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The first major success at Livermore (Part 2)


The first major success at Livermore (Part 1)
Edward Teller Scientist
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Now having told you about the first difficulties we had in Livermore, I would like to mention to you the first real success. It was connected with the activities of a remarkable man in the Navy, a man who incidentally was not appreciated by the Navy, at least not originally. The name is Rickover, I met him first in Los Alamos. He came to me and introduced himself- I am Captain Rickover. I am a dope. So, my eyebrows went up slightly and he says- Yes. I'm a dope. Here are the papers to prove it. I took a course in nuclear engineering and I am a Doctor Of Pile Engineering, DOPE for short, and I am planning submarine reactors, reactors for submarines which will allow the submarines to run practically without refueling, practically for ever. He died many years later as a famous Admiral Rickover and the submarines that he introduced have become extremely important. What had Livermore to do with it? A very few years later in the late '50s, the Navy called a conference in Massachusetts somewhere, the name of the place, I don't know why, or the name of the conference was Nobska. - Can you put rockets carrying nuclear explosives on these submarines? I headed a little group from Livermore and the head of the physics department; another little group from Los Alamos and we found ourselves with very complete lack of unanimity because we Livermorians said it could be done, Los Alamos said it could not. Having argued in this vague and inconclusive fashion for a while, the man chairing the meeting, I forget his name, asked me- You said it can be done. How much time? How much money? What weight? What yield? Of course I did not know. I did not talk about something that was done, I talked about something that I guessed could be done. So I gave him my guesses.

The late Hungarian-American physicist Edward Teller helped to develop the atomic bomb and provided the theoretical framework for the hydrogen bomb. During his long and sometimes controversial career he was a staunch advocate of nuclear power and also of a strong defence policy, calling for the development of advanced thermonuclear weapons.

Listeners: John H. Nuckolls

John H. Nuckolls was Director of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory from 1988 to 1994. He joined the Laboratory in 1955, 3 years after its establishment, with a masters degree in physics from Columbia. He rose to become the Laboratory's Associate Director for Physics before his appointment as Director in 1988.

Nuckolls, a laser fusion and nuclear weapons physicist, helped pioneer the use of computers to understand and simulate physics phenomena at extremes of temperature, density and short time scales. He is internationally recognised for his work in the development and control of nuclear explosions and as a pioneer in the development of laser fusion.

Duration: 4 minutes, 16 seconds

Date story recorded: June 1996

Date story went live: 29 September 2010