Nuclear weapons

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Interview dates
September 9, September 25, October 9, October 19, November 3, November 9, November 23, November 30, December 7, and December 14, 2020
Location
Video conference
Abstract

In this interview, Ernest Moniz, Emeritus Professor and Special Adviser to the President of MIT, discusses his time as U.S. Secretary of Energy under Barack Obama. Moniz discusses his time as an undergraduate at Boston College working under Joe Chen and their efforts building a resonant cavity. He speaks about his experience as a graduate student at Stanford University working Dirk Walecka on the study of theoretical condensed matter physics and how it led to his eventual publishing of a paper about using a modified fermi gas to understand deep inelastic scattering. Moniz describes his time working in Washington with the Office of Science and Technology Policy and how the OSTP became marginalized under the George W. Bush and Trump Administrations. He discusses the Wen Ho Lee scandal and subsequent development of the National Nuclear Security Administration and how it has evolved throughout the years. Moniz talks about his partnership with John Deutch at MIT on a policy-oriented study of the future of nuclear power which eventually became known as the series, The Future of... He details his time working in the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology during the Obama Administration and his eventual role as the Secretary of Energy. Moniz Discusses the development of the Iran Nuclear Deal and the cooperation of the countries involved, as well as how the U. S’s relationship with Iran has changed over the years. He reflects on how the Trump Administration undid several Obama era initiatives pertaining to energy and climate and the lasting impacts of those actions. He also discusses becoming an advisor to Saudi Arabia and the planned mega-city of the Tabuk region. Lastly, Moniz reflects upon the challenges the Biden Administration may face moving towards a more decarbonized energy future.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview dates
January 30, February 6, 13, 20 & 27, 2021
Location
Video conference
Abstract

In this interview Dr. Kenneth Watson, Dr. Richard Garwin, Dr. Curtis Callan, and Dr. Roy Schwitters participate in a roundtable discussion on the origins and early history of the JASON scientific advisory group. Watson, an emeritus from University of California San Diego Scripps Institution of Oceanography, discusses the early efforts of Charles Townes and Marvin Stern in forming JASON. Garwin, IBM Fellow Emeritus at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Laboratory of IBM, reflects upon IDA, the management organization that allowed for the formation of the JASON group. Callan, Professor of Physics at Princeton University, discusses the Charney Report and the sponsorship of Ari Patrinos of the Department of Energy, and his relationship with JASON. Schwitters, Regents Professor Emeritus from University of Texas Austin, and Garwin detail JASON’s 1980 report on tunnel detection. The group reflects upon the launch of Sputnik in 1957, and how it added urgency to the creation of JASON. Watson and Garwin discuss the early agenda of JASON and their focus on detection of missile launches, nuclear effects, and Nick Christofilos work with particle beam weapons. They discuss the involvement of JASON in the Vietnam War effort and how some members were targeted by protestors for their involvement. Watson and Schwitters reflect on the presence of Claire Max and the time it took to get more women involved in JASON in face of the traditional “boys club” atmosphere that was present in professional circles at the time. Garwin speaks about the development of the sonic boom report. Callen talks about his study on neutrino detection and the purpose of JASON in a post-Cold War era. He also discusses JASONs work on CHAMMP, Computer Hardware, Advanced Mathematics and Model Physics. The group describes the Human Genome project of the late 1990s. Schwitters and Garwin discuss how JASON can offer independent judgment in ways U.S. Intelligence agencies cannot, such as in 2009 when they were commissioned to study North Korean nuclear capability. Lastly, Watson speaks about how he believes GPS will become an important issue of study for JASON in the future, a point which is furthered by Garwin who also cites cybersecurity in general as a main focal point for JASON moving forward.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Ambassador C. Paul Robinson, retired as President of Sandia Corporation. He discusses his advisory work since retirement, and the various ways he has remained connected to Sandia. He recounts his childhood in Memphis and his early interests in physics, and he describes the opportunities that led to his graduate research at Florida State University. Robinson describes his thesis work under the direction of Robert H. Davis, who headed the nuclear accelerator laboratory, where he worked on alpha particle scattering on Calcium 40. He describes his interest in pursuing postgraduate work at Los Alamos, and he explains how the academic and the national security sides of the Lab worked to mutual benefit. He describes the Lab’s early work in internal fusion and laser-induced chemistry, and his steadily rising responsibilities at the Lab, including that for the design and certification of nuclear weapons. Robinson discusses his work on nuclear strategy and policy, and he explains the difference between mutually assured destruction and maintaining a second-strike capability. He explains his decision to leave Los Alamos in 1985, and the circumstances leading to him becoming Head of the US Delegation and Ambassador and Chief Negotiator during nuclear testing talks with the Soviet Union. Robinson discusses how the end of the Cold War reformulated U.S. nuclear weapons policy, and the circumstances that led to him joining Sandia. He conveys his pride in Sandia’s leadership work on technology transfer and applying supercomputing toward energy security. At the end of the interview, Robinson reflects on what he has learned in his career in U.S. national security policy, and he speculates on the threats the U.S. faces in an uncertain future.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Remote Interview
Abstract

