WGBH Openvault

War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Missile Experimental; Interview with Edward Teller, 1987

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Edward Teller was a theoretical nuclear physicist, an early participant in the Manhattan Project and a leading proponent of developing the hydrogen bomb. He continued to work on the U.S. government's nuclear program throughout his career. In this short interview he touches on the nuclear strategy of the Reagan Administration. He supports the president's Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), and briefly discusses both its defensive and offensive capabilities. He criticizes the ineffectiveness of the INF treaty on its own, but acknowledges its strengths when combined with other factors, namely SDI and support from European allies. He argues that the Reagan Administration has reformed U.S. nuclear strategy, moving away from mutual assured destruction ("a cruel and senseless policy), and has thereby "created conditions for peace." He briefly comments that the best critic of SDI is Freeman Dyson.

License Clip
Got it
War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Missile Experimental
Program Number



Interview with Edward Teller, 1987

Series Description

The first atomic explosion in the New Mexico desert on July 16, 1945, changed the world forever. This series chronicles these changes and the history of a new era. It traces the development of nuclear weapons, the evolution of nuclear strategy, and the politics of a world with the power to destroy itself.

In thirteen one-hour programs that combine historic footage and recent interviews with key American, Soviet, and European participants, the nuclear age unfolds: the origin and evolution of nuclear weapons; the people of the past who have shaped the events of the present; the ideas and issues that political leaders, scientists, and the public at large must confront, and the prospects for the future. Nuclear Age highlights the profound changes in contemporary thinking imposed by the advent of nuclear weapons. Series release date: 1/1989

Program Description

Does the United States really plan to use nuclear weapons? Or is their only purpose to deter others from using them? These questions fuel debate over the Mobile Missile known as the MX.

The MX was designed in 1975 to counter the threat of large accurate missiles being bult in the Soviet Union. General Russell Dougherty of the Strategic Air Command recalls, “We had to have some more warheads ... with more accuracy. That was the rational for ... the MX.” It faced ten years of difficult questions in Congress, withing the military and from civilians. Was the missile meant to deter a Soviet attack or to survive one? One question led to another. There was one practical question: where to put the 200,000 pound 100 foot long missiles? In 1983 Congress approved production of 100 MX Peacekeeper missiles and based the first 50 in existing Minuteman silos.



Asset Type

Raw video

Media Type


Reagan, Ronald
United States
Soviet Union
Nuclear warfare
Dyson, Freeman J.
Strategic Defense Initiative
Buckley, William F. (William Frank), 1925-2008
Nuclear weapons
War and Conflict
Global Affairs
Teller, Edward, 1908-2003 (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Missile Experimental; Interview with Edward Teller, 1987,” 12/15/1987, WGBH Media Library & Archives, accessed October 25, 2016, http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_67DE2EAC03504AE4ADEB78A27C71A11D.
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Missile Experimental; Interview with Edward Teller, 1987.” 12/15/1987. WGBH Media Library & Archives. Web. October 25, 2016. <http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_67DE2EAC03504AE4ADEB78A27C71A11D>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Missile Experimental; Interview with Edward Teller, 1987. Boston, MA: WGBH Media Library & Archives. Retrieved from http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_67DE2EAC03504AE4ADEB78A27C71A11D
If you have more information about this item, we want to know! Please contact us, including the URL.