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Letter to the Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission, in Response to Reports on Activities During 1964.

April 18, 1965

[ Released April 18, 1965. Dated April 17, 1965 ]

Dear Dr. Seaborg:

I wish to thank you for the two very informative reports describing the Atomic Energy Commission's activities during 1964.

Since my association with our atomic energy programs began in the House of Representatives nearly 20 years ago as a member of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, I have followed the program closely.

I want you and your fellow Commissioners to know that your reports impress me from a number of points of view.

First, they present solid evidence that the Commission is pursuing a vigorous program of nuclear weapons research and development;

Second, they make it clear that a steadily increasing proportion of the Commission's budget is being devoted to the peaceful applications of the atom, a matter which is particularly gratifying to me; and

Third, they clearly reflect that the Nation is being well served through the healthy partnership of our Government with our industries and universities.

On these accomplishments, I congratulate you and thank you especially for the personal service you are rendering the Nation by your distinguished chairmanship. As you and I have often discussed, it is essential at all times that we look far ahead in our planning for this vital activity. I would, therefore, like to convey to you some of my views and hopes in relation to the program.

We have been able to maintain our clear superiority in nuclear weapons, while at the same time we have been responsible and realistic about our needs. The orderly cutback in the production of fissionable materials is a significant example of this realism.

I appreciate the Commission's cooperation in the advancement of measures for effective arms control. I look forward hopefully-and confidently--to the day when our national security and the security of the human race can be further increased through agreements and actions among nations which build upon the important first step of the limited test ban treaty.

I look for the continuation of the important progress that is being made in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. For example, in the field of civilian nuclear power, I look forward to the development of the advanced converter and breeder reactors, which will be required for the more efficient and economical use of our Nation's nuclear fuel resources. Nuclear energy will fill an important role in partnership with fossil fuels in meeting the growing energy requirements of our Nation. As you know, I also anticipate that nuclear power will play a significant role in the desalting of sea water.

It is characteristic of nuclear energy that its great potential is continually expanding. The full range of its ultimate contributions cannot be foreseen. We must continually press toward the discovery of areas and applications of which we have not yet dreamed, even as we strive to realize the full potential of the areas already defined.

Basic to all of the applications of nuclear energy is the conduct of fundamental research in the physical and biomedical sciences, and I favor the vigorous pursuit of these activities.

On the other hand, we must also remember-keeping in mind always the essentiality of Government control of the uses of nuclear energy in the interest of the national security and public safety--that nuclear energy, after a period of intensive development, is now an integral part of the American industrial scene. It should not be regarded as a Government preserve. I look forward to the assumption by the private sector of our economy of a steadily increasing share of the responsibility for the development of the applications of nuclear energy.

In the field of the application of radioactive isotopes, I would like to see continued emphasis on the development of this humanitarian tool for the diagnosis and treatment of disease. I believe that we have only begun to realize the potential of these remarkable substances for the alleviation of human suffering. I also want to encourage continued development of their application to industrial and other processes.

In the field of space, we should continue the development of isotopic and reactor SNAP devices to enable us to take advantage of their unique application to the generation of electric power for our spacecraft. The recent successes of the nuclear rocket reactor tests indicate that nuclear rockets can be ready for the long-range space missions of the future.

In the field of education, the contributions made by the Commission are many and appreciated. I believe we can achieve even closer cooperation between the many Government laboratories and the universities throughout this country. The national resources in these laboratories can benefit the research and education processes in the universities. The laboratories will, in torn, greatly profit from their association with the universities.

I wish to commend particularly a use of advanced planning by the AEC which is being carried out without much fanfare, but so very effectively. Thus, for example, the cutbacks in special nuclear materials production were planned sufficiently in advance so that the Commission, in cooperation with the local officials and business and labor people, could take appropriate actions, such as diversification programs, to minimize any significant economic impacts.

Our capacity for achievement in atomic energy development never has been greater. The Commission has achieved a high degree of cooperation with private industry and the universities. The Congress, especially the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, has effectively supported our nuclear program. This team in being--of government, industry, and the educational community-constitutes an unparalleled force for accomplishment. I look to the Commission to continue and further enhance these effective and harmonious relationships.

On this course, I believe we shall ultimately achieve a society in which man can live in peace, enjoy the freedom and personal security to shape his destiny according to his individual beliefs, and have the leisure to contribute to the culture of his civilization. I recognize that our goals will not be easily reached. There will be disappointments and hard choices in priorities to adjust to continually changing requirements and circumstances. We have the will and the capacity. We also clearly have the duty. For if man would inherit from the generations that have preceded him, he must bequeath something of value to the generations that succeed him.



[Honorable Glenn T. Seaborg, Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission, Washington, D.C., 20545]

Note: The reports on the activities of the Atomic Energy Commission during 1964 are entitled "Annual Report to the Congress of the Atomic Energy Commission for 1964" (443 PP.) and "Fundamental Nuclear Energy Research--1964" (299 PP.). They were published by the Government Printing Office. The text of the letter was released at Austin, Tex.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Letter to the Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission, in Response to Reports on Activities During 1964. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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