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Fermi and Wigner using false names for security reasons


More powerful reactors designed by Wigner in Hanford
Edward Teller Scientist
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The first reactor was produced at a remarkably early time, end of 1942, by Fermi and his collaborators. But in the meantime others, including particularly Wigner, and people working with him, scaled up that reactor into much more powerful reactors that were set up in Hanford, Washington. Remarkably enough, and in a way contrary to usual practice, set up at the minimum of experimental experience and a maximum of theoretical calculation. And the reactors worked. They almost worked. It turned out that they worked and then the reactor got shut down and they started to s- get it going again and it would not get going. That was unexpected and unexplained.

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: 1 minute, 20 seconds

Date story recorded: June 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008