Ran across this fantastic series of five documents: One Hundred Things You Should Know About Communism in the U.S.A.; One Hundred Things You Should Know About Communism and Religion; One Hundred Things You Should Know About Communism and Education; One Hundred Things You Should Know About Communism and Labor; and One Hundred Things You Should Know About Communism and Government. 

This compilation also includes Spotlight on Spies, which outlines the atomic “Soviet spy system in our country” (p. 113) and written only a few years after the Atomic Energy Act (1946; Public Law 585-79). The documents were produced by the House Committee on Un-American Activities (August 15, 1949, second printing) or HUAC, to educate the American public and

Intended to help you know a Communist when you hear him speak and when you see him work. If you ever find yourself in open debate with a Communist the facts here given can be used to destroy his arguments completely and expose him as he is for all to see. (p.5)

The Committee was chaired by John S. Wood (D-GA); other members were Richard Nixon (R-CA), and Benjamin Mandel (Director of Research).

The docs are interesting for their Q & A format, attack on unions, and pertinent to atomic history, accounts of espionage and atomic secrets (p. 105-109). As an aside, the Committee  proudly reported that from May 1938 to when the report was issued in 1949, it gathered “25,000 pages of public and executive testimony… It has made 50 reports to the House, which include recommendations for new laws” (p. 109). These docs make for a fascinating look back on language, political communication, and the history of internal security in the U.S.

Thank you Internet Archive for making the volume available to researchers!

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Having an interest in psychoanalyst-physician-scientist Dr. Wilhelm Reich’s work, especially The Mass Psychology of Fascism (1933, 1946)* as well as atomic history, I’m puzzled as to proposals made by researchers that suggest Dr. Reich was a creative force behind the phrase atoms for peace. For example, Peter Robbins writes:

And while it may have been a coincidence, in late November 1955, President Eisenhower’s ‘Atoms for Peace’ proposal – a plan for the peaceful use of atomic energy – was accepted by the United Nations. Some months prior to this, Reich had sent Eisenhower a copy of his paper documenting the Oranur Experiment, and the operations and experiments that had sprung from it. The paper was titled ‘Atoms for Peace.’

A search in spring 2012 by the Eisenhower Presidential Library archives staff did not reveal any correspondence drafted by Dr. Reich to President Eisenhower and shared with Lewis L. Strauss,** Chair of the Atomic Energy Commission, Gen. Robert Cutler, Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, or C.D. Jackson, Special Assistant to the President for International Affairs. These men were the primary architects of what evolved into the formal Atoms for Peace program. To date, no records of a Reich correspondence to any member of the Eisenhower Administration appear in the National Archives and Records Administration’s (NARA) Archival Records Catalog or ARC.***

According to the Reich Trust’s archivist, Dr. Reich first used the term atoms for peace “at some point in 1955 in his book Contact With Space (p.171) and certainly in December 1955 in his [legal] brief Atoms for Peace vs. the HIGS (Hoodlums in Government ). Further, the Reich Trust was able to verify that Reich and Eisenhower never met, and there exists no supporting evidence that Reich ever used the phrase atoms for peace in materials sent to Eisenhower prior to his speech at the United Nations in 1953.  Reich’s colleague Dr. Elsworth Baker noted in 1968 “the President’s “Atoms for Peace” program had no relationship to Reich’s “Atoms for Peace,” as Reich believed, although it is true that there were important similarities.”

As a side note, The New York Times (NYT) can be used as a potential benchmark for the origins of the phrase atoms for peace. The NYT  indicates that the initial association of atoms and peace first occurred in 1945 with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (“BIG PEACE ROLE FOR ATOM: Princeton Scientists See Uses in Industry and Economy,” NYT August 7, 1945). Further calls by the Soviet Union to develop “pooling data for peace” (September 4, 1945) and for “new knowledge recently gained is used solely in promotion of peace” (King George, October 26, 1945) also associated civilian as well as scientific applications of atomic energy as “peaceful uses.”

