User:Ara2003/History of the French H-Bomb

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Controversy, Scientific Dishonesty and The Invention of The French H-Bomb new article content ...

Looking at the history of the H-bomb over the last 60 years, it seems that its invention was like a magnet attracting controversy and scientific dishonesty.

In the US, we had an acrimonious debate where detractors of Edward Teller came up with all kind of excuses why it would not work, and when it was obvious that the "technically sweet" solution would work, try to dilute his contribution by first denigrating it as "obvious" to any graduate student1, attributing the main discovery to S. Ulam2, then to a "group" invention3, etc.

The Teller-Ulam concepts involved were described in 1995 by Carson Mark of Los Alamos Theoretical Division4:

1. Separate stages: spatial separation of fission trigger and fission capsule (so-called "bomb in a box"): Ulam 2. Radiation coupling: electromagnetic radiation in the form of thermal x-rays from the fission trigger transfers

       energy to the fusion capsule (rather than Ulam's fission capsule) in a common casing: Teller

3. Compression: high density of fusionable material speeds up the reaction for efficient burn: Teller 4. Ignition of compressed fusion fuel capsule by an internal fission sparkplug: Teller

In the UK, John Ward claimed re-discovery of the Teller-Ulam invention in a letter to Lady Thatcher5. A search of the archives by the Atomic Weapons Establishment historian Lorna Arnold6 incredibly could not find any written evidence of who the discoverer of such a momentous invention was...although various surviving scientists mentioned Keith Roberts as having done most of the key design work...

In the USSR (now Russia), search of the Russian presidential archives by German Goncharov (one of the developers of the RDS-37, USSR's first H-bomb) , similarly to UK, could not find any documentation of the author of the Teller-Ulam concept, and to their credit, A. Sakharov or Y. Zeldovich never claimed paternity. According to Goncharov and Lev Feoktistov, both designers of the Soviet RDS-37 H-bomb, the Teller-Ulam just appeared suddenly between March and April 19547. There is a strong conjecture based on personal communication and lack of any documentary "footprints" in Russia, that a spy in one of the US labs, Los Alamos being a prime suspect based on their track record, probably leaked the information8.

I will skip China, because it was a patent case of espionage to steal the design from the USSR and US9, and covered in great detail in a 1999 US Congress report. The Chinese 1967 H-bomb test is very similar to RDS-37 in its yield of 3Mt, if you account for the deliberate removal of some of the LiD in RDS-37.

The story gets even more controversial in France, where General De Gaulle was incensed that the Chinese had an H-bomb before the government pressured the scientists at the French AEC (CEA in French) to come up with...something.

After successful tests in 1968, Alain Peyrefitte, minister in charge of atomic affairs, claimed in his 1976 best seller "Le Mal Francais"10, that the success was due mainly to Robert Dautray, a scientist from Saclay working in the civilian nuclear reactors department! A spineless CEA management did not actively correct the minister...until the daily Le Figaro published in 1993 an outrageous Dautray hagiography repeating Peyrefitte's baseless claim.

B. Lemaire, the scientific director of the Division of Military Applications (DAM) of CEA, took the initiative to respond to Figaro's article by writing a 1993 unclassified report11 on the birth of the thermonuclear bomb (La Naissance du Thermonucleaire). He intended to publish it in the (open) monthly "Bulletin de la DAM"; however, Dautray, as CEA High Commissioner, blocked the publication.

The Lemaire report briefly describes the discovery of the key concepts by P. Billaud for the concept of cold compression of LiD before ignition, M. Carayol for the radiation-driven implosion of the LiD capsule in a hohlraum to obtain high compression, and L. Dagens for the elucidation of the LiD fusion cross-sections, and LiD-n-T breeding and burn cycle. Nowhere in the Lemaire report is Robert Dautray, the self-proclaimed "pere"12 of the French H-bomb, mentioned as having contributed something. The official inaction of the CEA management implicitly credited Dautray with the discovery, which eased his election to the Academy of Sciences and appointment as CEA high commissioner.

Of course, the moral question is what to do when somebody claims others' discoveries as their own, and reaps high honors and positions...

What could be done? In Germany in 2011 the Defense minister T. zu Guttenberg resigned in shame after it was discovered that he plagiarized parts of his doctoral thesis. A lesson for Dautray?

You can draw your own conclusions by reading the attached historical document.


{{1. Niels Bohr as told in Rhodes, R., "Dark Sun", (Simon & Schuster, 1996), pp. 470 2. Carson Mark as told in Rhodes, R., "Dark Sun", (Simon & Schuster, 1996), pp. 469 3. Norris Bradbury as told in Rhodes, R., "Dark Sun", (Simon & Schuster, 1996), pp. 469 4. Kenneth Ford, "Interview with Dr. Carson Mark", American Institute of Physics Oral History, February 24, 1995 5. Lorna Arnold, "Britain and the H-Bomb", (Palgrave, 2001), pp. 244 6. Lorna Arnold, "Britain and the H-Bomb", (Palgrave, 2001), pp. xii-xiii 7.Goncharov, G., "The extraordinarily beautiful physical principle of thermonuclear charge design", Physics-Uspekhi, 48 (11) Nov 2005, pp. 1195 8.Reed, T. et al, "The Nuclear Express", (Zenith, 2009), pp. 41-42 9.US Congress, "Cox Committee Report: Report of the Select Committee on U.S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People's Republic of China", (May 1999) 10. Peyrefitte, A., "Le Mal Francais", (Plon, 1976), ch. 9 11. Lemaire, B., "La Naissance du Thermonucleaire", (Report CEL-V/DS-EM No. 228/93, Nov. 1993) 12. Dautray, R., "Memoires , du Vel d'Hiv a la bombe H", (Odile Jacob, 2007), back jacket }}

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