U.S. Intelligence Efforts re: France's Nuclear Program

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    U.S. Intelligence Efforts to Follow France's Nuclear Weapons Program

  • Memorandum: Atomic Experiments in France

    GW Archive Document 1This memorandum, from a member of the War Department's Strategic Services Unit to a member of the Manhattan Engineer District's Foreign Intelligence Section, concerns a rumor passed on by a "reliable source." The rumor involved the alleged willingness of some French scientists to sell information concerning the "formula and techniques concerning atomic explosives" to "one of the smaller nations."
  • Study: Review of the French Atomic Energy Development

    GW Archive Document 2This study was authored by a member of the Manhattan Engineer District's Foreign Intelligence Section. It provides a review of what was known to the intelligence section about the history of the French atomic energy program - with regard to organization, technology, and resources. It also poses fifteen questions for further investigation and analysis - including questions concerning French construction of reactors, attempts to acquire uranium through prospecting and purchase, and personnel.
  • Review: Atomic Energy Research in France

    GW Archive Document 3Prepared by a representative of the Manhattan Engineer District in London, this review of the French atomic energy program covers the functions, key personnel, and key facilities of the High Commissariat for Atomic Energy, created in October 1945. It also covers the functions and activities of other research organizations and institutions of nineteen other institutions, key personalities, raw materials, political considerations, and French capabilities.
  • Memo re: Operation Crossroad

    GW Archive Document 4This memo, from a member of the Manhattan Engineer District, transmits information obtained by the MED from a "reliable source." That information concerned several of the French observers who attended the U.S. CROSSROAD nuclear test at Bikini - Capt. Henri Balande, Bertrand Goldschmidt, Andre Labarthe, and Frederic Joliot-Curie - as well as France's atomic energy plans.
  • Analysis: France's Atomic Energy Development, as Extracted from Joliot-Curie's Speech to the Committee on Atomic Energy

    GW Archive Document 5This summary and analysis of Joliot-Curie's speech covers a wide variety of topics - including, the origins of the French Atomic Energy Commission (High Commissariat for Atomic Energy), French knowledge of Soviet nuclear developments, Joliot-Curie's vision of cooperation with the smaller nations of Europe in the atomic energy field, the existence of uranium deposits in French colonies, nuclear-related facilities, and the need for secrecy concerning the nation's atomic energy developments.
  • Memo: Review of the French Atomic Energy Development

    GW Archive Document 6This memo, another prepared by the Manhattan Engineer District's London office, demonstrates the continued interest in developments in the French nuclear program. It reports on French geological survey activities conducted in France and its colonies related to minerals of interest to the French nuclear program, the High Commissariat for Atomic Energy's headquarters, and nuclear physics equipment in France. Attached is a breakdown of nuclear physics personnel associated with French universities.
  • Biographic Sketch of Francis Perrin, French High Commissioner of Atomic Energy

    GW Archive Document 7This one-page biographic sketch focuses on the Frederic Joliot-Curie's replacement as chairman of the French atomic energy commission. It focuses on the reasons for the delay in confirming Perrin, as well as the new chairman's personal, political, and professional history.
  • Memo: French AEC Personnel Changes and Appointments

    GW Archive Document 8The memo attached to the cover memorandum reports comments from an unidentified source concerning personnel changes in the French Atomic Energy Commission - commenting on the political beliefs of one individual who had been invited to join the AEC, and the likely role of another individual associated with the commission, and the replacement of the AEC's secretary-general.
  • Report: French Position on Disarmament May Be Shifting

    GW Archive Document 9The government of Guy Mollet, recently defeated in elections, had offered assurances that France would not seek to develop nuclear weapons if any early disarmament agreement. This brief report notes that pressures appeared to be mounting in France to develop a nuclear weapon - and notes the political forces pushing for such a weapon, and the factors behind nationalist pressures for a French atomic bomb.
  • Report: French Nuclear Weapons Program, Current Intelligence Weekly

    GW Archive Document 10In the first years after France had decided to develop a nuclear weapons capability, U.S. intelligence reported on French progress toward joining the nuclear club. This article reports on the assessment of France's capability to explode a nuclear device, possible preparations, the activities of an unidentified German scientist, and relevant statements by French officials.
  • Report: The French Nuclear Weapons Program

