Seymour Sack, 2003


For his contributions to the national security of the United States in his work assuring the reliability of nuclear weapons and thus deterring war between the superpowers.


Dr. Sack is one of the foremost designers of nuclear weapons. His imprint can be recognized in the first stages of all of the two-stage thermonuclear devices within our continuing stockpile. His design programs introduced insensitive high explosives, fire-resistant plutonium pits and other state-of-the-art nuclear safety concepts.

In the late 1950s, he developed 2D design codes and in the early 1960s applied them to the design of the first safe, modern primary deployed in the Polaris warhead. During the 1960s, he designed primaries for the first "miniature" bombs deployed in the Poseidon submarine-launched ballistic missile and the Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile. These designs were prototypes for the warheads developed by Los Alamos National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the 1970s and 1980s.

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Dr. Sack turned his efforts to the conception and realization of the modern, extremely safe, air-carried nuclear weapon. The potential for aircraft accidents with catastrophic consequences made this a critical need, which Dr. Sack championed for the weapons stockpile. He designed the warhead for both the high yield aerial bomb and the ground launched cruise missile. Simultaneously, he directed both development projects. In this project, Dr. Sack developed the first use of insensitive high explosive and the first fire-resistant pit, thereby greatly enhancing the safety of nuclear explosives in crash and fire accidents.

Finally, in the 1980s, all of these safety innovations were brought together for the first time in a strategic warhead in the development of the Peacekeeper warhead. It is the safest, most advanced warhead in the active stockpile.

Over the course of his career, Dr. Sack has maintained extremely high technical standards across a broad spectrum of fields. He has a wide reputation for clear thinking and an uncanny ability to distinguish the essential form the unessential when it comes to matters relevant to nuclear weapons. Since his retirement in 1990, he has remained extremely active in nuclear weapons design and policy issues. Dr. Sack continues to speak frankly on many of the issues facing the Nation during the current decade of stewardship without nuclear testing. His personal and technical integrity has led him to consistently debunk the arguments of those who call for a return to nuclear testing. He has, on numerous occasions, pointed out that there are currently no compelling technical reasons for nuclear testing. His opposition to nuclear testing is derived from his knowledge of the state of current weapon designs and his deep understanding of the issues facing stewardship.

Throughout his thirty-five year career and decade of semi-retirement, his hallmark has been his technical expertise, combined with dispassionate, insightful, and honest reasoning. Dr. Sack remains an invaluable national resource.

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