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The Manhattan Project -- Its Operations

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The Manhattan Project -- Its Operations

Major operations for the Manhattan Engineer District (Manhattan Project) took place in remote site locations in the states of Tennessee, New Mexico, and Washington, with additional research being conducted in university laboratories at Chicago and Berkeley.

At the Metallurgical Laboratory in Chicago, Enrico Fermi's experiments at the CP-1 pile took place to determine the exact amount of neutron reduction needed for a safe and controlled sustained nuclear reaction.  A second pile (CP-2), with external cooling, was built at Argonne in order to move the continuing experiments away from populated areas.

Under the umbrella of Clinton Engineer Works near Oak Ridge, Tennessee, the X-10 experimental plutonium pile and separation facilities, the Y-12 Electromagnetic Plant, and the K-25 Gaseous Diffusion Plant were constructed. 

In February 1943, ground was broken at X-10 for an air-cooled experimental pile, a pilot chemical separation plant, and support facilities.   On November 4, the pile went critical and it produced plutonium by the end of the month.  The chemical separation plant completed the steps needed for producing pure plutonium by extracting the plutonium from the irradiated uranium.  Chemical separation techniques were so successful that Los Alamos received plutonium samples in the spring of 1944.

Because of security requirements, fear of radioactive accidents, need for a long construction season and abundant water for hydroelectric power, an isolated area near Hanford, Washington (Site W) was chosen for the production plants.  Three water-cooled piles and three chemical separation plants were constructed.

At Y-12, using a design that was based upon research at Berkeley Lab, the first electromagnetic plant began to take shape in 1943.   By the end of February 1944, 200 grams of twelve-percent...

Related Topics: 70th Anniversary, atomic bomb, DOE Research & Development (R&D) Accomplishments, electromagnetic, gaseous diffusion, Manhattan Project, nuclear chain reaction, plutonium, uranium, World War II

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The Manhattan Project -- Its Establishment

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The Manhattan Project -- Its Establishment

On August 13, 1942, the Manhattan Engineer District, whose name was based upon the geographical location of its headquarters, was established.  In September, the Army appointed Colonel Leslie R. Groves to head the effort.  Groves held that the exigencies of war required scientists to move from laboratory research to development and production in record time.  Though traditional scientific caution might be short-circuited in the process, there was no alternative if a bomb was to be built in time to be used in the current conflict (World War II).

Various isotope separation methods (uranium enrichment) to produce uranium-235 were being researched at this time.  One was gaseous diffusion being done at Columbia and another was the electromagnetic method being done at Berkeley under Ernest O. Lawrence.  Based upon the success of the electromagnetic method, the S-1 (The Office of Scientific Research and Development Section On Uranium) Executive Committee recommended building plants in Tennessee at Site X (now Oak Ridge).

During this time, construction was taking place on the Stagg Field pile -- CP-1 (Chicago Pile Number one) at the Metallurgical Laboratory in Chicago where Enrico Fermi was conducting his research on chain reactions .  Also occurring was Glenn Seaborg's inventive work with plutonium, particularly his investigations on plutonium's oxidation...

Related Topics: 70th Anniversary, atomic bomb, DOE Research & Development (R&D) Accomplishments, electromagnetic, fission, gaseous diffusion, Manhattan Project, nuclear chain reaction, plutonium, Roosevelt, uranium, World War II

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The Manhattan Project -- Its Background

This year is the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the Manhattan Project, a predecessor of the U.S. Department of Energy.  In honor of its impacts on science and history, a 'Manhattan Project' series on this blog will revisit various aspects of its background, establishment, operations, and immediate and long-term influences. The first of the series is about the background of the Manhattan Project.

During the fall of 1939, President F. D. Roosevelt was made aware of the possibility that German scientists were racing to build an atomic bomb and he was warned that Hitler would be more than willing to resort to such a weapon.  As a result, Roosevelt set up the Advisory Committee on Uranium, consisting of both civilian and military representatives, to study the current state of research on uranium and to recommend an appropriate role for the federal government.  The result was limited military funding for isotope separation and the work on chain reactions by Enrico Fermi and Leo Szilard at Columbia University.

On a separate front, in late 1939 Vannevar Bush, president of the Carnegie Foundation, became convinced of the need for the government to marshal the forces of science for a war that would inevitably involve the United States.  In June 1940, Roosevelt established a voice for the scientific community by establishing the National Defense Research Committee (NDRC), a reorganization of the Advisory Committee on Uranium into a scientific body that eliminated military membership.  The NDRC would have more influence and more direct access to money for nuclear research.  The NDRC's early priorities were studies on radar, proximity fuzes,...

Related Topics: 70th Anniversary, atomic bomb, DOE Research & Development (R&D) Accomplishments, Manhattan Project, nuclear chain reaction, Roosevelt, uranium, World War II

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