    GW Archive Document 11Despite suggestions a year earlier (Document 10) that France might soon test a nuclear weapon, no test had yet occurred at the time this scientific intelligence report was completed. The report's objective was to assess French capability to produce fissionable material (both highly enriched uranium and plutonium); to develop, test, and produce nuclear weapons; and to estimate the likely timing of the first test.
  • Article: The French Nuclear Energy Program, Current Intelligence Weekly

    GW Archive Document 12This four-page article reviews some of the history of French atomic energy efforts, the nation's "peaceful uses" program, the weapons program, weapons testing and plans, the relationship between the nuclear weapons program and foreign policy, and France's role in international nuclear activities and agreements. The weapon testing and plans section discusses the reasons for the then-recent delay in timing of the first French test and specifics of the planned test series.
  • Article: French Nuclear Test Plans, Current Intelligence Weekly

    GW Archive Document 13Published less than two weeks after France's first test on February 13, this article reports on the expectations concerning the specifics of the three devices that would make up the remainder of the initial test series, the role of the tests in development of an actual weapon, the impact of international protests on French plans to test underground, and France's disarmament plan.
  • Memo: Coverage of French Underground Tests

    GW Archive Document 14This memo reports on a meeting held in the office of the State Department's Special Assistant for Atomic Energy and Outer Space, following up on late July inquiry from the head of the Air Force Technical Applications Center. The subject under discussion was whether it would be possible to place three Atomic Energy Detection System (AEDS) stations in areas close to Algeria, in order to cover French nuclear tests expected to take place from October 1961 through March 1962. The participants discuss
  • Letter from Howard Furnas to head of AFTAC

    GW Archive Document 15This letter from State Department official Howard Furnas to the head of AFTAC, General Rodenhauser, reports on the conclusions reached as a result of considering the feasibility of placing AEDS stations close to Algeria. It explains why Mail and Niger are not feasible alternatives, and why Libya is a possibility. It goes on to note that the State Department was in the process of evaluating the foreign policy implications of the proposal.
  • Article: France May Reassess Nuclear Force, Current Intelligence Weekly

    GW Archive Document 16According to this article, technical difficulties and rising costs might be forcing France to take a harder look at its program to develop an independent nuclear deterrent. While France remained committed to having its own force, the article reported that there were indications that, in order to obtain technological assistance, it might be looking for ways to reduce its differences with the Western Alliance.
  • Report: The French Nuclear Strike Force Program

    GW Archive Document 17Several aspects of France's nuclear strike program are examined in this report - the program's goals, the Mirage IV aircraft (at the time France's only means of delivery nuclear warheads), the program to develop a ballistic missile-launching submarine, warhead development, and the competition for resources.
  • Memo: Proposed Operation of U-2 Aircraft from Aircraft Carrier

    GW Archive Document 18In 1963 the CIA initiated an effort to modify some U-2 aircraft to allow them to take off and land on aircraft carriers - which would allow some U-2 flights to be conducted without obtaining foreign basing rights, and could move the planes into position to conduct overflights of targets that might not be easily reachable if launched from bases on land, even if basing rights could be obtained. The only two operational U-2 overflights launched from a carrier, in 1966, would overfly the new French
  • NIE: The French Nuclear Weapons Program

    GW Archive Document 19This estimate, coordinated among all relevant intelligence community organizations, focuses on three topics related to the French nuclear weapons program - current status and future development (with regard to both nuclear weapons and delivery systems), the cost and burden to the French economy, and political considerations (including President Charles de Gaulle's justification for an independent French program, European support for de Gaulle's program, and French reaction to a treaty banning at
  • Study: The French Nuclear Weapon Program

    GW Archive Document 20Produced by the CIA Directorate of Science and Technology's scientific intelligence component, this study devotes more attention to technical issues concerning the French nuclear weapons program than the 1963 special national estimate. In assessing the available resources, production capacity, and testing facilities of the French program, the study examines the availability of raw materials, research facilities and their missions, production of fissile ("special") material, and nuclear weapons t
  • Memo: SNIE, The French Nuclear Weapons Program

