Observing China’s nuclear weapons program

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By The Staff

Danny Stillman’s 10 trips to China all started with a conversation about a prompt burst reactor.

He explained he ran the intelligence division at Los Alamos National Laboratory for 13-and-a-half years. During this time, Stillman made it a point to interact with his counterparts.

During a conversation with a scientist from China, Stillman asked him about prompt burst reactors. This particular reactor, Stillman said, simulates neutrons and gamma rays  from a nuclear device that is going off.

That topic, he said, was his opening to travel to China.

Between April 1990 and May 2001, Stillman toured several nuclear facilities in China. These facilities were located in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Xian, a nuclear test site in northwest China and Mian Yang.

These visits are pretty invaluable because Stillman pointed out, there is no place where people can read about China’s nuclear weapons program.

Additionally, he believes it’s important to show just how advanced the nuclear weapons program is in China.

“I think they are pretty damn smart,” Stillman said.

To unveil what he learned during these trips, Stillman will present “Observations of the Chinese Nuclear Weapons Program,” at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Best Western Hilltop House. The presentation is part of the Los Alamos Historical Society’s lecture series.

The lecture will include slides and photographs of what Stillman observed during his travels.

“I’d like for them to learn as much I did about (the Chinese) nuclear weapons program,” Stillman said.

 According to a press release, Stillman has spent most of his career assessing and analyzing foreign technology and his main focus was on the Soviet Union and China.

He began working at the lab in 1965. In 1972, he joined the fledging group studying foreign technology and in 1978, became its division leader.

He recently collaborated with former secretary of the Air Force Tom Reed to write the book, “The Nuclear Express – A Political History of the Bomb and its Proliferation.”

Heddy Dunn, executive director of Los Alamos Historical Society, encourages everyone to learn more about Stillman and his experiences in China during the lecture.

“Danny Stillman’s book is highly readable and quite engrossing,” she said.

“From his book, he will be speaking about his 10 trips to China … just to hear from someone who has been an observer of the Chinese nuclear weapons program (is interesting).”

In addition to the topic, Dunn said another highlight of the lecture will be the new venue for the event. She explained the hotel was chosen to accommodate more people.

Plus, there will be refreshments and beverages available from 6:45-7:15 p.m.

“It’s nice to allow people that latitude,” she said.

She added the Historical Society staff is happy to partner with a local business for this event. “(We’re) happy to partner and help each other out.”