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This is about science produced by the California Institute of Technology and originally broadcast by station KPCC in Pasadena California. The programs are made available to the station by national educational radio. This program is about arms control with host Dr. Robert McGregor Leon and his guest Dr. Albert Hibbs of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Here now is Dr. McGregor. Well for the past five years at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory we have been engaged in activities associated with the arms control problem and just what sort of thing does this encompass. Well it started out five years ago Bob as you know as you said. When we had not yet any of the first agreements in the field of arms control were just beginning some in fact the Arms Control Agency itself was just it had just been formed as a new government agency and there were a number of technical questions that come up quite a few of them concerning guided missiles space activities the possibility of military activities going on in space and so on.
And there was an interest on the part of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency in Washington and the part of the government to have people conduct some studies on what was the technical background of these devices or the background of space technology that might affect arms control. So a number of people were asked to assess and I was one of these and a small group grew up at JPL to carry out studies having to do with arms control and space and missile technology. Was this not attempt to buy some of the technology we have at our disposal to understanding and perhaps exercising some control. Well you know it's there's I mean I spent there was there's always been an interest in whether or not satellites for example might be used as a tools of inspection to make sure that arms control agreements are being lived up to. But I think the larger problem was first. To what extent can satellites be used as weapons
and how what means should be taken to ensure or to make possible a treaty which would ban weapons in space as one of the first things we got involved in. Then a second one was of course with the test ban treaty. As you know the test ban treaty includes the agreement not to test nuclear weapons in space as well as on Earth and the U.S.. When the atmosphere under the sea. So the question came up. If our adversaries decided to carry on a secret test in space as one who could be detected. So again the technological or technical aspects of the problem were brought to bear. They were indeed a technique both of testing a bomb in space and detecting such a test were both fundamentally technical problems. You mention that there are attempts here to come to some understanding and there was in fact the test ban treaty. What was the nature in fact of these agreements or understandings as they've evolved in the last five years.
Well there have been a number of different types the test ban treaty was a formal one of course as was negotiated in Geneva for some time and then the final negotiations were carried on in Moscow. The treaty is that we in the Soviet Union and many other people who signed the treaty even many who don't have weapons agreed that we would not carry a nuclear weapons test in the atmosphere under water or in space. I left undecided by the treaty as to whether or not we will do so underground and both we and the Soviet Union have in fact conducted a series of tests you know underground underground but this treaty did at least. Top down a threat of fallout from a major test which had been bothering people for some years now that was a formal treaty it was signed by both sides and then approved by the Senate. As all trees must be in this country there are there have been some other agreements however we've gotten into such as the hotline agreement. This was one in which both countries agreed that they would install in their central administrative headquarters the
office of the president here the chairman and party I presume of the Marshal whoever it is in the Soviet Union whose satisfies equal definition of the head of the government. A telephone constantly manned with someone there all the time where in case there is any sudden. Outbreak of difficulty which might threaten war between the two. At least they can talk to each other and make sure that there's at least no foolish misunderstanding which might lead us into a holocaust that's the purpose of it now this was entered into without any formal treaty arrangements at all both sides just simply. Agreed to pay for the phones and for the telephone wires to it that's all I just made my point and and yes I thought it was another very much a formality of treaty negotiation and Senate ratification was simply not necessary. So it was just an understanding doesn't understand it's worked pretty well as far as I know the there are two hot lines not on a teletype bokes teletype was first installed and as it was it's tested constantly on our
side as I recall the last time I heard baseball scores out and start a steady stream to the Russians and they sent us soccer scores and of course neither one was interested in the other's Asian. You indicated that this is just an understanding and there's been several changes that ministration both sides as I recall. This hasn't affected their understanding in any way. Apparently not. They have to reinstate it so to speak. No no d this type of understanding and I'm not sure what the formal name is and executive action of some sort. Once I get into is this we look upon as fairly binding and they seem to have also. So far nobody said to give up anything of course in that particular station health. That's right. It's all internal. The other the third one of this type started as. A slum what different form this was an agreement not to carry on military activities in space or at least aggressive activities in space or not to place into
