Review: The National Labs: Science in an American System, 1947-1974
Historian Peter J. Westwick explores the inner workings of the USA's unique national labs system in his book, "The National Labs: Science in an American System, 1947-1974." This topic was the focus of his research while he was a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley. He traces the evolution of the labs from their origins as the developers of nuclear weapons, reactors, and other technologies of destruction to diversification into physical, biomedical, and other types of research. This lab system had a profound impact on the organization and substance of science in the United States during roughly the quarter century after World War II.
The nonlinear telling of history is sometimes difficult to follow because of the large cast of characters and program names. However, the book provides a well-documented, thorough analysis of the early years of the national labs and of the era of "Big Science." Westwick provides insight in the approach to funding scientific research at the labs. He shows that funding was often more of a political and marketing decision rather than one based on science and high-minded ideals.
Great science and engineering have taken place at the national laboratories in the past 55 years. Undoubtedly, better management of the system could have provided a better return on investment. This work is a fine addition to any collection of those who seek to understand the echoes of the Manhattan Project in today's scientific landscape.
A Physician's Diary of the Atomic Bombing and its Aftermath BookThe Peace Resource Center has been asked to distribute FREE copies of a new book, A Physician's Diary of the Atomic Bombing and its Aftermath, written by Raisuke Shirabe, MD, translated into English by Aloysius F. Kuo, MD, and edited by Fidelius R. Kuo. Dr. Shirabe began the diary on August 9, 1945, the day that an atomic bomb completely destroyed and burned the buildings of Nagasaki Medical University and killed approximately 900 faculty members, administrative staff and students, and it ends on October 26, 1945, with a clipping of a newspaper article reporting the re-establishment of Nagasaki Medical University. Dr. Shirabe kept the diary in order to record his experiences in the wake of the atomic bombing. The diary was donated by the Shirabe family to Nagasaki University School of Medicine on the occasion of the 50th Memorial Service for Medical University Atomic Bomb Victims held on August 9, 1995. The hardcover book contains reproductions of original drawings included in the diary, and photographs of Nagasaki after the bombing. To receive a copy, contact the PRC (email@example.com or 937/382-6661 ext. 371). A $5 donation to cover shipping & handling is suggested.
New Example Scenario: San FranciscoWe have added a new example scenario to the web site. It is based on an Ohio-class nuclear missile submarine colliding with a freighter in the fog, off the coast of San Francisco, half-way between Alcatraz Island and Fisherman's Wharf. One of the sub's missiles accidentally detonates in the collision.
Note: It is very unlikely that an accident like the one contemplated could actually happen. Great care is taken in the designing of these weapons systems specifically to prevent an accident from taking place. However, of all nations nuclear forces, the submarines are the most autonomous (have the fewest safety lockouts).
J. Robert Oppenheimer: And the American CenturyI have had the great pleasure to read an advanced copy of this new book by David Cassidy. It is scheduled to be published in September. We will be writting a review of the book once it is published. But if you know of his other fine works (like Uncertainty : The Life and Science of Werner Heisenberg), then you might not want to wait and pre-order it now from amazon.com.
Here is what some others are saying;
"A 'must read' for anyone interested in the development of the modern era of 'big science.' Cassidy skillfully brings to us a deep understanding of the character of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the leader of the Manhattan Project and one of the most complex and seemingly contradictory individuals of the twentieth-century."
--Gregory Tarle, Professor of Physics, University of Michigan
Reflections on Hiroshima and Nagasaki...John Coster-Mullen, historian and author of "Atom Bombs: The Top Secret Inside Story of Little Boy and Fat Man", recently spoke at an event at the USAF Museum. The title of his speech was "Enough!" can be read here.
Mr. Coster-Mullen makes an number of good points in speech. I have always had difficulty in those who apply the current level of destruction of today's nuclear weapons and consequences to that of 1945. How is the firebombing of Dresden and Tokyo different that the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? The atomic bombing is simply more efficent and will produce the same level of destruction with greater reliability. What has happened is the level of destruction of nuclear weapons and the amount of weapons has grown tremendously over the past 50+ years, and it is through the eyes of a people who now live in a world where humanity could be removed from the face of the earth that we judge those events in August.
Could the bombings have been avoided? Maybe, but what cost? That is an unanswerable question. The true message is that we as a planet never again use the tremendous power of nuclear weapons against one another. We do not have a time machine, we must accept the past, and remind ourselves to learn from it.
