Memoirs: A Twentieth-Century Journey in Science and Politics

By Edward Teller; Judith L. Shoolery | Go to book overview

28
THE NEW
WHEEL SPINS A BIT
1952—1954

EARLY IN THE summer of 1952, Mici, the children, and I had moved into a rental house on Alameda Avenue in the small community of Diablo, located at the foot of Mount Diablo in Contra Costa County. Until the laboratory was formally established, I worked at the Radiation Laboratory in Berkeley, where Ernest had made space for us. Planning went on throughout the summer.

At one point, Herb York showed me an organizational plan for the new laboratory that included groups to work on weapons tests, on computing, on the materials testing accelerator (MTA), on theoretical physics, and on controlled fusion—everything but a weapons design group. As I had been saying for months, the only reason important enough for me to leave my friends and my professional interests in Chicago was to work in a weapons research group that would provide friendly competition to Los Alamos.

When I asked why there was no weapons design group, Herb said that work on the hydrogen bomb was well underway at Los Alamos, therefore the main effort at Livermore should be given to research on controlled fusion. I liked our young director, and I knew he wanted to do well in his job. I did not want to upset him, but I was opposed to his plan. Without a program to develop the new possibilities of thermonuclear weapons, I could see no pressing need for a second laboratory.

Herb York wanted Livermore to become the lead laboratory in the effort on controlled fusion, a much less controversial program politically than weapons research. In contrast to fission reactors, a controlled-fusion reactor would release nuclear energy from relatively inexpensive fuel with comparatively little associated radioactivity. The project was important; but because

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