space weapons of mass destruction. Now the first time there was ever an agreement on this it was simply a UN resolution. Which was not sponsored by either ourselves or the Soviet Union sponsored by some other party. I believe Austria but again I'm not sure. To whom and to which both we and the Soviet Union agreed by voting for the resolution. So there was no recantation to other patients. But when the resolution was placed in the general assembly both the Soviet Union and United States voted in favor of it. So this was again not a treaty and not even understanding just sort of a stated or formally stated intent on the part about now this has been replaced recently by formal treaty. But for many years all that we had affecting activities in space was this sort of statement of intentions on the floor of the United Nations. So this is the extent of the more formal arrangements. These are the under three hours of understanding said access and there those are also about the three
understanding. Also there's very little more that's been done beyond these these items of the treaty. I'm testing the heartline agreement another formal treaty on peaceful uses of outer space. You indicated the connection between this and these understandings and attempts to perhaps view our survey have surveillance of each other's activities using some of the techniques of the space program. What is the scientific background of this approach. What came up most heatedly and in a way which is still today not solved in the dustman treaty when the problem was how do we tell whether or not the Soviet Union is carrying on test underground. If they are small enough weapons and even small ones are significant. Small meaning several many kilotons or perhaps hundreds of kilotons which is an
impressive thing since only 20 destroyed 20 kilograms destroyed Hiroshima. The question is could we tell if they were testing because they have a small bomb in a particular kind of soil color luvin which is not too densely packed. And if Furthermore if they dig a cavern first some way or other or use a natural cavern this is one way in which you can what is called decouple a bomb from the ground so that the force of the explosion really doesn't affect the ground as much as it would if it was hard packed around. If that happens how could we possibly tell. In other words there is no way of detecting if the Russians were cheating. Well what was that included in the understanding I thought it was no underwater and that's what it does and that's the very reason because there was no satisfactory technological answer for this problem how do you detect and that's why it was eliminated from the understanding. Exactly so so that we would not agree to a uninspected treaty.
And the Russians would not permit us to come in and investigate a piece of ground if we had suspicions you see we did have technologically the capability at least of finding out something happened. But we couldn't tell the difference between a bomb and and a earthquake. So with this ambiguity the only way to solve it would have been to go in and look to see if there is radioactivity in the vicinity see if somebody dug a hole for that but a lot of people working around the obvious remains of digging trenches. But without the Russians agreement to let us come in and look. With the technology in the state it was the ambiguity remaining. This underground was just left out of the treaty entirely. With regard to the atmospheric testing already under water testing the Baen exist but are there ways in which to test the integrity of the other side. Yes in the atmospheric testing it's very it's possible to know whether or not a test was carried out because first of all the atmospheric test causes
a actual boom and this can be heard by my creative by micro micro barometers things which detect extremely small changes in pressure and from many hundreds or thousands of miles away in some cases you can actually hear with one of these devices the fact that the explosion took place also the radioactive material thrown into the atmosphere and can be detected. There's no ambiguity there. Under water it's a similar thing we can detect it again with seismometers and go out to the ocean is free you don't have to ask the Russians for permission to go out and look. And see where there are no radioactivity. Right. In space it's a little potentially a little tougher because of course there's the possibility that it grew a very deep space or behind the moon as one person thought or behind the sun was another suggestion it's theoretically possible to explode a bomb and nobody could see it from her ass. Now this brought up a interesting technical point which we worked on here at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for some some weeks in the crucial period
when this was being discussed by the Senate. And we conducted a study of the relative difficulties of carrying out a secret test versus detecting is the objective to eliminate the testing per se or to eliminate the testing in the terrestrial environment. The objective First of all was to wear both I think both. Now the objectives that carry the most weight was to eliminated in the terrestrial environment where fallout was looked upon. Health hazard. Beyond that of course there is quite a bit of concern over the whole test program in general but this is a contributor toward an arms race and if it can be inhibited or stopped the world is better off so both of these factors will. You've mentioned the agreements and understanding some of the things that have gone on up until the present time. Is there an active program underway between the Soviet Union ourselves certain objectives have been towards enhancing
the situation or improving it even further. Well as a matter of fact ever since 0 4 for the past five more than about the past seven years there has been the 18 nation disarmament meeting at Geneva attended by 17 nations always but it's still called the 18 nation meeting. France pulled out very early. And there's no French delegate there. I think the French occasionally sent an observer. But this meeting in Geneva continues almost endlessly and at times in a very frustrating way since nothing at all happens and then for reasons which are always hard to understand sometimes agreements come along and there are of course negotiations going on there at present. And the primary objective is at present the primary negotiations at present in Geneva concerned two things. First is a U.S. proposal for a freeze on the numbers and characteristics of strategic delivery vehicles.
