Tales from South Africa
Then Indonesia claimed that they Were gonna get one any day. South Africa wants two, that's right: One for the black and one for the white! Who's next?
—Tom Lehrer, “Proliferation,” 1965
Tom Lehrer wrote this song in 1965. Four years later the so-called “ Atomic Energy Board ” of South Africa began the exploration of the manufacture of nuclear weapons for what they claimed to be for peaceful purposes. They used the rhetoric of our so-called “ Plowshares ” program — an inspiration of Edward Teller designed basically to test nuclear weapons under the guise of peaceful applications. The South Africans chose to go the route of uranium rather than plutonium. The country has a good deal of natural uranium. The uranium the South Africans used was a byproduct of gold mining. They modeled their design after our Hiroshima bomb, Little Boy, although they substantially improved on it. This was what is known as a “ gun assembly ” device. A subcritical mass of uranium is formed into a projectile,...