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Science History Podcast

Aug 11, 2019

Today we explore the history of plutonium with Frank von Hippel, a retired but always active professor at Princeton University, where, in 1975, he co-founded Princeton’s Program on Science and Global Security in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. In the 1980s, Frank was the chairman of the Federation of American Scientists, and in the Clinton Administration he was the Assistant Director for National Security in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Frank has worked on nuclear arms control and nonproliferation since the 1980s, and received many awards for this work, including a MacArthur Fellowship. Frank received his B.S. in physics at MIT in 1959 and his Ph.D. in theoretical physics at the University of Oxford in 1962, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. Frank is also a co-author of the forthcoming book, “Plutonium: How nuclear power’s dream fuel became a nightmare.” We discuss the history of all things nuclear – the development of the bomb, the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, plutonium bomb accidents during the Cold War, breeder reactors, radioactive waste, trans-uranic elements and neutron capture, nuclear terrorism and dirty bombs, nuclear testing, nuclear energy, and the people involved.