How two students built an A-bomb… It’s one of the burning questions of the moment: how easy would it be for a country with no nuclear expertise to build an A-bomb? Forty years ago in a top-secret project, the US military set about finding out. Oliver Burkeman talks to the men who solved the nuclear puzzle in just 30 months.
…the two amateurs were ironically aided by information published as part of President Dwight Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” program, which spread word of the benefits of non-military nuclear power around the world. And Atoms for Peace was only the most prominent example of a fad for everything nuclear that propelled a huge amount of technical detail into the public domain.
Eventually, towards the end of 1966, two and a half years after they began, they were finished. “We produced a short document that described precisely, in engineering terms, what we proposed to build and what materials were involved,” says Selden. “The whole works, in great detail, so that this thing could have been made by Joe’s Machine Shop downtown.”