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National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Oral Histories

Bob Cook’s Interview

Bob Cook is a nuclear engineer. In this interview, Cook discusses his long career with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and his work as a consultant for the Yakama Nation. He describes the problems he identified with the Basalt Waste Isolation Project. He also shares his opinions on the ethics of governmental decision making and risk assessments related to the health of Hanford-area residents.

Ed Hammel’s Interview

Ed Hammel was a young physicist at Princeton University when he signed on to work for the Manhattan Project. Stationed at Los Alamos, he became involved with the site’s production of plutonium. He stayed at Los Alamos after the war and became involved in the hydrogen bomb program. In this interview, he discusses the early efforts to design the hydrogen bomb, the scientific innovations he and his colleagues developed at LANL, and why he decided not to work on the Ivy Mike shot.

J. Carson Mark’s Interview

Dr. J. Carson Mark joined the Manhattan Project in May 1945 with a delegation of British scientists. He worked in the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, and in 1947, went on to head its Theoretical Division. Mark stayed on after the end of the Second World War as part of the project aimed at developing the hydrogen bomb. In this interview, Mark addresses the challenges involved in making a hydrogen bomb, including the design process and the conflicts between other scientists in the laboratory. He also discusses the Soviet hydrogen bomb, and the problems their project faced, despite Soviet espionage in the United States.

George Cowan’s Interview (1993)

George Cowan was a physical chemist who joined the Manhattan Project in 1942. In this interview, Cowan discusses the Soviet atomic program and their effort to build a nuclear bomb. In 1949, he helped convince U.S. government officials that the radiochemistry of air samples taken from the atmosphere proved that the Soviets had detonated their own atomic bomb, rather than what many assumed was just a peaceful nuclear reactor problem. Cowan also discusses Operation Crossroads, where he helped take air samples during atomic tests at Eniwetok Atoll in 1946.

Harold Agnew’s Interview (1994)

Harold Agnew was veteran of the Manhattan Project, an observer to the bombing of Hiroshima, and served as director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory from 1970-1979. Agnew discusses the science behind the hydrogen bomb, along with production and research conducted under the Atomic Energy Commission (later the DOE) and the Air Force. Among other topics, he describes the Soviet program and the espionage involved, his clash with the government and military when trying to receive funds for laboratory research, and innovations that resulted from the American nuclear program.