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP interviews Siegfried Hecker, Professor Emeritus with the Department of Management Science and Engineering, and Senior Fellow, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Security and Cooperation, at Stanford University. Hecker recounts his family background as the child of ethnic Austrian and German parents who lived in Bosnia at the outbreak of World War II. He describes his family’s ordeal during the war and the circumstances surrounding his mother’s decision to move the family to the United States. Hecker recounts his experiences growing up in Cleveland and his decision to attend Case Tech for his undergraduate education. He explains his decision to switch his focus from physics to metallurgy, his formative summer at Los Alamos Lab before returning to Case for his Ph.D. work, and his decision to return to Los Alamos for postdoctoral research in metallurgy and elastic to plastic transitions. He describes his work at the General Motors Research Lab and his decision to return once again to Los Alamos, where he was assured he could focus on science and not management issues. Hecker explains how he became more involved in plutonium research and the various national security implications of this work. He describes his rise in the ranks at Los Alamos and how he became involved in national policy decisions in Washington. Hecker recounts the circumstances leading to being named director of Los Alamos, and he reflects on the challenges and opportunities he saw to improve the lab in this position. He provides an overview of nuclear weapons policy at the end of the Cold War and the renaissance in plutonium research in the 1990s. Hecker reflects on his decision to join the faculty at Stanford, and why he wanted to pursue matters of international security studies, and he describes his record of advisory work on nuclear verification in North Korea and elsewhere. At the end of the interview, Hecker describes his ongoing interest and research in metallurgy, and he reflects on how these interests bring him back full circle to the origins of his career. 

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Mary Elizabeth (MaryBeth) Beerbohm, longtime secretary to Pief Panofsky at SLAC. Beerbohm recounts her childhood in northern Minnesota and she explains how her training in shorthand during high school helped her get a job at SLAC. She describes the origins of “Project M,” and she discusses Panofsky’s daily schedule, his work style, and his management techniques. Beerbohm describes how Panofsky made SLAC feel like a family atmosphere, and as a “good Democrat,” Beerbohm humorously wonders what Panosfky would have thought of Trump. She relates Panofsky’s ideas about nuclear weapons and the Cold War and that his commitment to the Lab remained strong throughout his retirement. At the end of the interview, Beerbohm reflects on her long career at SLAC, and she credits Panofsky for making it both an exciting and meaningful place to work.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
video conference
Abstract

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Richard Garwin. AIP has several interviews with Garwin already on record; the discussion here focuses on Garwin’s interest and work in recent years. Garwin describes his involvement in pandemic research generally and the Covid-19 crisis specifically. He discusses his involvement in advising on bioterrorism, and he reflects on the import of his research in the realm of national policy. Garwin describes the strength of the United States today in the world arena relative to earlier parts of his career, and he describes his involvement in the creation of the hydrogen bomb. He discusses the current status of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile, and he discusses the prospects for ongoing nuclear security in the face of threats from Iran and other U.S. adversaries. Garwin offers his views on the ongoing threats from climate change and terrorism and the challenges facing America’s energy future. He describes his work for the JASON national security advisory work, and he reflects on some of the individuals that he considers heroes. At the end of the interview, Garwin reflects on the singular genius of Feynman, and he reflects on the life of his wife, Lois, who died in 2018.

Interviewed by
Dan Ford
Interview dates
July 2004
Location
La Jolla, California
Abstract

In this interview Herbert York discusses topics such as: Richard Garwin, Edward Teller, hydrogen bomb, Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, nuclear weapons, Antiballistic Missiles (ABM), JASON, President's Science Advisory Committee (PSAC), Permissive Action Links (PAL), command and control system, Harold Brown, satellites, global positioning system (GPS), nuclear test ban treaty. York's wife, Sybil York, occasionally participates in the interview as well.This interview is part of a collection of interviews on the life and work of Richard Garwin. To see all associated interviews, click here.

Interviewed by
Dan Ford
Interview dates
December 2004
Abstract

In this interview Carl Kaysen discusses topics such as: Richard Garwin, President's Science Advisory Committee (PSAC), John F. Kennedy, science policy, STARFISH,  Jerome Wiesner, Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP), nuclear weapons.This interview is part of a collection of interviews on the life and work of Richard Garwin. To see all associated interviews, click here.

Interviewed by
Dan Ford
Interview date
Location
La Jolla, California
Abstract

In this interview Richard Garwin discusses topics such as: hydrogen bombs,  Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, Enrico Fermi, nuclear weapons, uranium enrichment, nuclear reactions, Edward Teller, thermonuclear burning, Greenhouse George, Stanislaw Ulam, Soviet Union, Richard Rhodes, Marshall Rosenbluth, International Business Machines (IBM), IBM Watson Scientific Computing Laboratory, Project Lamplight.This interview is part of a collection of interviews on the life and work of Richard Garwin. To see all associated interviews, click here.

Interviewed by
Dan Ford
Interview date
Location
Solana Beach, California
Abstract

In this interview Harold Agnew discusses topics such as: Richard Garwin, University of Chicago, Enrico Fermi, Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, nuclear weapons, IBM.This interview is part of a collection of interviews on the life and work of Richard Garwin. To see all associated interviews, click here.