War is in any form is tragic. The site was founded to remind everyone of the past, the state of our nuclear existance, and hopefully toward a safer future.
Hanford reaches milestone in cleanup of tanksWorkers at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation yesterday celebrated the completion of a project to remove millions of gallons of liquid radioactive waste from old, leak-prone tanks.
State and federal officials called the achievement a major milestone in the decades-long cleanup of Hanford. [via Seattle Post-Intelligencer]
North Korea Rejects Nuclear TalksNorth Korea today rejected a new round of negotiations on its nuclear weapons programs, calling U.S. President George W. Bush a "bad guy" and "a tyrant that puts Hitler into the shade," Agence France-Presse reported.
In an unusually strong attack, a foreign ministry spokesman slammed Bush for calling North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il a tyrant during campaigning last Wednesday in Wisconsin.
The spokesman said hostile US policy would make it impossible for North Korea to attend six-nation working-level talks on the nuclear issue, which had been scheduled for August but have yet to materialise. [via Yahoo! News]
Iran delays start of first nuclear reactor until 2006Iran said Sunday that it would delay the start of its first nuclear reactor, in the southern city of Bushehr, until 2006, but that it intended to build more nuclear power plants with Russian aid.
Assadollah Sabouri, the deputy chief of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, who is in charge of the power plant project, said that the reactor would start seven months after the Russians hand over the keys, now expected to occur early in 2006. He said the reactor could then start by October 2006. Iran had hoped at one point that the reactor would start operating by the end of 2003. [via Nuclear Threat Initiative]
Preserving the Remains of the Manhattan ProjectThe Atomic Heritage Foundation submitted the final report to the Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration, "Preserving the Remains of the Manhattan Project," on August 3, 2004. This report presents preservation options for the remaining Manhattan Project properties, artifacts and other aspects of the era at Los Alamos, NM, Oak Ridge, TN, Hanford, WA, and the related research sites at the University of Chicago, Columbia University, and the University of California at Berkeley. [via Atomic Heritage Foundation]
U.S. Calls Iran Nuclear ThreatIranian negotiators told officials from France, Germany and the United Kingdom last month that Tehran could produce enough weapon-grade uranium for an atomic bomb within a year, U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton said yesterday.
"Iran's actions and statements do not bode well for the success of a negotiated approach to dealing with this issue," he said. "Iran's decision on July 29 to resume the construction and assembly of nuclear centrifuge parts domestically and remove the seals on material sealed by the IAEA is further cause for alarm," he added. [via Nuclear Threat Initiative]
Iran threatens to destroy Dimona nuclear reactorIran said Tuesday it would destroy the Dimona nuclear reactor if Israel were to attack Iran's nuclear facilities. A senior commander warned that Iranian missiles could reach Dimona.
"If Israel fires a missile into the Bushehr nuclear power plant, it has to say goodbye forever to its Dimona nuclear facility, where it produces and stockpiles nuclear weapons," said the deputy chief of the elite Revolutionary Guards, Brig. Gen. Mohammad Baqer Zolqadr, in a statement.
Israel has not threatened to attack the Bushehr reactor, but it has said it will not allow Iran to build a nuclear bomb. In 1981, Israeli fighter-bombers destroyed a nuclear reactor that was under construction outside Baghdad because it feared Iraq would acquire a nuclear weapon. [via Jerusalem Post]
6 universities' nuclear fuel is weapons-gradeThe University of Wisconsin's nuclear reactor is an unassuming little model, operated (on Tuesdays and Thursdays only) by students in T-shirts and shorts.
But its fuel is weapons-grade uranium. If it were stolen, experts say, it could give terrorists or criminals a major head start on an atomic bomb.
Five other university research reactors around the country also use weapons-grade fuel, even though the federal government has promised for more than two decades to reclaim the uranium and substitute a less-enriched variety.
"We have been on the list for conversion for at least 10 years," said Michael Corradini, director of the nuclear engineering program at the University of Wisconsin. "We've been waiting for funding from the Department of Energy."
The reactors at Wisconsin and the other universities - Oregon State, Washington State, Purdue, Texas A&M and the University of Florida - were first supplied with uranium during the Cold War as a spinoff of the government's Atoms for Peace program. [via San Deigo Union-Tribune]
Wired News: Nukes Still Take Toll on WorkersWorkers who toiled for the Department of Energy at nuclear weapons sites during the Cold War unknowingly faced a domestic enemy that continues to cause serious health problems -- beryllium.
