by Virgina Mill & Robert Carl Cohen
The Fight For An A-Bomb Test Ban

COHEN: Is there any theoretical limit to the size of the H-Bomb?

PAULING:  No, and it doesn't cost very much.  I estimate that for $8,000 you could make a 20 megaton bomb after you have a basic plutonium nucleus.  Another $8,000 would make it into a 40 megaton bomb, and another $8,000 would make it into an 80 megaton bomb, and you can keep on going.  For a million dollars you could make a bomb that could, well, I won't say what it could do.

COHEN:  Could a country to which we gave, let's say, some small fission bombs be capable of changing them into giant super bombs?

PAULING:  Yes, it could.  One thing that bothers me is that a nation that got its hands on some small atomic bombs could convert them into super hydrogen bombs very simply.  This is the danger of giving even small atomic bombs to the Germans, let's say, or to the Japanese, or to any other nation.  I'm absolutely opposed to the proposal which Senator Dodd makes: that we immediately turn over atomic bombs to our NATO allies.

COHEN:  If Hitler had had one plutonium bomb, even a Hiroshima type bomb, could he have converted it into a major hydrogen weapon?

PAULING:  Well, it wasn't known how then, but if we had a present day Hitler by adding only $21,000 worth of lithium deutride and uranium metal he could make a bomb that would destroy New York.
      You'd have to have pretty good scientists.  Dictator Trujillo couldn't because there's nobody in the Dominican Republic who could do this, but there are lots of other places where it could be done.  For example: Israel, with two million people, has lots of scientists who are very good and could make a super bomb out of an ordinary atomic weapon.

MILL:  Is there some danger of nuclear accidents, of an atomic bomb being set off by an irresponsible person or because of an accident?

PAULING:  Yes, there is.  Truly, there is.  You know I think that the United States is in great danger now because of the danger that a war will accidentally break out that would destroy the United States as a nation and kill most of the American people.  There have been something like twelve accidents in the United States: planes crashing, or similar accidents involving atomic bombs, and several of them (Involving) hydrogen bombs.  In no case has the bomb exploded although, down in Georgia, plutonium, a bad poison, was spread around and caused contamination.  Well, how many accidents of this sort have to happen before a bomb does explode and wipe out someplace like Mississippi?
     I know that no rational person, no sane person would work to initiate a nuclear war, but accidents can happen of one sort or another.  A hydrogen bomb might accidentally explode.  Or some step might be taken by some persons who are not sane, and there are a large number of these people.  In the United States ten percent of the people who are born spend at some time during their lives a period in a mental hospital.  This represents the incidence of mental disease.  And we can't be sure that everyone who is in a position of responsibility is really sane.  So there is definitely this possibility.

COHEN:  Colonel Prentice, the Orientation Officer of our Chemical - Bacteriological Warfare Arsenal, has stated that he feels chemical-bacteriological-radiological warfare is the most "humane" type of weaponry.  Can you comment on that?

PAULING:  Well, this is in the same category as Teller and Latter's statement that radiological warfare could be "humane."  I don't know just what they mean by this.  Chemical and biological warfare attack human beings but leave property undamaged.  Their principle argument seems to be that your bank account will remain even if you are killed - that you don't get the destruction of property in this way.  While this may have some appeal to the financiers, I don't know whether these methods of warfare can properly be called "humane."
      I think that Dr. Teller and his associates in the H-bomb laboratory have greatly exaggerated the possibilities of further development of nuclear weapons in the United States.  For example: the "clean bomb."  This was nothing but a fraud.  And now it's the "neutron bomb" fraud again.

COHEN:  Exactly what is the "neutron bomb"?

PAULING:  It is proposed that if we were to carry out enough tests of hydrogen bombs perhaps some way could be found to make a bomb that would sort of fizzle so far as the explosion went, but that would produce great amounts of radiation.  You wouldn't get a blast that would destroy the buildings, but you still would be able to kill most of the people.  It would be almost as good as bacteriological warfare in this respect - you'd achieve an unhappy end for a great many people without destroying property.
     The idea that you can make a bomb that has little blast but a great amount of neutrons is nothing but a hoax - a fraud!  This is just something that you propose because you feel you have to have some sort of an argument to present, and the people to whom you are presenting it don't know enough to know whether you're talking sense or nonsense.
       There is a great misrepresentation about the military value to the United States of continued testing.  And also misrepresentation of the peaceful uses of military explosives.  It was put forward that we excavate a harbor in Alaska with atomic bombs.  However they're having a very hard time thinking up a reason why we should build a harbor in Alaska when there are already harbors there.

COHEN:  Wouldn't it fill the Arctic Ocean with radioactive mud if we used atomic explosives to make a harbor?

PAULING:  Yes, it would.  In my opinion they underestimate greatly the amount of damage that would be done by the radioactivity released.  They "pooh-pooh" the radioactive carbon14 that would be created just because its effect would be spread over the next 10,000 years.  They don't seem to care what happens to human beings 5,000 or 10,000 years from now.

