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Oppenheimer's suggestion, and a test being planned


Questions of using the bomb
Edward Teller Scientist
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Well, I must confess that I did not give very serious thought to the problem before that, but I liked it. It was impossible to do anything about that without asking Oppenheimer. So I did, and Oppenheimer was very determined on that point- What does Szilárd, and for that matter what does James Franck, who was in that with Szilárd- what do they know about the Japanese? About how possibilities of peace work? We should do nothing about that. Here is something that in retrospect I regret. The whole question of using the atomic bomb actually was something that bothered me and it either bothered me too much or not enough. I did not think about it in a sufficiently serious manner. I did not say to Oppenheimer what I should have said- It may not be our business to determine how to use the atomic bomb. It is our business to discuss and present the alternatives: if it is not used, how can it be demonstrated and how effectively it can be demonstrated. Perhaps I should have said that. I didn't. Oppenheimer persuaded me not to sign and I wrote a letter in that sense to Szilárd. Later I found out that Washington did ask the leading physicists for advice. In the chair: Oppenheimer.

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: 3 minutes, 1 second

Date story recorded: June 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008