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Nuclear Winter Study Papers,


Documents, clippings, reprints and notes about studies on nuclear winter done primarily by the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory as well as other groups, and individuals.


  • Creation: 1972-1993

Conditions Governing Access

Access to the papers is open. Please consult the Archives at 617-496-4958 for detailed information.

Conditions Governing Use

The Lawrence Livermore Laboratory Nuclear Winter Study Papers are the physical property of the Environmental Science and Public Policy Archives, Harvard College Library. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns.


11.13 linear feet (27 boxes)

Historical Background

"The single event that triggered the establishment of Lawrence Livermore was detonation of the first Russian atomic bomb in 1949. Some American scientists were alarmed that the Soviets could advance quickly to the next step, the hydrogen bomb, with potential disaster for the West. Ernest Lawrence was a key participant in the World War II atomic bomb project at Los Alamos, a Nobel laureate, and founder of the University of California Radiation Laboratory at Berkeley. Edward Teller was a brilliant physicist at the Los Alamos nuclear weapons laboratory. They met in October of 1949 to discuss the Russian threat.

It was essential, Teller came to believe in the course of the next several years, to start a second nuclear weapons laboratory—to provide competition, to diversify expertise, to handle the large volume of work that future fast-breaking discoveries would bring. Lawrence supported Teller's proposal for a second weapons lab, and he wanted it established at Livermore. Moreover, he wanted Teller to oversee setting up the new lab.

Teller presented his case to Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Gordon Dean on April 4, 1951 in Washington, D.C. In July 1952, formal Atomic Energy Commission action created the Livermore branch of the UC Radiation Laboratory. In September, this second weapons laboratory opened its doors at the site of a former naval air station in the sleepy cow town of Livermore, California. Among the group of young Berkeley scientists who were working with Lawrence was 32-year-old Herbert F. York. Barely three years out of graduate school, York was singled out by Lawrence to head the new laboratory.

York set out to develop the Lab's program and created four main elements: Project Sherwood (the Magnetic Fusion Program), diagnostic weapon experiments (both for Los Alamos and Livermore), the design of thermonuclear weapons, and a basic physics program. The first two facilities were a building to house the latest electronic computer, a Univac, and a technology building with a large central bay for lifting heavy equipment.

The focus of the Lab in the early days was on national needs and technical opportunities. Experts in chemistry, physics, and engineering had a common understanding of the Laboratory's mission, and developed new technologies on their own. But along with this went the team effort to understand a problem and to work it out together.

Over the following four decades, this new facility was destined to be a competitor of Los Alamos in the development of U.S. nuclear deterrents. Livermore was also to become one of the world's premier scientific centers, using its knowledge of nuclear science and engineering to break new ground in magnetic and laser fusion energy, non-nuclear energy, biomedicine, and environmental science." (


The papers contain materials documenting various studies concerning the effects of nuclear war on the climate with which Lawrence Livermore Laboratory and the donor, Michael MacCracken have been involved. It is divided into Series I. Subject Files and Series II. Nuclear Winter Author Files

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Lawrence Livermore Laboratory Nuclear Winter Study Papers were given to the Environmental Science and Public Policy Archives by Michael MacCracken, a scientist at the Lab, in 1997.

Accession number: .997/2

Processing Information

Processed by Amy Christensen: 2002 Mar

Lawrence Livermore Laboratory. Nuclear Winter Study Papers, 1972-1993: Guide
Environmental Science and Public Policy Archives. Harvard College Library.
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the ESPP Archives Repository

The Environmental Science and Public Policy Archives (ESPPA) has materials in the fields of environment and sustainability science, related public policy, and cultural perspectives on the environment. There is a strong but not exclusive emphasis on international environmental governance, including climate negotiations. The ESPPA is a global center for researchers interested in the history of climate change policy, toxicity and native peoples, and the standout success story of stratospheric ozone diplomacy.

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