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Interview #16: Cadmus, Robert (1977)

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00:38:03–00:41:30 Real concern was whether nuclear physics...

Real concern was whether nuclear physics at UW could be revived. Wasn't clear for several months. Couldn't get into lab for a week to find out how much damage had been done. FBI were trying to find pieces of truck the bomb had been in.

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00:38:03

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RC

I guess one of the considerations from my own personal interest at the time was not so much in whether there was, whether my books or papers were intact or not. Whatever. But whether or not there was going to be nuclear physics at this university after that. It was quite a while after, without going into details of how the accelerator is constructed, it’s fragile. And it’s conceivable that if it had been, its main structural parts had been destroyed through the shock, that funds would not have been available to rebuild it.

LS

I see. I didn’t realize that.

RC

And nuclear physics at this university could have just come to a stop instantaneously, effectively.

LS

Yeah.

RC

And people might have gone to other labs to take some data and things like that, to sort of smooth things over. But it wasn’t clear to me, to anybody, I think, for quite a while after that, whether it was going to be able to, whether the whole situation here was going to completely change, or whether we were just going to have a year of cleaning up before we got back to business. It turned out to be the latter, but it wasn’t obvious in the beginning.

LS

Yes. I didn’t know that. [That would be a?] major factor–

RC

First of all, we couldn’t get into the lab because of the FBI roped the place off for at least a week or so after that. So we all just sort of hung around the ropes for a week, asking when, when, when could we get in to even learn the crudest things about how much damage had been done.

LS

Wasn’t that rather a long time? What were they after? Clues?

RC

They were trying to put together four million pieces of a truck in a road, and sifting through every conceivable paper, looking for any clues they could find. They sifted through everything. I was amazed they could do it in a week. And, of course, they talked to everybody. They did a very thorough job of doing everything. But it took them a long time.

00:40:11

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RC

At any rate, when we finally got in, because of [details?] the way the accelerator’s built, questions having to do with cleanliness, we couldn’t just, the accelerator is inside a pressure tank. And you can’t really see very much from outside. And we couldn’t just run in, open the doors and look, because the room the accelerator was in was full of concrete dust and wood splinters and was filthy. And we didn’t want to open the tank until the room was clean. So even after we got in–

LS

Because all the dust would get in.

RC

Right. Even after we got in, it was a long time before we felt things were clean enough to be willing to open the tank of the pressure tank, and see how the machine had survived. And there was a great deal of damage to the facility, certainly. The question is, whether the basic structural parts of the machine had survived or not. And that wasn’t known for a long time.

LS

This machine is surrounded by gases, I understand.

RC

That’s right.

LS

And what had happened to that? Because the room where the gas is controlled was destroyed.

RC

I think it, the gas that was used at the time was mostly nitrogen, with low carbon dioxide. I think it just vented. I don’t remember specifically. I don’t remember specifically. I think it’s highly likely that it was just vented to the atmosphere. Though it’s not absolutely necessary. It might–

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