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Atomic bombs, easy to make?

Dueling book reviews! (Sort of.) First, a pair of books suggest, contrary to Robert Oppenheimer’s post-war views, that the US is the only nation to have developed atomic weaponry and that all the other nuclear nations have gotten their information from the US program.

All paths stem from the United States, directly or indirectly. One began with Russian spies that deeply penetrated the Manhattan Project. Stalin was so enamored of the intelligence haul, Mr. Reed and Mr. Stillman note, that his first atom bomb was an exact replica of the weapon the United States had dropped on Nagasaki.

Moscow freely shared its atomic thefts with Mao Zedong, China’s leader. The book says that Klaus Fuchs, a Soviet spy in the Manhattan Project who was eventually caught and, in 1959, released from jail, did likewise. Upon gaining his freedom, the authors say, Fuchs gave the mastermind of Mao’s weapons program a detailed tutorial on the Nagasaki bomb. A half-decade later, China surprised the world with its first blast.

The book, in a main disclosure, discusses how China in 1982 made a policy decision to flood the developing world with atomic know-how. Its identified clients include Algeria, Pakistan and North Korea.

This week’s New Yorker contains an article about a third book that’s the culmination of more than a decade of research on the workings of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan (subscribers only). From the abstract:

Coster-Mullen’s book includes more than a hundred pages of declassified photographs from half a dozen government archives. Coster-Mullen, who is a truck driver by profession, sees his project as a diverting mental challenge. “This is nuclear archeology,” he says.

Coster-Mullen goes on to add that “the secret of the atomic bomb is how easy they are to make”. His hand-bound book, Atom Bombs, is available from Amazon.