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Reminiscing about the past

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By Kirsten Laskey

John Richter spent 46 years at Los Alamos National Laboratory working on weapons design and he is now going to tell-all.During the Los Alamos Historical Society lecture series at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Fuller Lodge, Richter will spill the beans and give his unauthorized (by the Department of Energy) and unclassified reminiscence.Richter explained he will discuss his perspective of the history of nuclear weapons and about their present situation.He said he will be putting “60 years into 60 minutes.” Basically, he will discuss how the nuclear program started out strong during World War II and the Cold War but at present, seems to be losing its steam.When Richter arrived in Los Alamos in 1958, there was a race to beat the Germans in developing the nuclear bomb. The nuclear race continued with a new opponent, the Soviet Union, during the Cold War.However, the fall of the Soviet Union and Cold War changed things. “Everybody lost interest in nuclear weapons,” he said.For instance, the U.S. took down many types of nuclear weapons, but kept seven types in stockpiles.Although Richter believes the nuclear weapons have dwindled, it certainly has not stopped. “We’re still spending a lot of money in the nuclear weapons program,” he said.Richter’s motivation for the lecture, he said, is to discuss what happened to this program that the U.S. spends trillions of dollars on.Working as a staff manager in the group W-4, which was one of the two fission weapon design groups, code development, weapon vulnerability, lethality and effects, and fission weapon design, Richter said he believes he is as well suited as anybody to look at the nuclear weapon program.He said he is eager to share his stories because “nuclear weapons are absolutely fascinating. It’s just a wide spectrum of physics that I enjoy.”It’s a topic that should be interesting to the Los Alamos community, Richter said, because not only is it a review of the nuclear program but it will provide some insight of what is happening to people’s tax money.The taxpayer is picking up a good part of the tab on the nuclear program, Richter said.Richter has worked hard to release this information. He has written a manuscript called “Risk versus Threat, the U.S. Nuclear Weapon Program during and after the Cold War, A Reminiscence.”“I went to considerable trouble to put my reminiscence on a piece of paper,” he said. “I’ve got things worth saying and if everyone gets up and walks out, I was wrong.”He joked it’s an opportunity to hear a review of the nuclear program from an “old timer.”Admission to the lecture is free and open to everyone. After the lecture, light refreshments will be served.