The DOE is launching a nationwide initiative in October to bring critical information to hundreds of thousands of blue- and white-collar workers who were exposed to the metal at plants that produced nuclear weapons. Beryllium, which can cause potentially fatal lung diseases and cancers, is a light and strong metal used to make triggers and other nuclear warhead components. It continues to be used in a number of industries, including aerospace, computers and consumer electronics.[via Wired News]
Iran Uranium Traces Probably Came From PakistanInspectors at the International Atomic Energy Agency believe that traces of highly enriched uranium found in Iran likely came from Pakistan. "IAEA inspectors have reached a tentative conclusion that the contamination came from equipment provided by the nuclear smuggling network headed by Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan," according to the magazine, which quoted "sources close to the agency," Agence France-Presse reported.
"The confirmation was only possible after Islamabad gave the IAEA data to verify the uranium source and the U.S. provided a simulation of the Pakistani nuclear program that matched the account," the Jane's report adds.[via NTI: Global Security Newswire]
NagasakiThe mayor of Nagasaki urged the United States on Monday to help rid the world of nuclear weapons, 59 years to the day after a US plane dropped an atomic bomb over the Japanese city, effectively ending World War II. To learn more about the bombings of Nagasaki, visit our historical documents section on The Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The attack on the hilly port city on Kyushu island in southwest Japan killed 74,000 people and came just three days after the United States unleashed the world's first atomic bomb used in war on the city of Hiroshima. The intense heat, shock waves and ensuing fires completely destroyed all structures for two-and-a-half miles along the city's heavily built-up Urakami Valley. By the end of 1945, the number of dead from the initial blast plus those who succumbed to burns and radiation sickness was 74,000, or one third of the city's population, with another 75,000 injured.
The annual ceremony of commemoration began with a minute of silent prayer at 11:02 am, the exact time that the plutonium bomb was dropped above the city August 9, 1945.
4 dead in Japanese nuclear steam leakA nonradioactive steam leak killed four people and severely burned several others Monday at a nuclear power plant 200 miles west of Tokyo, news reports said. Takahiro Seno, a spokesman for Kansai Electric Power, said the plant automatically shut down. He said the accident occurred when steam spewed from a leak in the turbine building area at the No. 3 nuclear reactor run in Mihama.
Kansai Electric Power Co. officials said a lack of cooling water caused the accident, Kyodo News Agency reported. It said the steam was 518 degrees Fahrenheit. [via MSNBC]
Remembering HiroshimaToday marks the anniversary of the world's first atomic bomb attack. To learn more about the bombings of Hiroshima visit our historical documents section on The Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Hiroshima city added to a list - encased in a stone cenotaph - 5,142 names of those who have died from cancer and other long-term ailments over the past year, raising the toll to 237,062, city official Niroaki Narukawa said.
Among those added in recent years were seven American POWs who perished in the explosion. Some of those Americans were from the crews of three aircraft - two B-24 bombers and a Helldiver dive bomber - shot down near Hiroshima on July 28, 1945 after a raid on Japanese warships in nearby Kure. Others were prisoners who had been killed elsewhere in grisly experiments that the Japanese military apparently wanted to hide.
The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe. - Albert Einstein
Los Alamos National Laboratory has suspended four more employeesThe Los Alamos National Laboratory has suspended four more employees during its investigation into security violations at the research facility, laboratory Director Peter Nanos.
Nanos also said that he expected it would take an additional two months before all operations resumed at Los Alamos. The Energy Department ordered a halt to most operations in mid-July following the reported disappearance of two computer disks containing classified information. The investigation into the missing disks is set to wrap up this month, Nanos said, adding that disciplinary action would be taken against any employee found responsible. [via NTI: Global Security Newswire]
Plutonium particles from 1954 nuclear test accumulating in Japanese bayRadioactive plutonium particles from U.S. nuclear weapons tests in the Pacific some 50 years ago have been detected for the first time in Japanese waters, researchers said Monday.
The particles were found in soil samples from Sagami Bay, about 50 kilometers southwest of Tokyo, researchers at the National Institute of Radiological Science said. The plutonium particles matched the fallout from the blasts at the Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands, but they pose no environmental risk, said research team leader Masatoshi Yamada. [via CNEWS]