22. Letter From the Representative at the United Nations (Lodge) to the Secretary of State1


  • Atomic Radiation2

Dear Foster: Here is the choice concerning which is shaping up for the next session of the General Assembly as far as Atomic Radiation is concerned:

Some delegation, such as India or Pakistan, is almost certain to raise the problem of the effects of radiation on living organisms as a result of testing nuclear weapons. This would put us on the defensive.
Or, we can take the initiative, introduce an item of our own, thus warding off this pressure, controlling the situation so as to protect United States’ security interests, and get credit throughout the world.

Obviously, we should take action number two.

We must not assume (as I believe some are doing) that one of our choices is doing nothing.

Anything which we propose will, of course, have to assure that our security interests are completely protected, and not be such as to require our revealing anything more than we already intend to do anyway. (This would be more difficult to do in the case of an Indian proposal.)

I propose, therefore, that the United States sponsor an item which would call for international coordination through the United Nations of national studies on the effects of radiation.

By so doing, we can divert attention from our own tests to those of the United Kingdom and the USSR, and at the same time avoid the pressures that are increasingly building up for a moratorium on tests.

Note also that when the Geneva Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy meets, there will be already on the agenda items dealing with “radiation injury and protection”, which will include “maximum permissible exposure standards”. Unless we have headed it off, this is one factor which can especially lead to concerted action by numerous Delegations at Geneva to debate the effects of nuclear tests, and either a call for a moratorium or for scientific studies on the dangers of continued explosions.

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The existing agenda for the Geneva Conference will also divert the Conference from the positive program of the President for peaceful uses into a psychological defeat for the United States unless the United States acts positively beforehand.

The step that I have proposed should thus be taken before the Geneva Conference to prevent it from being sabotaged. This means not later than July 15th.

If you agree, the views of Admiral Strauss and the Atomic Energy Commission staff will, of course, have to be obtained on the technical and security aspects of whatever form the final proposal takes.

I am sure the above is an accurate political diagnosis—and that is my special responsibility. I shall telephone you about this in a few days.3

Faithfully yours,

Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.4
  1. Source: Department of State, Atomic Energy Files: Lot 57 D 688, Radiation and Fallout. Secret. A copy was sent to Key.
  2. A telegram from Lodge to Dulles had earlier elaborated on Lodge’s concerns about radiation and had suggested a U.S. initiative proposing an international study under U.N. auspices on the effects of radiation. (Telegram 680 from New York, April 13; ibid., Central Files, 600/0012/4–1355)
  3. Dulles called Lodge on May 5 at 4:31 p.m.:
  4. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.

    “The Sec. referred to L.’s letter of May 3 about the item on the agenda re fall-out. The Sec. said he does not think we can respond until after Strauss is back on May 19. It will be important then for L. to come down and have a talk. They [AEC] are extremely negative on anybody else getting into this field but it is a question of how negative you can be and get away with it. L. said they are making judgments on the political situation in the UN, and they don’t know about it. L. will be down for Cabinet on the 20th, and they agreed to try to set a meeting up to discuss it then.” (Eisenhower Library, Dulles Papers, General Telephone Conversations)

    See also Document 32.