COHEN:  Could a test ban agreement be effected pending settlement of such conflict areas as West Berlin?

PAULING:  If we are going to wait until all the conflicts are settled, we are going to be waiting forever.  We just have to accept the principle that the disputes must be settled without recourse to war.

MILL:  If we had a disarmament agreement whereby all nations were allowed to keep our stockpiles, would it do us good, or would it do us harm?

PAULING:  Well, I think we should have international agreements about control of the stockpiles to prevent them from being used.  I don't advocate destroying them.  There's too much doubt on the part of the Russians that we would destroy all of ours; and on our part that they'd destroy all of theirs.  What we need to do first is to get away from the situation where buttons can be pressed that would lead to the death of nearly everybody on earth.  We have to have some United Nations authorities to see to it that it is made as hard as possible to set these weapons off.  Then, after some years have gone by, after a decade, perhaps, the nations will get tired of the expense of keeping the atomic weapons stockpiles.  They'll dismantle them and use the plutonium for fuel.

COHEN:  Since you feel there is little or no strength in the arguments for secret underground testing, the necessity for developing smaller tactical weapons and secret outer space testing, is there anything really valid that stands in the way of a bomb test agreement being reached now?

PAULING:  No.  I advocate an immediate international agreement with controls on inspection as good as can be devised and as practical for the money you spend on it, say, a billion dollars.  And what about international agreements to control the manufacture of vehicles for carrying nuclear bombs?  Supersonic bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles require such a big manufacturing operation that it would be impossible to build them in secret.  This would be far easier to control than the bomb tests.  It wouldn't cost nearly so much to do an effective job.  I think the system of controls and inspection of conventional armaments could be essentially perfect.  There is no way of hiding such activities on a large scale.

COHEN:Do you feel that your own efforts for disarmament, first to effect a test ban, and then to work for an effective inspection system, have been effective in any way?

PAULING:  I was asked at my hearing in Washington before the Internal Security Sub-Committee of the Senate on the 21st of June this year: "Do you think it's probable, Doctor Pauling, that this petition (Petition to the United Nations of May 15, 1957 signed by 11,021 scientists calling for a nuclear test ban) brought about the change In policy or crystallization of new policies in the nations of the world?"  I said: "I don't believe that it is right to say this petition "brought about" the change in policy, but it would please me immensely and, in fact, it does please me immensely, to think that this petition and my activity may have played a certain - even though perhaps only a small - part in having brought about this change, not only in the United States but in the USSR and in Great Britain and in the opinions of other nations of the world."
     I think that it was effective and that the people: individuals, little organizations and bigger organizations, who have been working for bomb test ban agreements have been doing a great service.  This sort of activity by organizations and individual human beings who are working for peace and morality in the world will help our government to push forward our policy of making international agreements, and will help to change the world in such a way that it is a safer place for the United States, for the American people, and also for all the other nations and peoples of the world.  I think it's well worthwhile for people to keep on working for peace, even though it subjects them to criticism by their misinformed associates and even the possibility of oppression by certain misguided government authorities.
     I foresee that we shall have more and more reliance upon the morality of law, and less on the immorality of war.  I think that within a few months the Geneva Conference will complete the agreement about bomb tests and it will be accepted.  There will probably be a fight in the U.S. Senate about approving this treaty; but I believe that it will be accepted and that in the course of time it will be signed by other nations.
     I believe that within a year or so we shall have another agreement about disarmament, perhaps something about the the control of the vehicles for delivering the weapons, long range bombers, ICBMs, etc.
     In Africa the United Nations is taking an important part in preventing war from getting out of hand.  We'll have this more and more in the future.  Instead of nations having to rely on the force of arms the whole world will be involved in the peaceful solution of disputes.  I foresee that we are not going to have a great war again in the world, and I'm very happy about that.
     Nevertheless, the idea that you can't trust the Russians is widespread enough to cause people to fear to make international agreements, and to fear disarmament.  Well, I think that this based upon a lack of understanding.  The fact is that with the best controls and inspection systems that can be devised now, disarmament agreements would increase our safety greatly.  We have now a cessation of bomb tests for the United States, Great Britain and the USSR, but no controls and inspection.  We'd be much better off to make an agreement under which we could have inspectors inside Russia, as the Russians have already agreed to permit.
     There are two or three points still waiting to be agreed upon.  It is proposed that a system of 180 manned inspection stations be set up around the world, some of which, not all, would be inside Russia.  Then there is the possibility of setting up perhaps 150 unmanned inspection stations inside Russia.  The Russians have accepted the idea of inspection stations and on on-site inspections by groups of inspectors when it is thought that a violation has occurred.
     How good would these be?  First, any test carried out in the atmosphere, or on the surface of the ground, or in the upper atmosphere, would be detected, no matter even if it were a very small bomb.  Second, any good size bomb test carried out underground would be detected.  Even if it were a Hiroshima or a Nagasaki size bomb, a thousand times smaller than the really damaging super bombs, it would be detected to something like 90% reliability.
     If you get down to a bomb that's only a twentieth the size of the Hiroshima or Nagasaki bombs, it would probably escape detection by the 180 manned inspection stations.  However, if you had the system of additional 150 unmanned inspection stations, tests of nuclear weapons even down to, I think, a twenty-fifth the size of the Hiroshima bomb would be detected.
     Incidentally, the little bombs are terribly expensive.  A big bomb or a little bomb requires the same amount of plutonium: $64,000 worth is the principal cost.  It can be made to sort of fizzle if it's to be a little bomb.  Or you can put about $20,000 worth of lithium deutride and ordinary uranium metal around it and it becomes a super bomb, a thousand times more powerful; one that can destroy New York.

