Falsehoods On 'Star Wars' Laser Alleged At Lawrence Livermore
Oct. 20, 1987
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Edward Teller, known as the father of the hydrogen bomb, was too optimistic and misled national leaders about the chances of developing a ''Star Wars'' X- ray laser weapon, according to a grievance filed by the former head of the classified program.
Roy D. Woodruff, who resigned in 1985 as associate director for defense systems at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, also alleges in his grievance ''improper conduct'' by Roger Batzel, director of the nuclear weapons laboratory 50 miles east of San Francisco.
Woodruff alleged that Batzel failed to correct ''overly optimistic, technically incorrect'' statements by Teller and scientist Lowell Wood, then punished Woodruff for his dissenting views by discrediting him, forcing his demotion and denying him a pay increase.
The grievance, filed April 3, was sent to David Gardner, president of the University of California, which operates the laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy.
A separate letter by Woodruff accused the university of dismissing most of his grievance and focusing only on the pay dispute rather than substantive issues.
Copies of the grievance and related documents were released to reporters Tuesday by Robert Nelson, co-chairman of the Southern California Federation of Scientists and an astrophysicist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Woodruff confirmed the authenticity of the documents Tuesday, but he said he resented the group for invading his privacy by releasing the papers for political purposes.
The federation, which opposes President Reagan's proposed ''Star Wars'' missile defense system, received the documents from an anonymous source, Nelson said.
Wood and Teller, a 79-year-old physicist and outspoken ''Star Wars'' advocate best known for his pivotal role in developing the hydrogen bomb after World War II, were traveling Tuesday and didn't immediately return messages, their secretaries said.
Batzel's secretary said he wouldn't comment, and referred calls to Lawrence Livermore's spokeswoman, Bonnie Jean Barringer
''We haven't seen (the federation's) documentation, so that's it,'' Barringer said.
UC spokesman Mike Lassiter said the university couldn't comment on confidential aspects of Woodruff's grievance, which is under review, but ''to the best of our knowledge'' a Department of Energy investigation ''found no validity to Woodruff's allegations.''
Lassiter said the disagreement between Woodruff and Batzel arose from Batzel's position that the laboratory shouldn't intervene in a technical dispute between Woodruff and Teller.
The X-ray laser is only one part of the proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative. It hypothetically would utilize small nuclear weapons explosions in space to create X-ray laser beams to shoot down missiles or satellites carrying enemy warheads.
Woodruff's grievance said that from December 1983 through October 1985, Teller and Wood ''engaged in numerous actions which undercut my management responsibility for the X-ray laser program.''
''Dr. Teller and Dr. Wood conveyed both orally and in writing overly optimistic, technically incorrect statements regarding this research to the nation's highest policy makers,'' he wrote. ''Dr. Batzel was fully aware of these activities.''
However, James Kane, who conducted the university's investigation, called the dispute ''a valid difference of opinion on both technical and management philosophy,'' according to a statement issued by Lassiter.
''Teller and Wood were optimistic about its (the laser's) feasibility. Woodruff takes a more conservative position.''
Nelson said the grievance showed lab scientists ''deliberately presented false information to the nation's highest policy makers ... in order to continue massive government funding for a major military project.''
Woodruff refused to elaborate on his accusation against Teller and Wood, saying he would violate national security guidelines by discussing details. He also declined to identify the ''highest policy makers.''
But reports in the journal Science and elsewhere have said Teller met with Reagan in 1984 and persuaded him to boost funding for X-ray laser research. Teller also has been credited for helping inspire Reagan's 1983 decision to pursue the ''Star Wars'' concept.
Woodruff said he still strongly supports the X-ray laser and ''Star Wars'' research, but that Reagan's ''vision of a leakproof shield that renders nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete is not a realizable vision.''