Thursday 4 February 2016

Will The Bomb shed new light on the 1979 Vela nuke test?

The Bomb: South Africa's Nuclear Weapon Programme, a new book on the apartheid nuke project - by an insider - will no doubt shed more light on this shadowy subject which I covered in detail in Part 1 of my third book, Drinking with Ghosts (BestRed, Cape Town, 2014), titled "Unhale Radiance: The African Atomic Bomb." 

I can't wait to read this - especially regarding what the authors have to say about the 1979 "Vela" atomic test that I stated was almost certainly a clandestine Israeli test (with South Africa assisting and observing), shot on an Israeli ballistic missile from the Overberg Test Range in the Cape downrange towards South Africa's remote South Atlantic island possessions where the detonation was picked up by a US Vela spy satellite.

For decades, the world speculated about South Africa and the Bomb. The country possessed six nuclear bombs developed in secret, but then destroyed. No other country in the world has ever dismantled its own nuclear weapons. This book is so far the most complete statement of South Africa's nuclear weapons capability, written by a nuclear physicist who was involved directly in the process since 1975. Together with his daughter Lydia von Wielligh-Steyn, Dr. Nic von Wielligh has written a highly readable and compelling story about the atomic particle, and how it was tamed.  

Dr. Nic von Wielligh obtained his DSc in Nuclear / Atomic Physics in 1963. Among his achievementns, he was chief of the Department of Physics at the University of Durban-Westville and chief scientist at the South African Bureau of Standards. In 1975, he was appointed to the Uranium Enrichment Corporation (UKOR), and in 1985 in a management capacity at the Atomic Energy Corporation of South Africa (AEC).

After South Africa's entry in 1991 into the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, von Wielligh was given responsibility for the implementation of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) guarantees in South Africa, and in 1999, he was consultant and technical adviser at the South African embassy in Vienna, Austria. There he liaised with the IAEA on issues such as warranties, nuclear and radiological security, promoting the peaceful use of nuclear energy, technical assistance programs to developing countries and other issues. Since 2002 he has done technical consulting for government departments on issues involving international guarantees and related matters. He was for many years a member of the IAEA's international advisory committee on nuclear power and the implementation of guarantees, as well as board member of the South African Council for the Non-Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction. Von Wielligh is the author of numerous classified scientific publications. Among his international publications can be counted the experience for (de facto) ex-nuclear weapon states with applications for post-Iraq safeguards, presented at the 1994 Safeguards Symposium in Vienna, Austria.

Lydia von Wielligh-Steyn is an accredited translator, experienced researcher, public relations tour guide, a published novelist and article writer and a member of the South African Academy for Science and Art. Since 2000 she has worked for an international perfume company in Johannesburg.