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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Haves and Have-Nots; Interview with Bertrand Goldschmidt, 1986 [2]

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Bertrand Goldschmidt was a French physicist, the only Frenchman to work on the Manhattan Project. He later became an international authority on nuclear policy. In this lengthy interview, he recalls the Atoms for Peace program and French mixed feelings about the international Safeguard system. His role in the Quebec conference in 1943 is discussed. He describes the period after Geneva as one of “nuclear euphoria” because of the spirit of collaboration it engendered. He talks about France’s sale of reactors to Israel and India, among other assistance, and the French dissatisfaction with the Safeguards regime. He goes into some detail on the Indian and Israeli programs, then recalls his reaction to the Chinese test, adding details about reports that the Soviets had provided China with assistance early on in their program. Similarly, he talks about the 1974 Indian test, noting there is no such thing as a peaceful nuclear device, and reflects on France’s attitude toward the nonproliferation treaty, including U.S. criticism that the French exploited loopholes in the agreement. The experience of working with Pakistan, he recalls, was more complicated than France’s arrangements with other governments. He denies France knew at the time that Pakistan wanted to develop a bomb, then describes why the French broke off the deal. Discussing the Carter administration’s policies, he considers the president’s nonproliferation approach to have been hostile to nuclear energy and fundamentally unfair. Next, he explains France’s support for the Iraqi reactor, which Israel bombed in 1981. He notes that a French team had been assigned to monitor the reactor and that there was no danger of it being used for undeclared purposes. France’s reasons for building the reactor, he says, included a need for oil and a basic disagreement with the notion of denial of nuclear access to developing countries. He then discusses governments’ motivations for possessing a bomb, and why there have been no new members of the nuclear club for some years.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Haves and Have-Nots
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Interview with Bertrand Goldschmidt, 1986 [2]

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

A case study of the dynamics of nuclear proliferation: China triggers India and India triggers Pakistan in the competition to have their own nuclear weapons.

In 1953 President Eisenhower announced the Atoms for Peace program. This marked a total reversal of American foreign policy. Americans would give material to allow countries to build reactors. “So overnight we passed from nuclear middle age to nuclear renaissance,” recalls French atomic scientist Bertrand Goldschmidt. The Soviet Union started its own program and helped China learn to build a bomb. The first Chinese nuclear blast was in 1964. Indian defense expert K. Subrahmanyam recalls that a nuclear China prompted India to set off a “peaceful” nuclear explosion in 1974. “There is no such thing as a peaceful nuclear explosion,” responds General A. I. Akram of the Armed Forces of Pakistan. “’74 was a watershed. It brought the shadow of the bomb to South Asia, and that shadow is still there.”



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Raw video

Media Type


Kissinger, Henry, 1923-
Nuclear energy
Joliot-Curie, Frederic
Reagan, Ronald
United States
Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963
Seaborg, Glenn T. (Glenn Theodore), 1912-1999
Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (1963)
Soviet Union
Gaulle, Charles de, 1890-1970
United Nations
Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (1968)
North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Carter, Jimmy, 1924-
Great Britain
Nuclear weapons
Nehru, Jawaharlal, 1889-1964
Hydrogen bomb
Nuclear nonproliferation
United States. Nuclear Nonproliferation Act of 1978
International Atomic Energy Agency
International relations
Giscard d'Estaing, Valery, 1926-
Ben-Gurion, David, 1886-1973
Brezhnev, Leonid Il'ich, 1906-1982
Bhabha, Homi Jehangir, 1909-1966
Eisenhower, Dwight D. (Dwight David), 1890-1969
War and Conflict
Global Affairs
Goldschmidt, Bertrand (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Haves and Have-Nots; Interview with Bertrand Goldschmidt, 1986 [2],” 12/13/1986, WGBH Media Library & Archives, accessed October 24, 2016, http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_F46405DE4B8B4F1FAC144ED107ED912B.
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Haves and Have-Nots; Interview with Bertrand Goldschmidt, 1986 [2].” 12/13/1986. WGBH Media Library & Archives. Web. October 24, 2016. <http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_F46405DE4B8B4F1FAC144ED107ED912B>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Haves and Have-Nots; Interview with Bertrand Goldschmidt, 1986 [2]. Boston, MA: WGBH Media Library & Archives. Retrieved from http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_F46405DE4B8B4F1FAC144ED107ED912B
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