This is a proposal which as this but forward some years ago and has been part of our U.S. position for some years is that with its ballistic missiles and bombers right but evidences and bombers whatever's the strategic delivery vehicles in general those include things like submarines. If they launch missiles not not submarines that don't launch missiles at us they do. Together with their missiles. The the object would be to. If we can't cut down on the numbers of these things at least let's hold them where they are. Let's not make any more of them now. This means well if we don't make anymore what about taking the ones we have and improving them so that one is as good as too well so this brought up a second pointless reason characteristics as well as our numbers and that's a proposal. So far the Soviet Union has not gone along with this because again the problem is inspection. How can you tell that your adversary is living up to his agreement without having a right to go and look at his launching sites. It's entirely a matter if if then it is and at the present time I don't think either one of us is
quite willing to trust the other. I suppose if we were we wouldn't have to worry about negotiating for disarmament. It's not unlike the problem then of the underground testing to not like it at all and again the proude are one of our problems is which characteristics are we most concerned about. Obviously if the Russians simply change the shape of a missile we're not to we don't care too much about that or are most concerned with is of course the characteristics of its warhead and damage it can do. So the question that the technologist now goes to work on is is there any way of standing outside Russia with any sort of fancy radar equipment and monitoring all of their missile tests to make sure that they're not testing a new version of a warhead re-entry body that comes in on the front end of a missile so far that's not a problem to solve to anybody's satisfaction. Every time somebody thinks up a new device or someone else who comes along thinks likes a tricky way to defeat it so it's you know using you mentioned 17 nations plus friends that were involved in these continuing talks which are nations that have weapons now that
are part of that. Well given the above and the nuclear community now includes ourselves England France. Russia and China are the only three That's five of them and three of them are part of this conference ourselves. Russia England France has dropped out and China has resisted any attempts to bring them into any sort of discussions on this matter any level. Even the Soviet Union doesn't seem to have had much luck in talking to China about this kind of meeting. What role do the nations who do not have nuclear weapons probably in this conference. Usually the Rowell that they play such as India which has been very active in. The role it's played is to try to persuade the big powers to cut down our total our middle level. It was the pressure of the to a large extent the pressure of these other countries the non-nuclear countries that brought
about eventually that the test ban treaty at one time the Soviet Union flatly said they would not sign a test ban treaty that did not include underground. And of course the U.S. said we won't sign an underground treaty that doesn't include inspection and there we stood. The other countries to a large extent broke that deadlock. Now today they would all say it would make a very positive image of lewdness today. We're trying to force something on them in a sense even though the other countries first suggested this. It's now up to US and Soviet policy. That is the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons. An agreement that no country which does not now have weapons will build them and no country that does have weapons will help those that don't. So those that have a people to themselves and those that have not will won't try. Well originally this was a suggestion from some of the have not countries like Sweden India and Mexico. But at
the present time India is beginning to have. Apparently some second thoughts on this. And it is not too ready to sign away its right to develop a weapon. France is taking a most curious position in this trance already has a weapon. So by going along with a nonproliferation treaty France would essentially give up nothing. She already has it so she's included in the House side. Nevertheless France refuses to agree to the treaty as stated as their policy they won't agree because as a matter of principle they don't believe any country should be asked to sign away its right to defend itself. That's a kind of a curious position especially if one remembers the role of the allies doing the after the First World War in which a similar kind of agreements had to do it with conventional weapons. Yes indeed so and as I say affected Germany for example and Japan are. Attempts as I was to have these countries forever sign away their right to make war.
