediate and complete disclosure of their monopoly of knowledge could not be supported and would not be in the general interest of mankind. But on the other hand, a retarded time-table for disclosure must leave the development of atomic energy for many years in the hands of a few nations, other nations being handicapped seriously in their development. Accordingly, the steps to be taken should be clearly set out and follow one another in just and equitable sequence as part of the overall plan.

Supply of Radio-active Substances.

There is one step which might well be taken immediately. The importance of radio-active substances in scientific research in general and in medical research in particular, is so great that it is in the interests of every nation that supplies of these materials should be available to all workers in these fields at the earliest possible moment. No one country or group of countries would wish to have a monopoly of these materials. Even if for the time being one or a few countries alone possess the facilities for the manufacture of radio-active substances, all countries should be able to secure on reasonable terms their fair share of such substances.

I have already mentioned the special interest of those countries which possess within their territories deposits of uranium and thorium and who are thus able to make an important contribution as suppliers of raw materials. One should not be surprised if some such countries are reluctant to accept control of their product by an international authority unless controls are also accepted by those countries possessing plants for the production of fissionable materials. Therefore, while control of mining operations and of the raw materials extracted from the ores may well form an essential basis of international control system, that system will also have to provide for disclosure of scientific and technical information, and for the cessation of production of atomic weapons, on terms and conditions to be agreed upon and defined. All this illustrates the necessity of an international agreement which will in the one instrument define the obligations to be accepted by the parties to the instrument and establish an atomic energy authority through which these obligations canbe made effective.

Controls by Inspection.

If an atomic development authority effectively controlled all sources of raw materials and all plants for the exploitation of atomic energy, as suggested by Mr. Baruch, that would in itself ensure that no materials will be diverted to military purposes. It is necessary, however, to guard against a country setting up its own plants in secret. Precautions against such an evasion will be required but such precautions need not give a vast army of official inspectors the right to delve into all the activities of a nation in the spheres of general mining and engineering.

Control over officially recognized plants could be assisted by a strict accounting and supervision of all fissionable materials and by exchange of technical personnel between the plants in the various countries. Such workers, exchanged between nations, would be natural vehicles for interchange of technical information, and with a common background of interest and altruism would assist in maintaining understanding and goodwill.

It is obviously impracticable to conduct inspection in such a way that the possibility of secret mining or bomb-making could be completely eliminated, but if the barriers which at present restrict free intercourse between countries could be eliminated or greatly modified, it would become almost impossible to conceal operations on a scale of major military significance.

Any effective system of controls and safeguards should of course be based upon the most up-to-date information available on the technical aspects of atomic energy. The discoveries are so recent that little reliance can be placed on the claim that great improvements in existing methods are improbable, or that an entirely new and revolutionary approach is impossible. Whatever the precise form of the controlling authority it must base its decisions upon adequate knowledge, and proper provision made to keep it informed fully and immediately of any new scientific or technical developments bearing upon the release of atomic energy.

The Principle of an International Authority.

The Australian Government agrees in principle with the proposal for the establishment of an international authority to act as the organ of the United Nations in the field of atomic energy. The exact relationof such an authority with the United Nations will require detailed consideration. One question of this character which was referred to by Mr. Baruch is the application of the so-called veto.

It is essential that the precise nature of this special privilege should be clearly understood.

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