Washington, April 17, 1963.
NATIONAL SECURITY ACTION MEMORANDUM NO. 235
TO The Secretary of State The Secretary of Defense The Secretary of the Interior The Secretary of Commerce The Secretary of Agriculture The Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare The Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission The Administrator, National Aeronautics and Space Administration The Director, National Science Foundation The Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs The Special Assistant to the President for Science and Technology SUBJECT Large-Scale Scientific or Technological Experiments with Possible Adverse Environmental EffectsI have approved the following policy guides governing the conduct of large-scale scientific or technological experiments that might have significant or protracted effects on the physical or biological environment. Experiments which by their nature could result in domestic or foreign allegations that they might have such effects will be included in this category even though the sponsoring agency feels confident that such allegations would in fact prove to be unfounded.
1. The head of any agency that proposes to undertake a large-scale scientific or technological experiment that might have significant or protracted effects on the physical or biological environment will call such proposals to the attention of the Special Assistant to the President for Science and Technology. Notification of such experiments will be given sufficiently in advance that they may be modified, postponed, or cancelled, if such action is judged necessary in the national interest.
2. In support of proposals for such experiments, the sponsoring agency will prepare for the Special Assistant for Science and Technology a detailed evaluation of the importance of the particular experiment and the possible direct or indirect effects that might be associated with it.
3. The Special Assistant for Science and Technology will review the proposals and supporting materials presented by the sponsoring agency in order to assure that the need for the experiment has been properly weighed against possible adverse environmental effects.
4. On the basis of this review, the Special Assistant for Science and Technology will recommend to me what action should be taken on the proposed experiment. If the Special Assistant judges that inadequate information is available on which to make a judgment, he may request that additional studies be undertaken by the sponsoring agency or he may undertake an independent study of the problem.
5. Any experiment that may involve significant or protracted adverse effects will not be conducted without my prior approval.
6. In the case of experiments (such as atmospheric nuclear tests) that have major national security implications, the head of the sponsoring agency will notify the Special Assistant for National Security Affairs as well as the Special Assistant for Science and Technology and will supply both with an evaluation of the importance of the particular experiment and the possible direct or indirect effects that might be associated with it. The Special Assistant for National Security Affairs will determine on an individual case basis the procedure to be followed in reviewing these experiments in order to assure that the need for the experiment has been properly weighed against possible adverse environmental effects.
7. To the extent that it is consistent with national security and subsequent to approval, there should be early and widespread dissemination of public information explaining experiments of this type.
8. While the final decision to conduct such experiments must continue to reside with the government, the National Academy of Sciences and where appropriate international scientific bodies or intergovernmental organizations may be consulted in the case of those experiments that might have adverse environmental effects beyond the U.S. Recommendation on the advisability of this course of action will be made by the Special Assistant for Science and Technology in consultation with the sponsoring agency and the State Department.
John F. Kennedy