Conscience, Science and Security: The Case of Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer

Conscience, Science and Security: The Case of Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer

Conscience, Science and Security: The Case of Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer

Conscience, Science and Security: The Case of Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer

Excerpt

THE STATEMENT OF CHARGES MADE BY GENERALNICHOLS, THE GENERAL Manager of the A.E.C., against Oppenheimer included his opposition to, and influence on, the development of the H-bomb. A large part of the Hearings was devoted to this issue. The G.A.C. opposed the crash program for the "super" in 1949 shortly after the announcement that the Russians had exploded an A-bomb. Oppenheimer gave his explanation of the G.A.C. report. (Ibid, pp. 76-83, 895-97.)

Was its opposition qualified as the A.E.C. understood it?]

OPPENHEIMER: The GAC record shows I think that there were some thermonuclear devices that we felt were feasible and sensible and encouraged. I believe this was in 1948. But that we made a technically disparaging remark about the super in 1948. This was the judgment we then had. I remember that . . .Dr. Teller had discussed with me the desirability of his going to Los Alamos and devoting himself to this problem. I encouraged him to do this. In fact, he later reminded me of that, that I encouraged him in strong terms to do it.

Now, the meeting on October 29. . . .

Prior to this meeting there had been no great expression of interest on the part of the military in more powerful weapons. The atomic bomb had of course been stepped up some, but we had not been pressed to push that development as fast as possible. There had been no suggestion that very large weapons would be very useful. The pressure was all the other way; get as many as you can.

We discussed General Bradley's analysis of the effects of the Russian explosion and what problems he faced and with the staff, of course.

Then we went into executive session. . . . We went around the table and everybody said what he thought the issues were that were involved. There was a surprising unanimity--to me very surprising--that the United States ought not to take the initiative at that time in an all out program for the development of thermonuclear weapons. . . .

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