What kind of attitude has the Soviet Union in their own government exhibited in these negotiations. Well in the in the nonproliferation negotiations these are the parents of the most active right now. We have agreed as we as Soviet Union have been pretty much on the same side oddly enough against all of the have not nations. It's a strange situation to find yourself in in the other potential agreement to freeze on delivery vehicles. It's pretty clear that we had the Soviet Union are not ready to agree so it's not discussed very actively. So the one that's being actively discussed is nonproliferation. And in that one the Soviet Union and we have agreed pretty much and are now trying to persuade the have not countries to go along with our version of the treaty. They come back at us and say well no you guys aren't giving up anything you're asking us to give up our right to build the weapons. What are you going to give up. And of course we say well we give up the right to help you build them which is really sort of a hollow gift.
India has now come to both America and the Soviet Union and said we would like to have you cut down on me on the production of fissionable material so that you cut down on the rate at which you're building weapons perhaps stop altogether. Simply replace refurbish maintain reassemble weapons but don't build any more. And then we on our side will agree not to build any at all. Now here both the Soviet Union and ourselves are taken and so far a negative attitude. But this is a crucial point of the discussions that are going on now. And you mentioned that in the business of not increasing the number of available weapons are markedly changing their characteristics that there was disagreement is the difficulty again the fact that one cannot test or monitor. Check this fact and you back this activity to something this really doesn't mean a lot of the difficult things this always comes up as the as the there's a principle problem and the Soviet Union has been adamant in their own.
Determination not to have foreign inspectors with the right to come in and poke around the Soviet Union. How do you think the situation might develop if one were to develop some technique for determining when some confidence the characteristics of some of these weapons from without doing a literal inspection of what we lost by actual remote seduction. Yeah I think that if we could get a convincing remote inspection. Technique that that would break quite a few deadlocks and this makes it consistent or at least analogous to the atmosphere eggs are under water testing situation here we can't we don't we are convinced that if the Soviet Union were to explode a bomb in the atmosphere we'd know about it without having it go ahead. There was something like that for these other items where we could really get reliable information without going in and we are right. And you mentioned India and China are they not. Well India is a part of this conference right what's going on China is not.
And India you've indicated has perhaps some second thoughts about the kind of agreements that are being suggested here. And what particular role has India and China in particular taken here. Well of course China has a bomb now and India does not. It was in 1962 I believe that China came across the border the northern border of India with it a brief but extremely effective attack routing the Indian forces that were stationed along the border and then trying to pull back to a line which China claims was the correct one. And there are states now India's response to that of course has been rather ups. They've been very upset. They the Indian government has felt at the time that negotiations over this line could have saved a lot of shooting and a lot of military action the Indians weren't all locked intractable about negotiating a line and yet China simply came in. So then now the Chinese have proved to the Indians that they have hostile intent. They have an atomic
weapon and recently they announced at least that they had fired one of the atomic weapons on the front of a rocket. The engines are generally genuinely worried about it and they would like to feel that they have the right to build a bomb to counteract China if necessary. And no one has denied that at the moment denied what the right. No but if they signed this treaty the nonproliferation treaty they would not have a right to build it. So what they would like to do another thing they'd like is to have Soviet Union and America guarantee India against a nuclear threat from China. So far I don't think the Soviet Union or the United States is ready to go quite that far in the negotiation. But it's a lot of discussion. But this is a major problem the fact that India looks on China as a hostile nuclear power. And here in America and Russia trying to persuade India to never become a nuclear power. Bach Yes and that's perhaps a new development in their own attitudes. I wonder how an evil India is to pursue an activity of
this sort to development of these major weapons systems. Well of course every year it gets a little easier and the technology goes on a lot of nuclear technology is not secret anymore. It is all really about animals. Is it really a question of the technology or is it natural resources and the power. Well it's a little of everything. The India does have an atomic energy installation with a power reactor and a fuel provided I believe by Canada. And the initial setup made with the help of the Canadian technicians but now run completely by the Indians. As I understand it it's a very well run very efficiently run and the Union Government has announced that they now have the capability in terms of raw materials technology to build a weapon was in a year or two if they wish to. Well I should not say the Indian government is an ass that spokesman within the Indian government in official places like.