COHEN:  Do all nuclear bombs have the same basic core?

PAULING:  Yes.  They all have the same basic core.  And most of the cost is just this initial plutonium.

COHEN:  One of the major U.S. objections to a bomb test ban agreement has been the claim that underground tests could be held secretly.  Is it possible to excavate a cave deep enough underground that even a Hiroshima size bomb could be muffled to the degree that it couldn't be detected?

PAULING:  Theoretically you would need to dig a hole 800 feet in diameter and about a mile underground and put the bomb in the middle of it.  A Hiroshima bomb exploded there would probably escape detection.

COHEN:  What would the engineering problem be?

PAULING:  Well, this question has been analyzed, and the engineering problem is a pretty serious one:  First, no one knows how to dig a hole 800 feet in diameter and a mile underground, except in a salt dome.  The salt domes are few and far between, but it could be done by running immense amounts of water in and out to dissolve the salt.  This water would have to be run into a river and ultimately reach the ocean.  Chemical analysis would show that this is being done - so that it wouldn't really be possible to dig such a hole in secret.  The world would know.

COHEN:  How much do you think it would cost to dig such a hole?

PAULING:  It would take two years and cost ten million dollars.  It's unknown if such a hole could be used repeatedly for nuclear testing.  And if somebody tried to do this he would almost certainly be detected.

COHEN:  What are the possibilities of clandestine outer space testing of nuclear weapons?

PAULING:  It's much harder to hide outer space testing.  And, of course, it's extremely expensive - ten million dollars is nothing.  If you explode a bomb 10,000 miles up you get nearly as much fallout in the atmosphere as if you had exploded it on the surface of the earth.  So you easily detect it from the increase in radioactivity.  Now, if you shoot a rocket to the other side of the moon and have it explode, and then have records of the explosion shipped back to earth from measuring devices that you somehow placed on the other side of the moon, you might be able to hide it.

MILL:  What would anyone gain from secret bomb tests?

PAULING:  Prof. Bethe knows more than I about such matters.  He was with the Atomic Bomb Project at Los Alamos and holds the patent on the hydrogen bomb.  He says that we would have very little to gain by this.

COHEN:  I thought Dr. Teller developed the hydrogen bomb?


COHEN:  Isn't that what Life magazine and our press in general have always claimed: that Teller is the
"Father of the H-bomb?"

PAULING:  I know they say that, but Bethe, not Teller, actually holds the patent on the hydrogen bomb.  He had been the leading Physics Advisor to the President, and is the most reliable physicist in the country today, at least in the opinion of his fellow physicists.  Dr. Bethe has said:
"We have nuclear weapons ranging from 20 megatons down to a fraction of a kiloton.  We have them in all sizes.  We have weapons which can be carried in big airplanes, in fighter planes, in ballistic missiles, in land based rockets, and even in airborne rockets to bring down enemy planes.  We have nuclear weapons which can be shot in short range rockets like the 'Honest John.'  We have nuclear weapons so small that they can be carried by the infantry."

     Suppose we resume tests only in the area of small weapons?  We could be sure that it would not take the Russians very long to reach our very high level of technology in this field.  It will be argued by Dr. Teller that we can also make progress, however we already have gone far enough so that very little we can do in the future will be of great military significance.
     The Russians, on the other hand, could gain considerably by the resumption of tests.  However, since they probably already have enough small nuclear weapons to give them a sizable capacity in case of tactical nuclear war, they do not have a desperate need for improving their weapons, and thus not enough incentive for testing to risk a violation.  Yet, if nuclear tests were resumed legally, the Russians would probably make more rapid progress than we would.
     If the Russians really want tactical nuclear weapons of small yield - then the best thing for them to do would be resume testing such small weapons officially, exactly as we suggested in the original proposal of President Eisenhower on February 11th.  The fact that they asked him for a moratorium on small weapons indicates to me that they don't put much weight on development of these weapons.  I think that they are just sensible enough to see that the idea of fighting a war with small nuclear weapons is silly because neither the U.S. nor the USSR would go down to defeat until the world had been destroyed.  That's all there is to it.