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S.1717, A Bill for the development and control of atomic energy (Atomic Energy Act), December 20, 1945

The Atomic Energy Act prescribed how the United States would manage and regulate nuclear technology developed during the war. Congress determined that atomic weapon development and oversight of atomic energy research belonged under civilian, rather than military control. The Atomic Energy Act transferred authority over the country’s nuclear program from the military to an Atomic Energy Commission, a five-member civilian board.

Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives and Records Administration

S.1717 - Image 1 S.1717 - Image 2

Regulating Nuclear Technology

The United States ended the war in the Pacific by dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in August 1945, killing more than 100,000 Japanese civilians and demonstrating the devastating power of these new weapons. Neither Congress nor the public understood the terrifying capabilities of atomic weapons prior to August 1945, as development of the bomb had been shrouded in secrecy. Shortly thereafter, Congress debated how to meet the unprecedented political, social, and economic issues precipitated by the revolutionary development of the atomic bomb and nuclear technology.

Atomic power must be controlled to prevent a push-button war.

Representative Helen Gahagan Douglas of California, Press Release, 1945