Documents on the history of nuclear proliferation, the arms race, and disarmament efforts. See also the related collections in the Nuclear Proliferation International History Project. (Image, US Jupiter intermediate-range ballistic missile, US Army)
June 10, 1955
Central Intelligence Agency Information Report, 'The Development of an Ultra-Centrifuge at the Nuclear Institute of Manfred von Ardenne in Sinop'
CIA report describing the construction process of ultra-centrifuges in the Soviet nuclear institute of Sinop and the personnel working there.
May 31, 1957
Department of State Office of Intelligence Research, 'OIR Contribution to NIE 100-6-57: Nuclear Weapons Production by Fourth Countries – Likelihood and Consequences'
This lengthy report was State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research's contribution to the first National Intelligence Estimate on the nuclear proliferation, NIE 100-6-57. Written at a time when the United States, the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom were the only nuclear weapons states, the “Fourth Country” problem referred to the probability that some unspecified country, whether France or China, was likely to be the next nuclear weapons state. Enclosed with letter from Helmut Sonnenfeldt, Division of Research for USSR and Western Europe, to Roger Mateson, 4 June 1957, Secret
May 13, 1959
Department of State Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Intelligence Information Brief No. 139, 'Disarmament Negotiations: The Fourth Power Problem: France'
According to intelligence reports, the French were trying to acquire from US firms the diagnostic technology needed to measure a nuclear explosion. INR did not believe that France had identified a specific test site and noted that France was under pressure to hold a test somewhere other than North Africa; nevertheless it went ahead with one in Algeria in early 1960.
December 07, 1959
C. L. Marshall, Director, Division of Classification, to A. A. Wells, Director, Division of International Affairs, 'Cooperation in the Field of Gas Centrifuge'
US Atomic Energy Commission classification director C. L. Marshall explains to international affairs director A. A. Wells that the design for the gas centrifuge must be classified for fear of providing an “unfriendly nation” a low-energy consuming method for “the separation of heavy isotopes…an important part of a [nuclear] weapons program.”
January 04, 1960
Department of State Burea of Intelligence and Research, Intelligence Information Brief No. 236, 'Yugoslavia Nuclear Reactor Goes into Operation'
This report gives an overview of Yugoslavia’s nuclear program and its tight links with both East and West in terms of financial aid and training programs
February 19, 1960
A.A. Wells, Director, Division of International Affairs, to Philip J. Farley, Special Assistant to the Secretary of State for Disarmament and Atomic Energy, 'Control of and Cooperation in Gas Centrifuge Research and Development Program'
The development of the gas centrifuge method, according to this report, would make production of U-235 (and by extension, nuclear weapons) possible for as many as 20-30 foreign countries. The U.S. is thus forced to consider its strategy for how to limit proliferation despite this new, cheap technology.
February 26, 1960
S.A. Levin, D. E. Hatch, and E. Von Halle, 'Production of Enriched Uranium for Nuclear Weapons by Nations X, Y, and Z by Means of the Gas Centrifuge Process,' Operations Analysis Division, Union Carbide Nuclear Company
A Union Carbide Nuclear Company study to determine how quickly and easily foreign countries could develop and utilize gas centrifuges with the goal of creating nuclear weapon facilities. The study determines that, due to the cheap cost and relatively small size of the centrifuges, even un-industrialized countries such as Cuba could achieve this technology within 8 years if helped by a larger nation.
March 23, 1960
Philip J. Farley, special Assistant to the Secretary of State, to Algie A. Wells, Director, Division of International Affairs, Atomic Energy Commission, 'Control of and Cooperation in Gas Centrifuge Research and Development Program'
As West Germany and The Netherlands developed ultra-centrifuges without a classification policy, the AEC discuss ways to keep the technology under wraps without arousing suspicion from the other members of Euratom.
April 09, 1960
Atomic Energy Commission, 'Gas Centrifuge Method of Isotope Separation,' AEC 610/15
Having read the Union Carbide and General Electric reports on gas centrifuges, and taking into account West Germany and The Netherlands’ unwillingness to classify their programs, the AEC looks into other courses of action, including collaboration with the other two nations and even declassifying their own program.
