US planned nuclear no-man’s land
By Lee Tae-hoon
The United States considered creating a no man’s land with radioactive nuclear waste halfway across the Korean Peninsula in the early 1950s in an attempt to deter communist aggression, according to a declassified intelligence document.
The memorandum titled “Radiological Warfare” and created on April 20, 1951 by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), confirms allegations that the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) reviewed the option of placing radiological agents on a strip of land across the peninsula.
Cryptome, a whistleblower site dedicated to exposing confidential information, posted the sensitive document on its website on Aug. 5.
U.S. media outlets, including the New York Times, alleged in early 1951 that Albert Gore Sr., a state legislator, urged President Harry S. Truman to use radioactive materials to create a belt of territory across Korea that would be unable to support life in the midst of the 1950-53 Korean War.
The FBI report discloses that the AEC examined the possibilities of creating such a belt across the peninsula with radioactive material as Gore suggested to hamper the Communists from marching further toward the South.
“While discussing other matters with Dr. Paul McDaniel of the Atomic Energy Commission, he brought this subject up with Agent Bates of the Liaison Section,” the report says.
“Dr. McDaniel pointed out that a commission, set up in 1948 to examine the possibilities of using radiological warfare in such a manner, as outlined by Representative Gore, had furnished their final report to the Atomic Energy Commission on April 11.”
The FBI document states that the U.S. commission’s report concluded that it was possible for an area to be completely "dehumanized" by periodically laying down radioactive nuclear waste, but it advised the U.S. government not to adopt the “cataclysmic” method.
“It would mean greatly curtailing the present production of plutonium in order to produce the necessary radiological agents,” the declassified dossier said, noting that the AEC assessed that it had insufficient waste material for such a program.
“Under the present AEC facilities and proposed facilities, there is no provision for the production of such agents. Research would have to be done to develop a radiological agent of sufficient strength to last long enough to be effective.”
Gore’s proposal would have required poisoning a strip up some 170 kilometers in length and several kilometers in width to be effective.
Nevertheless, the FBI document showed that the U.S. commission pointed out that the use of radiological agents should not be completely ruled out and should be kept in mind for future discussions.
The former Tennessee Democrat reportedly said, “The inhabitants of the area should be removed first and the Communists warned in advance that entry into the area would mean certain death and slow deformity and that all weapons, food clothing and vehicles would become poisoned.”