The assistant head of the Indian defense ministry but a nuclear reactor and a major weapons system are quite far apart. They're not going to build them by the thousands there's no question of that. They're not going to build enough weapons to go around attacking the rest of the world but at least to perhaps stand off China and to be able to be in a position to avoid what they would think of as a nuclear blackmail from China and China would say to them do what we want to we'll bomb New Delhi if India was in a position to say if you do a bar b Qing with one with one bomb we have what might be the. Prospects for putting through some of these proposals currently under discussion such as preventing or inhibiting deployer of perforation of weapons or nuclear weapons is this realistic. I think it is realistic I believe that we will come to a position where we can provide India with some sort of compensation. And here's a chief problem. The other countries
Sweden and others who technically could build weapons seem willing to sign away their right to do so. This means some 7 agreement or understanding with them that in terms of support and support think that there will be something like this because after all I believe that we are in a sense and in some sense committed to defend India I believe it was a major attack against India by you know by China we'd find ourselves coming to their aid. They'd ask us and we can't. They're not a member for example of SEATO the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization. So we have no commitment there but that's been our decision. You see that's been the union decision. I guess they just might change your view. You think this might change your point of view their point of view. I think it may I think there will be give and take on both sides in regard to this course of the. Doesn't time the whole situation is even further complicated by the difficulty between India and Pakistan. Now that does not concern nuclear weapons. Yes but it does concern the extent to which we can be allied with India or which to
the extent I would think they would ask us to be their allies were already the ally of Pakistan and India and Pakistan not get along. Fact a few years ago they had a rather bloody border clash. Well you've indicated that there is a possibility on this thing. Are there any other possibilities we might look forward to in the future in terms of agreements or understanding's. I think that the major ones which we will look forward to in the future will first have to do with the strategic weapons however that there is a new phase of technology that's now coming in that will complicate it and unfortunately that's probably no time to go into it's all just mention and this is the Anti Ballistic Missile System. This is a system which is now primarily at the development stage but it it it has technical promise it is a system to defend the country against nuclear against a strategic weapons against and against ballistic missiles. The Russians it is reported already installing them around Moscow and Leningrad and there is a great
effort here to install them around major cities in the United States. Some look upon this as a threat of a renewed arms race. That assumes both sides install anti-ballistic missile systems. The other side will feel called upon to build more missiles to re-establish their position and so on back and forth it will go. So I think that this this argument about the Billis anti ballistic missile systems will be the next major thing and waited to again cascaded the situation and I think that will be the subject around which negotiations may center in a next few years. Well thank you very much of the quarry. Interesting conversation. This was about science with host Dr. Robert McGregor billion and his guest Dr. Albert here has joined us again for our next program when Dr. Hibbs will lead a discussion about building a virus about science is produced by the California Institute of Technology and is originally broadcast by station KPCC in Pasadena California. The programs are made available to this
station by national educational radio. This is the national educational radio network.
About science
About arms control
Producing Organization
California Institute of Technology
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program focuses on the issue of arms control.
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Interview series on variety of science-related subjects, produced by the California Institute of Technology. Features three Cal Tech faculty members: Dr. Peter Lissaman, Dr. Albert R. Hibbs, and Dr. Robert Meghreblian.
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Guest: Hibbs, Albert R.
Host: Hibbs, Albert R.
Producing Organization: California Institute of Technology
Producing Organization: KPPC
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University of Maryland
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Chicago: “About science; About arms control,” 1967-08-22, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed July 13, 2024,
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