BECAUSE OF great progress in the field of atomic energy during the past eight years, I recommended early this year that the Congress modernize the Atomic Energy Act of 1946, the basic law governing our vast atomic enterprise. This new legislation was enacted by the Congress in pursuance of that recommendation.
The new Act permits us, under proper security safeguards, to give our allies certain information that they must have for an effective defense against aggression. This information includes data needed for training in the use of and defense against atomic weapons and for evaluating the atomic capabilities of a potential aggressor. Agreements of this type with our allies will greatly strengthen our common defense and security.
This Act also sets up procedures to encourage certain exchanges of non-military atomic technology. Thus it recognizes the excellence of the atomic energy programs in certain other nations, and the groundwork is laid for wider participation in the peacetime applications of atomic energy. For example, under the Act our technicians can assist friendly nations or groups of nations in building reactors for research and power.
Also reflected in the new law is the fervent desire of our people to proceed with a plan for an International Atomic Energy Agency which would advance the peacetime applications of atomic energy, as we proposed last December to the United Nations. Although progress on this plan has been impeded by Soviet obstruction and delay, we intend to proceed--with the cooperation and participation of the Soviet Union if possible, without it if necessary.
That it is time to draw more specifically into the national atomic energy program the initiative and resources of private industry is recognized in the new law. For instance, private industry is enabled to participate more fully in the development of economic nuclear power, while the Government continues to assist this progress with basic research and the building of experimental reactors.
Debate on this legislation revealed some misunderstandings about the effect of certain of its provisions on public and private development of electrical power from the atom. I want our people to know that these provisions are designed eventually to relieve the taxpayer of the enormous cost of the commercial aspects of the enterprise, while fully protecting the public interest in atomic energy. In fact, these provisions carry into effect the 1946 policy declaration of the original Atomic Energy Act, that free competition in private enterprise should be strengthened.
As I sign this bill, I am confident that it will advance both public and private development of atomic energy--that it will thus lead to greater national strength--and that programs undertaken as a result of this new law will help us progress more rapidly to the time when this new source of energy will be wholly devoted to the constructive purposes of man.