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Witnessing the test explosion


Oppenheimer's suggestion, and a test being planned
Edward Teller Scientist
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Oppenheimer said we must use the bomb, we could not demonstrate. He knew much more about it than Compton or Lawrence and Fermi wouldn't talk. So the unanimous recommendation of the four people was to go ahead and use the bomb. Quite possibly that was the right thing to do. It cost the lives of many people, but the war going on for even another month would have cost more lives. I have no definite opinion on that, but there is one circumstance which in retrospect continues to bother me: these discussions, exchanges, occurred throughout June 1945. Early morning July 15th we were to try out one of the plutonium bombs. Those could be produced one every few weeks, maybe three months - we already had two of them - we could try out one. And so we planned to do it.

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: 2 minutes, 2 seconds

Date story recorded: June 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008