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Digital Archive International History Declassified

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Nuclear Proliferation

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.

  • October 28, 1958

    Cable from the Chinese Embassy in the Soviet Union, 'Gromyko Discussed the Issue of Stopping Nuclear Weapons Tests'

    Gromyko informs Liu Xiao of the Soviet position and strategy in its negotiations with the United States and the United Kingdom for halting nuclear tests.

  • 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.”

  • 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.

  • April 22, 1960

    A.R. Luedecke, General Manager, Atomic Energy Commission, to Philip J. Farley, Department of State

    The AEC agrees to initiate talks with Western European nations in the attempt to control nuclear proliferation through the classification of gas centrifuge technology.

  • April 01, 1963

    Memorandum by Ambassador Aristov

    Document memorandum by Soviet Ambassador to Poland Aristov regarding potential nonproliferation treaty

  • June 23, 1963

    National Intelligence Estimate Number 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.”

  • September 27, 1963

    Conversation between Soviet Ambassador in North Korea Vasily Moskovsky and Soviet Specialists in North Korea

    Soviet specialists in North Korea inform the Ambassador that the Koreans are attempting to acquire large amounts of uranium ore.

  • October 08, 1963

    Letter from Gomulka to Khrushchev, Marked "Final Version"

    Letter from Gomulka to Khrushchev discussing Polish opposition to Soviet proposal for a Non-Proliferation Treaty. Gomulka suggests that the treaty will further split the communist camp. While discussing the state of Sino-Soviet relations, the Polish leader suggests that the Soviet Union and the PRC adopt a common position in matters of foreign policy in order to strengthen the power of the Socialist camp.

  • October 14, 1963

    Discussion between Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister Vasilii Kuznetsov and the SED Politburo (Fragment)

    Excerpts of the meeting between Marshal V.V. Kuznetzov, Commander of the Warsaw Pact Forces, and the GDR politburo on issues of nuclear proliferation in Europe and Warsaw Pact planning.

  • March 04, 1964

    S. A. Levin, L.R. Powers, and E. Von Halle, Union Carbide Corporation Nuclear Division, 'Nth Power Evaluation'

    Union Carbide Nuclear Company updates their previous study on the ease with which other nations could secretly create nuclear weapon facilities using the gas centrifuge.

  • January 20, 1965

    Minutes of the Meeting of the Political Consultative Committee of the Warsaw Pact Member States, Warsaw

    (Excerpts) Minutes of discussions of the Warsaw Pact Political Consultative Committee concerning non-proliferation. The Romanian delegation argues against a joint declaration of the Warsaw Pact on non-proliferation for fear that it might be used against China. The other delegations argue that a joint declaration is necessary in order to prevent the creation of the Multilaterall Nuclear Force proposed by NATO.

  • January 20, 1965

    Minutes of the Meeting of the Political Consultative Committee of the Warsaw Pact Member States, Warsaw

    Romanian meeting minutes of Warsaw Pact Political Consultative Committee meeting concerning non-proliferation.

  • November 23, 1965

    Glenn Seaborg, Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission, to National Security Adviser McGeorge, Bundy, enclosing summary of 'Nth Country Evaluation'

    Summary of Union Carbide’s 1964 study on gas centrifuge technology’s effect on nuclear proliferation. The summary provides Union Carbide’s estimations for how long countries of varying industrial capability would take to develop a nuclear weapon, which was redacted in the original document.

  • January 20, 1966

    National Intelligence Estimate, NIE 4-66, 'The Likelihood of Further Nuclear Proliferation'

    This estimate updated an estimate (NIE-4-2-64) published in 1964 of the nuclear proliferation problem. That estimate, like this one, overestimated the likelihood of an Indian bomb, while somewhat underestimating Israel’s program. This assessment followed the same pattern—predicting India would produce a weapon within a “few years” and also putting Israel in the “might” category, although treating it as a “serious contender” nonetheless. Also following a short discussion of the “snowball effect” (later known as “proliferation cascades” or “chains”) suggesting that the United Arab Republic (Egypt-Syria) and Pakistan were likely to take the nuclear option should India or Israel go nuclear.

  • June 02, 1967

    Report, Embassy of Hungary in the Soviet Union to the Hungarian Foreign Ministry

    Discussion with the Soviet Foreign Ministry on the direction of India’s foreign policy. Topics covered include Indian opposition to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty; India’s position on the escalating tensions between Egypt and Israel; the possible establishment of a new Asian regional economic bloc; and the recent decision by the United States to eliminate military aid to both India and Pakistan. Soviet policy towards India and Pakistan is also discussed, including the possibility of providing military supplies to Pakistan.

  • March 30, 1968

    Report, Embassy of Hungary in India to the Hungarian Foreign Ministry

    Report from Hungarian Ambassador in Delhi Péter Kós to the Hungarian Foreign Ministry on India's increasingly flexible position on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.