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Test moratorium turns 50

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By Roger Snodgrass

Fifty years ago today, the United States entered an unfamiliar territory known as the nuclear test moratorium.

President Dwight Eisenhower halted all nuclear testing for one year, beginning Oct. 31, 1958. It was the first significant step back from an arms race that had taken on a new dimension in the era of the hydrogen bomb, a thousand times more powerful than the weapon used on Hiroshima at the end of World War II.

The moratorium, with extensions and a frightening intermission that included the Cuban Missile Crisis, led to the end of atmospheric testing in the world.

Dave Thompson, a retired physicist from Los Alamos National Laboratory and author of “A Guide to the Nuclear Arms Control Treaties,” said Thursday that he recalled the moratorium very well and how it affected the laboratory at the time.

“The people I was around were very much in favor of verifiable arms control,” he said. “That was my own feeling.”

Thomson said he had finished his thesis in 1960 at the laboratory and was looking for another job during the moratorium.  In fact there were a number of opportunities available in the test division.


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