Atoms for peace phrases are found in the NYT for 1946 such as atoms in peace (Harry Truman, May 12, 1946), atoms as peace (February 26, 1946), and a great force for peace (Robert Oppenheimer, June 9, 1946). The linking of atoms and peace contributed to what would become the Eisenhower Atomic Energy Commission’s program Atoms for Peace.  According to President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s memoir Mandate for Change 1953-195 on what is referred to as the Candor or U.N. speech**** delivered December 8, 1953, Ike recounts that he requested Strauss, Cutler, and Jackson to work on the “idea of actual physical donations of isotopes from our then unequaled nuclear stockpile, to a common fund for peace” (p. 252).***** Additional insight on the U.N. speech is given by Ike in a memo to C.D. Jackson dated August 24, 1953.

Perhaps we can hypothesize the subject of the peaceful atom existed in the public consciousness after the bombing of Japan, a meme if you will, and efforts by the Eisenhower Administration, through the U.S. Information Agency (USIA) in promoting peaceful uses of atomic energy that led to the official naming of the program.******

As for Dr. Wilhelm Reich, that fearless, controversial investigator of the human psyche, there does not appear that he had any association with the phrase atoms for peace prior to 1955. Moreover, the official U.S. program was completely different than anything Reich envisioned.

________________

Notes

* Once a banned book in the United States.

** As I was curious if any correspondence existed between Dr. Reich and Lewis L. Strauss, I asked NARA to do a cursory search in Record Group (RG) 326, Records of the Atomic Energy Commission, specifically  records of the Office of the Secretary: General Correspondence, 1951-1958.  NARA failed to locate any specific references to Dr. Reich.  I was informed this RG consists of more than 200 boxes, and as such, NARA was unable to comb through each file and box in detail. I leave this work to dedicated researchers.

***ARC is approximately 75% complete in terms of NARA’s holdings, which includes Record Groups of specific federal agencies.

**** See The Atom for Progress and Peace: An Address Before the General Assembly of the United Nations, December 8, 1953. U.S. Government Printing Office, 1955. SuDoc: S 1.71:88

***** Dr. John Hall recounts the history of the drafting the U.N. speech in “The Agency Loses Its Initiator” IAEA Bulletin 11 no. 2(1969). Also see Ira Chernus (2005). Operation Candor: Fear, Faith, and Flexibility. Diplomatic History 29(5): 779–809. Chernus (2005:780) links the 1953 Operation Candor to Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace proposal as it “forms the essential prehistory.” In turn, the Oppenheimer Panel, titled for its chair, Dr. Robert Oppenheimer, set the stage for Candor (perhaps along the same lines as the 1945 Smyth Report that called for an “informed” public):

The panel’s very first recommendation for Cold War success was one that it saw as a prerequisite to all forms of flexibility: a new approach of “candor” toward the U.S. public on nuclear issues. Public support for the government’s changing weapons policies would have “strength and solidity” only if the public heard and understood the basic facts of the nuclear age (Chernus 2005: 783).

****** See Martin Medhurst’s Eisenhower’s ‘Atoms for Peace’ Speech: A Case Study in the Strategic Use of Language. Communication Monographs 54 no.2 (1987): 204-220.


Atomic Toys

07Jul11

BoingBoing recently posted on Gilbert’s Atomic Energy Lab, a cool little kit for 1950s kids to get down with physics and conduct scientific experiments. What wasn’t elaborated in the article were the specifics of the radioactive elements that came bundled with the kit:

The set came with four types of uranium ore, a beta-alpha source (Pb-210), a pure beta source (Ru-106), a gamma source (Zn-65?), a spinthariscope, a cloud chamber with its own short-lived alpha source (Po-210), an electroscope, a geiger counter, a manual, a comic book (Dagwood Splits the Atom) and a government manual “Prospecting for Uranium.”

