Sunday, August 28, 2016

Tragedy and Hope: Tales of Nuke Spying and Secrets Were Fake.

Via: Jay Dyer
Tragedy and Hope pgs. 860-61

For many years after 1945 the American people were kept in a state of alarm by stories of "networks" of "atomic spy rings," made up of Communist Party members or sympathizers, who were prowling the country to obtain by espionage what the Soviet Union was unable to achieve by its own efforts in scientific research and industrial development....

When we speak of atomic secrets and spying, we must distinguish three quite different types of information: (1) scientific principles, (2) questions of general production tactics (such as, which methods are workable or unworkable), and (3) detailed information of engineering construction. No secrets of Group I existed; and secrets of Group 3 would usually have required elaborate blueprints and formulas which could not be passed by spying methods of communication.

There remains information of Group 2, which could be extremely helpful in saving wasted time and effort. In most cases information of this type would have little meaning to anyone without a minimum of scientific training.

This kind of information, so far as present information allows a judgment, would seem to have been passed to the Russians from two English scientists, Alan Nunn May and Klaus Fuchs, and an American Army enlisted man, David Greenglass, in the period to September 1945. Nunn May had little directly to do with the A-bomb, but he had worked on the heavy-water nuclear pile in Canada and had visited the graphite pile in Chicago several times.

He gave Soviet agents Lieutenant Angelov and Colonel Zabotin, in Canada, considerable information about atomic piles, as well as the daily output of U-235 and plutonium at Oak Ridge (400 and 800 grams, respectively), and handed over a trace of the uranium isotope U- 233.

The information from Fuchs, which was much more valuable, culminated about the same period (June 1945) and gave information on gaseous diffusion, the two trigger devices, and the fact that work had been done without much success toward a fusion H- bomb. Greenglass, at the same time, gave the same Russian contact, Harry Gold, a rough sketch of part of the "implosion trigger" for the A-bomb. There may have been other spying episodes of which we are not now aware, but the information passed to the Russians of which we are now aware probably did not contribute much significant aid to their achievement of the A-bomb.

The H-bomb will be considered later. Statements frequently made that the Russians could not have made the A-bomb without information obtained from espionage, or statements that such information speeded up their acquisition of the bomb by years (or even by eighteen months) are most unlikely, although here again we cannot be sure.

They must have been saved from trying some unremunerative lines of endeavor, but the real problems in making the bomb were engineering and fiscal problems, which Russia could overcome, on a crash basis, once it was known that we had such a bomb.

This knowledge was given to the world by the destruction of Hiroshima.

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