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It is imporatant to carefully examine history in order to learn from
previous mistakes, and also to ensure that the same mistakes are not
repeated. The Manhattan project is an excellent example. This program
allowed the United States to unleash the power of the atom, thus,
introducing a new and devastating element into warfare. Although they
managed to come in first in the race with Germany, the U.S. bears the
responsibility of having introduced the atomic bomb, and have the blood on
their hands from the use of it. It is obvious that the U.S. reaped the
benefits by introducing the bomb, because no one else had the chance to use
it on them. However, it is imperative to realize that when they dropped the
bomb they became hypocrates. They did not want it used on them, but were
eager to use it on another country. Actually, the U.S. had trouble deciding
who to use it on. However, when a target was selected, the results were
devastating. There were 170,000 people killed in Hiroshima alone and in
Nagasaki, estimates say, nearly 70,000 died. After the bomb was dropped, the
resulting radiation killed nearly 70,000 people. The Manhattan Project and
the use of the atomic bomb were unfortunate products of a scientific
breakthrough and a frantic race; which resulted in a revolution in warfare.
The Manhattan Project originated from the Army Corps of Engineers, this
division was originally named the Manhattan District. The later name, The
Manhattan Project, encompassed the district, the scientific, the
governmental and the strategic aspects (4:9). In 1941 President
Roosevelt and several American scientists began work on the project (1:1).
The bomb was never reffered to as the "atomic bomb" it was referred to as
"a new weapon of unusual destructive force" (13:74). The main hub of
acivity for this project was in New Mexico, the program lasted from 1942 to
1946. The total cost was nearly 2 billion dollars (1:3).
Another important aspect to this program was the secrecy invovlved.
It was said that "loose lips sink ships" (13:37). According to Roosevelt
the only people who knew about the program at it's conception were Vice
President Wallace, the Speaker of the House, the Democratic Leader of the
Senate Mr. Barkley, and the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee for
the House and Senate (11:27). As time went on it was still kept very quiet,
most cabinet members and even more congressmen did not know about it (1:3).
In fact, the money had to be smuggled into the War Department budget (1:3).
Roosevelt eventually told Stalin about the project, he said, " I casually
mentioned it to Stalin that we had a new weapon of unusual destructive
force. The Russian Premier showed no special interest. All he said was
that he was glad to hear it and he hoped we would make good use of it
against the Japanese (13:75)." All of this secrecy contributed to the
success of the program and the bombing of Japan.
The most challenging part of this project was not smuggling the
money into the budget or maintaining secrecy, it was devising a way to
obtain enough Uranium and Plutonium to create the bombs (11:27). Roosevelt
established a committee in October of 1939 in an attempt to locate sources
of the elements. Alfred Nier began to study isotopes of Uranium, he was also
the first to discover the U-235 content in natural Uranium. The next step
in this process was to determine whether it was the U-235 or the U-238
isotope of Uranium that would enable them to create the bomb (4:190).
Uranium contained only 1% U-235, while the other 90% of Uranium ore was
composed of U-238. As luck would have it, they discovered that it was only
the U-235 that could be used to create the bomb.
Once these isotopes had been discovered, it was time to begin
separation. There were several ways to go about this. The first was to use
magnetic separation. This was made possible by Ernest O. Lawerence who
invented the Cyclotron. The process occurs "when a Uranium Tetrachloride
mixture is electrically charged". "It is then passed through a magnet on
180 degree arc (4:10)." The lighter U-235 passes through and collects. The
heavier U-238 would simply pass through. Yet, due
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Manhattan Project, Actinides, Code names, Chemical elements, Nuclear materials, Nuclear fission, Uranium, Plutonium, Little Boy, Thermonuclear weapon, Nuclear weapon, Isotopes of uranium
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