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pean situation—the world situation—we couldn't be sure we'd succeed. In the end we did. But we couldn't take risks with British security in the meantime.
The decision was publicly announced in the House of Commons on 12 May 1948 by the Minister of Defence, Albert Alexander, albeit in an oblique answer to a pre-arranged question from George Jeger, a Labour Party backbencher. D notice No. 25 prohibited the publication of details on the design, construction or location of atomic weapons. The project was hidden under the cover name "Basic High Explosive Research". "Basic" was soon dropped and it became simply "High Explosive Research" (HER).
There was no known alternative fuel for nuclear reactors other than uranium, so securing an adequate supply was crucial to the British atomic energy programme. During the war, Britain took the lead in reopening the world's richest uranium mine, the Shinkolobwe mine in the Belgian Congo, which had been flooded and closed, as 30 per cent of the stock in Union Minière du Haut Katanga, the company that owned the mine, was controlled by British interests. In May 1944, Sir John Anderson and US Ambassador John Winant negotiated a deal with the Belgian government in exile and Edgar Sengier, the director of Union Minière, for the mine to be reopened and 1,720 long tons (1,750 t) of ore to be purchased at $1.45 a pound. American and British leaders concluded that it was in their best interest to gain control of as much of the world's uranium deposits as possible. The Combined Development Trust was established for this purpose on 14 June 1944. It consisted of three American, two British and one Canadian members, with an American, initially Groves, as chairman. By the end of the war, it had control of 97 per cent of the world's uranium and 65 per cent of the thorium.
Uranophane in malachite specimen from the Shinkolobwe mine
During the war, all the uranium from the Congo had gone to the United States, as had that captured in Europe by the Alsos Mission, even though some of it passed through British hands. The entire output of the Shinkolobwe mine was contracted to the Combined Development Trust until 1956, but in March 1946 there were fears that the mine might be exhausted in 1947, resulting in a severe uranium shortage. After some negotiation, Groves and Chadwick agreed on a division of uranium ore production, with everything up to March 1946 going to the United States, and supplies being shared equally thereafter. At the Combined Policy Committee meeting on 31 July 1946, the financial arrangements were adjusted. Previously, the two countries had split the costs equally; henceforth each would only pay for what they actually received. Britain was therefore able to secure the uranium it needed without having to outbid the United States, and paid for it in sterling. Meanwhile, because the adjustm