Besides the Gilbert Kit, parents could also cultivate an interest in atomic science through the Atomic Energy Lab (with uranium & radium) and the Porter Atomic Energy Kit, which contained “uranium chemical” plus a radioactive screen consisting of “a small (ca. 1″) piece of heavy paper on which radium has been deposited”:

On a safety note, I wonder what the geiger counted for these elements? And look at the half-lives: Pb-210,  1/2 life, 20 yrs; Ru-106, 1/2 life, 371.8 days; Zn-65, 1/2 life, 243.66 days; U, 1/2 life,  4.47 billion years, and Ra, 1/2 life, 1600 years). Truly these sets are gifts that keep on giving!

Oak Ridge Associated Universities has an online collection of other “atomic toys,” models, and candy.


Thanks to Pol D’Huyvetter, Mayors for Peace, for alerting me to this youtube video featuring mayor Katsunobu Sakurai on the hardships citizens are facing in the Fukushima region:


RadNet Database

29Mar11

From the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s description of the RadNet database, which has its roots in the Eisenhower Executive Order 10831 (August 14, 1959), which established the Federal Radiation Council:

The RadNet searchable database contains 23 years of environmental radiation monitoring data from all fifty states and U.S. territories and 40 years of measurements of strontium in milk. Approximately 200 stations nationwide sample the nation’s air, precipitation, drinking water and milk. Surface water was also collected by the system since its inception in 1973 but it was discontinued in March 1999. In some cases, the air and precipitation stations are co-located.

The database provides important environmental radiation information about nuclear fallout from weapons tests and reports significant releases of radioactivity into the environment, such as the Chinese weapons tests of 1976 and 1977, Three Mile Island in 1979, and the Chernobyl incident in 1986. The database allows users to perform statistical analyses on subsets of data graphically, displaying these analyses. The RadNet database is also linked to EPA’s EnviroMapper, which allows users to display data by location.

The RadNet timeline is especially interesting in terms of specific radionuclide monitoring.


I recently discovered a copy of Our Atomic World in my library.

Our Atomic World was authored by C. (Claude) Jackson Craven for the Atomic Energy Commission (1963, 1964, revised). The publication is an optimistic look at the atom featuring an historical overview of atomic research and development, with an appeal for nuclear energy “needed for the future” (p.25). Created under the Eisenhower Atoms for Peace program, Westinghouse’s Shippingport Atomic Power Station in western PA is discussed as the “world’s first full-scale atomic-electric generation station exclusively for civilian needs.”

As an aside, Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, chairman of the Naval Reactors branch, Atomic Energy Commission, and a driving force behind Shippingport, reconsidered his position on nuclear power later in his life;  the atomic history of Shippingport also includes Dr. Ernest J. Sternglass and his students, who discovered “striking cancer rises in the towns using the Ohio River” around Shippingport. Sternglass and students also found:

It was the airborne gaseous activity and the run-off into the rivers serving as drinking-water supplies that had apparently carried the more damaging short-lived beta-ray-emitting chemicals rapidly into the critical organs of the people, in addition to the other pathways via the milk, the vegetables, the fruits, the fish, and the meat that were most important for the long-lived strontium 90 and cesium 137. And although adults were more resistant to the biological damage than the developing fetus, they received the doses steadily over many years rather than just for a few months, by continuously drinking the water, inhaling the gases, and eating the food that was contaminated first by the fallout from the bomb tests, and then by the secret gaseous releases from the peaceful nuclear reactors along the rivers of the nation.

Shippingport was decommissioned in 1982. Our atomic world indeed.

Further watching & reading

Cowan, R. (1990). Nuclear power reactors: A study in technological lock-in. The Journal of Economic History, 50 (3), 541-567. http://dimetic.dime-eu.org/dimetic_files/cowan1990.pdf

Internet Archive. Atomic power at Shippingport, Part 1 & Part 2.

Rickover, H. G. (1957, May 14). Energy resources and our future. Speech to the Annual Scientific Assembly of the Minnesota State Medical Association. http://www.archive.org/details/rickover0557 (Note the Admiral comments on the problem of nuclear waste from reactors – in 1957!).


I can’t embed USTREAM video on WordPress for some reason, so here are the links to the translated Citizens Nuclear Information Center (CNIC) press conferences:

http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/13530404

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/cnic-news

http://www.cnic.jp/english/topics/safety/earthquake/fukushima.html