    GW Archive Document 21In SNIE 22-2-63 (Document 19) the Intelligence Community estimated that France was probably not planning to develop a land-based intermediate range ballistic missile as a nuclear delivery vehicle. This memorandum was prepared in response to the acquisition of information that drastically altered that conclusion.
  • Study: French Development of Nuclear Weapons Delivery Systems

    GW Archive Document 22This study was written to evaluate the "probable nature, effectiveness, and timing of the various French nuclear weapons delivery systems." It examines the characteristics and capabilities of the Mirage IV supersonic bomber, the planned ballistic missile submarine, and the land-based intermediate range ballistic missile system. An appendix on ballistic missile research and development in France discusses the organizations involved, depicts potential locations for IRBM sites, and technical consid
  • NIE: The French Advanced Weapons Program

    GW Archive Document 23A key conclusion of this estimate was that before the end of 1964, the French would begin a series of underground tests in the Sahara aimed at developing thermonuclear techniques. Other key conclusions concerned the Mirage IV, the French submarine missile force, and the cost of the program. The estimate's discussion section addresses problems and prospects of the French advanced weapons program with regard to the production of fissile material, the construction of new test facilities in the Paci
  • U-2 Aircraft Carrier Operation: Project "Whale Tale"

    GW Archive Document 24This document describes the early history of the program to operate U-2 aircraft off carriers - which would be used to overfly the French Pacific Nuclear Test Center - the approval of the program, as well as pilot training and suitability tests.
  • The French Pacific Nuclear Test Center

    GW Archive Document 25Political pressure first forced France to moves its Algerian tests underground. Algerian independence then forced France to find a new test site. After consideration of a number of sites, two sites in the Pacific were selected - Mururoa and Fangataufa. This study reports on the ongoing construction effort, scheduled to be completed in early 1966, as well as past French nuclear tests, the decision process to select a new test site, organization of the French testing program, test schedules, and t
  • CINCPAC Command History

    GW Archive Document 26This extract provides details of one element of the U.S. intelligence collection efforts directed against French nuclear tests in the Pacific - the one that employed USNS Wheeling (codenamed POCK MARK).
  • Current Intelligence Bulletin: France

    GW Archive Document 27This short item in the CIB tries to provide readers with a preview of the French nuclear tests for 1973. The portion of the item that was not redacted specifies the expected number and type of detonations, the protests that had taken place, and French determination to proceed irrespective of international pressure.
  • SAC Reconnaissance History, January 1968-June 1971

    GW Archive Document 28This extract focuses on one part of the aerial element of the U.S. collection effort against the French program - operation BURNING LIGHT. The operation involved use of two KC-135R aircraft, whose primary sensors measured and recorded the electromagnetic pulses generated by a nuclear detonation. The extract provides data on the number of BURNING LIGHT flights in 1968 and 1970. It also notes the role National Security Agency intercepts played in providing advance notification of tests - allowing
  • History of SAC Reconnaissance Operations, FY 1974

    GW Archive Document 29This extract provides information about BURNING LIGHT monitoring of French nuclear tests during the 1974 fiscal year. In addition, it discusses the role played by the USNS Huntsville in monitoring the same tests.
  • Study: French Nuclear Reactor Fuel Reprocessing Program

    GW Archive Document 30This study primarily concerns French reprocessing for commercial purposes, but does contain a section on the production of plutonium for weapons use (p.2) and discusses government policy on the proliferation aspects of reprocessing (p.12).
  • Study: French Underground Testing: Environmentally Safe and Likely to Continue

    GW Archive Document 31This lightly-redacted, brief study, was produced in the wake of protests that claimed that French testing in the Pacific had resulted in Mururoa Atoll breaking apart and leaking large amounts of radioactive debris into the environment. The conclusion reached by the CIA, as indicated by the title, was quite different. After presenting that and other key judgments, the study examines the geology of Mururoa Atoll, normal containment practice, the current status of Mururoa Atoll, and the environment
  • Study: French Nuclear Strategy and Nuclear Forces: An Update

    GW Archive Document 32Two portions of this study remain after the removal of classified information - an overview of how French nuclear doctrine evolved in response to concerns about different aspects of Soviet military capabilities, as well as brief discussion of the shift in expenditures from French conventional forces toward nuclear ones.