January 31, 1962
Research Memorandum REU-25 from Roger Hilsman to Mr. Kohler, 'European Attitudes on Independent Nuclear Capability'
Concerns about the credibility of US nuclear deterrence generated Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) General Lauris Norstad’s proposal for a NATO-controlled medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) force. This lengthy report represented INR’s assessment of “present and future European interest in national or multinational nuclear weapons capabilities,” including the MRBM proposal, and the extent to which an “enhancement of NATO's nuclear role” could “deter national or multinational European nuclear weapons programs.”
February 21, 1962
Research Memorandum RSB-58 from Roger Hilsman to the Secretary, 'Probable Soviet Reaction to Establishment of Multilateral NATO-Controlled MRBM Force'
As discussion of a NATO multilateral force (MLF) unfolded, unfolded, one question which had to be addressed was how the Soviet Union would respond to the creation of such a NATO force. Because a NATO force would increase Western military capabilities, Soviet opposition was assumed.
September 04, 1962
Research Memorandum RSB-152 from Roger Hilsman to the Secretary, 'Soviet Tactics in Talks on the Non-Diffusion of Nuclear Weapons'
Before the words “nuclear nonproliferation” entered official discourse, the term “non-diffusion” (or “non-dissemination”) of nuclear weapons was used routinely. In part stemming from the negotiations over Berlin, during 1962-1963 the Kennedy administration held talks with allies and adversaries on the possibility of a non-diffusion agreement which included Germany. In light of a recent Soviet proposal, INR veteran Soviet expert Sonnenfeldt explained why Moscow had moved away from earlier proposals singling out West Germany and was focusing on the general applicability of a non-diffusion agreement.
October 01, 1962
Research Memorandum RFE-44 from Roger Hilsman to Acting Secretary, 'Japan’s Reaction to a Chinese Communist Nuclear Detonation'
This “Limited Distribution” report on possible Japanese reactions did not anticipate that a test would cause basic changes in US-Japan security relations or in Tokyo’s general approach to nuclear weapons.
April 04, 1963
Research Memorandum RSB-47 from Thomas Hughes to the Secretary, 'Signs of Kremlin Decision to Improve Its Strategic Posture'
INR analysts pointed to events during mid-February 1963 which suggested that the Soviet leadership was taking steps to spend a greater share of the gross national product on military resources.
May 22, 1963
Research Memorandum RFE-40 from Thomas L. Hughes to the Acting Secretary, 'A French Nuclear Testing Site in the Pacific? – Plans and Repercussions'
France’s staging of atmospheric and underground tests in Algeria became increasingly untenable when neighboring African countries protested and even temporarily broke diplomatic relations with Paris. Once Algeria became independent in 1962, French authorities made plans to develop a test site in Polynesia.
June 05, 1963
Research Memorandum REU-44 from Thomas L. Hughes to the Secretary, 'Evidence of Satisfaction or Dissatisfaction in European NATO Countries with the Lack of a Share in Ownership or Control of Nuclear Weapons'
Ambassador Livingston Merchant, who was responsible for the U.S. diplomatic effort to win support for the MLF, asked INR to report on the degree to which non-nuclear European members of NATO were satisfied with their “lack of a share in ownership or control of nuclear weapons.” Based on the evidence, mainly various statements made by leading politicians, diplomats, and policymakers, INR experts concluded that most of the countries surveyed (Italy, Belgium, Netherlands, and Greece) were “relatively satisfied,” while only West Germany was “restive” to the extent that some of its officials were interested in a NATO or European nuclear force.
June 23, 1963
National Intelligence Estimate NIE 4-63, 'Likelihood and Consequences of a Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Systems'
This NIE comes to the general conclusions that “there will not be a widespread proliferation of nuclear weapons over the next 10 years” and discusses programs in various countries (Israel, China, Sweden, India, West Germany, Japan, etc.) This copy includes newly declassified references to the Israeli nuclear weapons program, including the conclusion that “the Israelis, unless deterred by outside pressure, will attempt to produce a nuclear weapon some time in the next several years.”