Richard Nixon photo

Remarks at the Atomic Energy Commission's Hanford Works Near Richland, Washington.

September 26, 1971

MRS. NIXON and I are really delighted to be here in the tri-city area 1 and get such a wonderfully warm welcome. As we came in on the helicopter, we saw all of the cars parked for miles around. And I just wondered whether anybody was home.

1 Area including the cities of Richland, Pasco, and Kennewick.

We have some very distinguished guests with us here today. I think you would like to see them, too. of course, first, somebody who needs no introduction, the very distinguished and very able, progressive Governor of the State, Governor Evans, and Mrs. Evans.

Then we have, also, the biggest man in the President's Cabinet, the Secretary of Interior, Rogers Morton. Do you see what I mean? My football coach, Chief Newman, used to say, "He is big enough to go hunt bear with a switch."

We also have the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, the new Chairman who succeeded Dr. Seaborg, Dr. James Schlesinger.

Then, two of the top members of the President's staff--these are people you have read about and heard about--first, Mr. John Ehrlichman, who comes from the State of Washington, from Seattle, and who heads up the Domestic Council. Incidentally, you think that Governor Evans is a lobbyist for Hanford and the tri-city area, you ought to hear Ehrlichman--he is all out.

Then, another man that I am sure you have heard about, who is enormously interested in this matter--I understand incidentally-Dan Evans told me--that it was once said that more Ph.D.'s lived in this area than any area of the United States, that was at least the case a few years ago, and probably there are still as many per square acre or mile as the case may be--but we have a very famous Ph.D. on our staff, Dr. Henry Kissinger, our adviser for international affairs.

Now, I would like to speak to you just briefly. Our schedule, as you know, is quite tight because we are going on from here to Anchorage for a meeting with the Emperor of Japan, the first time that an Emperor of Japan and the President of the United States have ever met.

I would like to speak to you because coming to this part of the State, coming to this area that has contributed so much to the defense of the United States, and can contribute so much to the peacetime growth of the United States, I particularly want to express appreciation for what the people of this area have done in the past and give you just an idea of what I think you can look forward to in the future.

First, with regard to where we are now, I mentioned the visit with the Emperor of Japan. That indicates a totally new era in relations between these two countries. We all remember World War II. I see so many young people here, and I think of the fact that over half the people in the world were born after World War II, which is an indication of the fact that that war is over and that now the people who were then enemies can and must be friends. And so Japan and the United States will be friends. We will never be enemies again.

Then, I am sure that when I introduced Dr. Kissinger, you will remember that on July 15 I announced that he had been in Peking and that as a result of his visit, I would be paying a visit, the first President of the United States to visit Mainland China. This meeting will take place at a later time. It is a meeting that has been widely speculated about. And I just say this word about what it means, particularly to the young people that are here, because it means, really, far more to you than it does to our generation.

When we think of what the world is going to be like 15, 20 years from now, just think what it would be like if 800 million of the most capable, able people in the world were isolated from the rest of the world, living--not knowing the rest of the world--outside of the world community and living there with an enormous potential in military power, including nuclear power. It would be a terrible danger.

So we believe, I believe, that it is essential that now we take the steps, the steps to open a dialogue. It isn't going to settle the differences--they are deep--but to open a dialogue that will discuss those differences, so that now and 5, 10, 15, 20 years from now the people in Government of the United States, the people in Government of the People's Republic of China, while we will continue to have differences, we will talk about them; we will not fight about them. This, we think, is important for the future generation.

Now, a word about this area. Everybody in the United States has heard of Hanford, and what it means in terms of the nuclear power that it has created. Everybody knows that it is still important in terms of nuclear weaponry, which is essential as an instrument for keeping the peace in the world, as a deterrent to war, as a deterrent to those who might start war.

But today we must think not only in that respect but we must think far beyond, of what that nuclear power can do in terms of peace.

Let me say something that I know will be understood here, but which too often is not understood in many parts of our country. Many people in this country, because nuclear power is so destructive, are afraid of it. What we have to understand is that when you have such enormous power, let's use it for peace, let's find a way to use it, and that, of course, is the future as far as this area is concerned. Don't be afraid of it; build it for peace.

I live, as you know, in California, down in San Clemente. And right next to us, within about a couple of miles, is one of the new nuclear power plants. Many are afraid to live there because they fear what could happen with regard to that peaceful nuclear power plant. I am not afraid to live there. I am not afraid, not because I know much about it, but because what I do know tells me that here we have a new source of energy, a source of energy that is absolutely important to the future of the world.

I know the people of the State of Washington-perhaps as much as any people in this country, due to the fine leadership you have had in the State--are interested in the environment, in preserving it. If you are going to have a clean and beautiful environment in this country, we have to have a new source of energy, plentiful and clean. And we can have that new source of energy. The place to get it-- one of the major places to get it--certainly is through the development of nuclear energy.

That is why I made an announcement on June 4,2 one that did not get, of course, the enormous publicity of the announcement of the journey to China, one that did not get the publicity of my announcement of the new economic policy to deal with the problems of inflation and unemployment in this country, but one which in terms of the future of the country may be, in long-range terms, even more important in some respects, and that is that the United States was going to go forward in building a breeder reactor.

2 See Item 195.

Now don't ask me what a breeder reactor is; ask Dr. Schlesinger. But don't tell him not to tell you, because unless you are one of those Ph. D.'s, you won't understand it either. But what I do know is this: that here we have the potentiality of a whole new breakthrough in the development of power for peace. And that means jobs--jobs for this area, but jobs and power for hundreds, for millions of people all over the world.

At the time of that announcement, I was able to announce we were going to have one experimental plant to go forward. I want to tell you today--and I have chosen this place and time to make the announcement for reasons you will all understand--that because private industry has already contributed $200 million to the development of the first plant, that I have decided to authorize going forward on a second one.

We are not yet ready to drop the other shoe and to say where they are going to be, except this: This area that has so much talent in terms of brains, that has so much resources in terms of experience, has a role to play in the future in the development of our power. I will just say that, and we hope that you will be able to play it.

One final thought before we go in for the tour. I mentioned a moment ago how all of this business about breeder reactors and nuclear energy is over my head. That was one of my poorest subjects--science. I got through it, but I had to work too hard. I gave it up when I was a sophomore. But I can assure you that it always has been fascinating to me because it seems to me that if a people are to be a great people, we must always explore the unknown. We must never be afraid of it. That is why we have to go to space; that is why we should have built the SST; that is why, as far as this particular matter is concerned, in terms of nuclear power, we must not be afraid. We must explore it.

We can't be sure what it is going to produce, but on the other hand, we know that by exploring the unknown, we are going to grow, we are going to progress, and progress in a way that will be good for all Americans and for other people in the world.

There is a wonderful story about Benjamin Franklin that illustrates my point on that score. A balloon was sent aloft, the first time that Americans at that time had seen a balloon, and somebody asked Franklin, "of what possible use is that thing?" And his answer was, "of what possible use is a newborn babe?" So that is what we have here. We have here the possibilities of new breakthroughs.

The fact that you live in this area, and that whether you work here in this installation, whether you are associated with it, it seems to me this is one of the most exciting places to live, one of the most exciting times to be alive in the history of man, because you are opening the great vistas of the unknown. And, as a result of exploring them and opening them, it is going to mean a better life for our people, and a better life and, we hope, a peaceful life with peaceful production for all the people of the world.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 1 :58 p.m.

Richard Nixon, Remarks at the Atomic Energy Commission's Hanford Works Near Richland, Washington. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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