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Talking to Chadwick about General Groves (Part 1)


Ideas for the hydrogen bomb
Edward Teller Scientist
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In the meantime I had left Los Alamos, but I did not forget about it. I went back to a conference which closed off, supposed to close off, and said it closed off research on the hydrogen bomb. That kind of research, which was supposed to get thermonuclear reactions very fast before too much radiation could be emitted. The conference thought that this would work, but I kept to think of modifications. One of them looked particularly simple, in which there was equilibrium between the thermonuclear reaction and fission and in which some light elements, like lithium, was also involved. Some thermonuclear reactions originating from the light elements which did not give much energy, but which gave rapidly a great number of- of added neutrons. This kind of thing, either with the light elements or otherwise, we called a Booster and was generally accepted and tried out. Another one was, a big and clumsy subject- substance, where again with the help of light elements you could get a lot of yield. We called it the Alarm Clock, because we said that would wake up people to the fact that new things can be done. It was a great secret at that time. We never tried it out. It turned out that the Soviets thought of very similar things and their first attempts were in that direction.

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, 30 seconds

Date story recorded: June 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008