Source: The New York Times | William J. Broadmarch | March 23, 2015
For all its horrific power, the atom bomb — leveler of Hiroshima and instant killer of some 80,000 people — is but a pale cousin compared to another product of American ingenuity: the hydrogen bomb.
The weapon easily packs the punch of a thousand Hiroshimas, an unthinkable range of destruction that lay behind the Cold War’s fear of mutual annihilation. It was developed in great secrecy, and Washington for decades has done everything in its power to keep the details of its design out of the public domain.
Now, a physicist who helped devise the weapon more than half a century ago has defied a federal order to cut from his new book material that the government says teems with thermonuclear secrets.
The author, Kenneth W. Ford, 88, spent his career in academia and has not worked on weapons since 1953. His memoir, “Building the H Bomb: A Personal History,” is his 10th book. The others are physics texts, elucidations of popular science and a reminiscence on flying small planes.
He said he included the disputed material because it had already been disclosed elsewhere and helped him paint a fuller picture of an important chapter of American history. But after he volunteered the manuscript for a security review, federal officials told him to remove about 10 percent of the text, or roughly 5,000 words.
“They wanted to eviscerate the book,” Dr. Ford said in an interview at his home here. “My first thought was, ‘This is so ridiculous I won’t even respond.’ ”
Instead, he talked with federal officials for half a year before reaching an impasse in late January, a narrative he backs up with many documents laid out neatly on his dining room table, beneath a parade of photographs of some of his seven children and 13 grandchildren.
World Scientific, a publisher in Singapore, recently made Dr. Ford’s book public in electronic form, with print versions to follow. Reporters and book review editors have received page proofs.
The Department of Energy, the keeper of the nation’s nuclear secrets, declined to comment on the book’s publication.
But in an email to Dr. Ford last year, Michael Kolbay, a classification officer at the agency, warned that the book’s discussion of the “design nuances of a successful thermonuclear weapons program” would “encourage emerging proliferant programs,” a euphemism for aspiring nuclear powers.