Physics professor offers to explain the science of nuclear weapons and the technical difficulties a terrorist organization faces when attempting to build one.
October 8, 2002 GENEVA, N.Y.—Recent news reports claim that if Iraqi President Saddam Hussein could get his hands on some uranium he could have a nuclear weapon built in less than six months. Is this cause for alarm? Larry Campbell, professor of physics at Hobart and William Smith and co-author of “The Nuclear Predicament,” will give a talk to discuss such possibilities and to help the general public gain a better understanding of nuclear weapons.
“People should understand that obtaining and processing the necessary nuclear materials is in fact the chief difficulty to be surmounted before one can build a nuclear explosive,” Campbell says.
Campbell will give a talk titled “Nuclear Weapons: How to Make One — Why Can't Saddam Do It?” at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 21, in Coxe Hall, room 8, on the Hobart and William Smith campus. The lecture is intended for a general, not scientifically trained, audience. After introducing the audience to the basic scientific and engineering principles of nuclear explosives, Campbell will explain the technical difficulties that a potential builder would have to overcome in order to make a nuclear weapon.
Campbell hopes that the audience will leave the lecture better prepared to engage in the public debate over how best to deal with the threat posed by the existence of nuclear weapons and their possible proliferation. He notes the United States alone has more than 10,000 nuclear warheads.
Campbell has maintained a life-long interest in the scientific and public policy issues connected with nuclear weapons and the nuclear arms race. He began his research career using nuclear techniques at Argonne National Laboratory in the 1960s. For several years in the 1980s he collaborated with colleagues in teaching a full range of issues surrounding nuclear weapons and the arms race. This teaching collaboration resulted in a book, “The Nuclear Predicament,” published by Prentice Hall in 1989. A revised edition was brought out in 1992. The other collaborating authors are Peter Beckman, Paul Crumlish, Michael Dobkowski, and Steven Lee.