Siegfried S. Hecker: The story of Plutonium Mountain

By | September 1, 2013

In this interview, former Los Alamos National Laboratory director Siegfried S. Hecker details one of the world’s great nonproliferation stories—the effort to secure the Semipalatinsk Test Site in Kazakhstan. He recounts his visit to the Russian nuclear weapons labs in early 1992, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when he found underfunded scientists who were indifferent to the cleanup of the testing site in the now-independent Kazakhstan and doubtful that the site would pose a security threat. Hecker talks about how he was able to organize engineers and nuclear scientists in the United States, Russia, and Kazakhstan to come together in a 15-year, $150-million effort to secure many of the tunnels and test areas at the sprawling Semipalatinsk Test Site.

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