Radiological weapons and radioactive waste in the United States: insiders' and outsiders' views, 1941-55

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    Abstract

    The Manhattan Project to develop an atomic bomb, the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the post-war nuclear arms race with fission and fusion bombs have been the subject of many discussions and historical studies. In fact, these subjects, and the way in which they were generally dealt with, have led to retrospective distortion with respect to the spectrum of ‘atomic’ weapons discussed and explored during the wartime Manhattan Project and immediately after the Second World War. Specifically, it has made observers of the cold war's early nuclear arms race overlook the fact that the military use of radioactive reactor fission products in so-called radiological warfare weapons, was a very real possibility at the time, both for the US Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and the military, as well as for relative outsiders and the general public. Thus, for many observers it came as something of a surprise when the United States in 1976 introduced radiological weapons as an issue of UN arms control negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)207-227
    Number of pages21
    JournalBritish journal for the history of science
    Volume25
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1992

    Keywords

    • Radiological weapons
    • Radioactive waste
    • United States
    • Manhattan Project

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