Wikipedia:Featured topics/History of the Manhattan Project

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The Manhattan Project was a research and development undertaking during World War II that produced the first nuclear weapons. It was led by the United States with the support of the United Kingdom and Canada. Research and production took place at more than 30 sites across the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada. The Einstein-Szilard letter prompted the president to initiate the project under the direction of the S-1 Executive Committee. It was subsequently merged with the British and Canadian projects by the 1943 Quebec Agreement.

Two types of atomic bombs were developed concurrently. The Thin Man gun-type design proved impractical to use with plutonium, and a simpler gun-type called Little Boy was developed that used uranium-235, an isotope that makes up only 0.7 percent of natural uranium. Chemically identical to the more abundant uranium-238, and with almost the same mass, it proved difficult to separate the two. Three methods were employed: electromagnetic in the calutrons; gaseous by the K-25 Project; and thermal by the S-50 Project. Most of this work was performed at the Clinton Engineer Works at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Means for refining uranium were developed by the Ames Project.

In parallel with the work on uranium was an effort to produce plutonium. After its feasibility was demonstrated by Chicago Pile-1, the the world's first artificial nuclear reactor, the Metallurgical Laboratory in Chicago designed the X-10 Graphite Reactor at Oak Ridge and the production reactors at the Hanford Site, in which uranium was irradiated and transmuted into plutonium. This was then chemically separated from the uranium. The Fat Man implosion-type weapon using plutonium was developed in a concerted design and development effort by Project Y at Los Alamos, New Mexico. Heavy water for use in reactors designed by the Metallurgical Laboratory and the Canadian Montreal Laboratory was produced by the P-9 Project. Polonium was produced by the Dayton Project. The Manhattan Project was also charged with gathering intelligence through Operation Alsos, and defense against radioactive weapons under Operation Peppermint.

The first nuclear device ever detonated was a Fat Man bomb at the Trinity test on 16 July 1945. Little Boy and Fat Man bombs were used a month later in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The formerly secret project was made public by the Smyth Report. In the immediate postwar years, the Manhattan Project assisted weapons testing in Operation Crossroads. It maintained control over American atomic weapons research and production until January 1947, when the Atomic Energy Act of 1946 took effect.

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Featured article Manhattan Project
Trinity test (LANL).jpg
Featured list Timeline of the Manhattan Project
Good article Project Alberta
Featured article Alsos Mission
Good article Ames Project
Good article Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Good article Atomic Energy Act of 1946
Featured article British contribution to the Manhattan Project
Featured article Calutron
Good article Project Camel
Featured article Chicago Pile-1
Featured article Clinton Engineer Works
Good article Dayton Project
Good article Einstein-Szilard letter
Good article Fat Man
Featured article Hanford Site
Good article Interim Committee
Featured article K-25
Good article Little Boy
Featured article Metallurgical Laboratory
Featured article Montreal Laboratory
Featured article Operation Crossroads
Good article P-9 Project
Good article Operation Peppermint
Good article Pumpkin bomb
Featured article Quebec Agreement
Good article S-1 Executive Committee
Featured article S-50 (Manhattan Project)
Good article Salt Wells Pilot Plant
Featured article Silverplate
Featured article Smyth Report
Good article Thin Man
Featured article Trinity (nuclear test)
Featured article X-10 Graphite Reactor
Featured article Project Y