German Atomic Bomb Project
Want to make the fission reaction more efficient? There are many things you can do:. In the United States, the Manhattan project scientists recognized all of this, and went down a number of avenues to ensure the success of their fission bombs. Enriched samples of Uranium and Plutonium were produced: fissile materials that released tremendous amounts of energy when activated by neutrons, yet that also produced additional neutrons to continue a chain reaction. Both water and graphite were excellent mediums for slowing down neutrons, as the collisions between neutrons and those nuclei exchanged energy, slowing the neutrons down.
Joachim Ronneberg: Norwegian who thwarted Nazi nuclear plan dies - BBC News
Normal water H2O , however, was no good, as the free protons in the hydrogen nuclei readily absorbed neutrons, creating deuterium. But if you used "heavy water," made out of deuterium HDO or even "double heavy water" D2O in lieu of water, the neutron absorption would be greatly reduced, enabling you to build a fission bomb of tremendous efficiency.
In the s, American scientists led by J. Robert Oppenheimer, Edward Teller and others figured all of this out, eventually succeeding in their endeavor.source link
Joachim Ronneberg: Norwegian who thwarted Nazi nuclear plan dies
But at the same time in Nazi Germany, relative unknown Kurt Diebner and the theoretical titan Werner Heisenberg had figured out the exact same physics, and were working to build an atomic bomb of their own. But weapons-grade requires Image credit: U. Department of Energy. By the early s, the Germans were well ahead of the allies in their efforts, having procured all of the ingredients necessary for the bomb save one: the heavy water, which was only available in Norway in one particular plant: Vemork. According to the calculations of Heisenberg and others, three-to-six metric tons were needed for a working fission bomb.
The three isotopes of hydrogen; the ideal "double heavy" water D2O consists of two deuteriums and Yet the Nazis never completed their bomb, thanks to the combined efforts of the Norwegian resistance and the allied help of the British Special Operations Executive SOE to sabotage the heavy water production at Vemork.
Led by Leif Tronstad, the Norwegian scientist who figured the Nazi plan out and escaped his occupied country to warn the allies, the journey involved everything from contaminating the heavy water with cod liver oil to trekking over pounds of equipment through the frozen Norwegian winter, only to fall through the ice and fight with a dead battery. A brilliant attempt was made towards the end of to blow up the plant, but a glider crash resulted in the capture and execution of the saboteurs by the Gestapo in Nazi-occupied Norway.
Yet in February of , a second attempt, known as Operation Gunnerside, sent in an SOE-trained team of Norwegian commandos, and they succeeded in destroying the plant.
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Image credit: Anders Beer Wilse, in Five years later, in , the country began its "uranium club. After Hitler invaded Norway in , he ordered his troops to move straight for the nuclear plant in Vemork.
Consequently, Operation Gunnerside was launched in after Britain feared Hitler would use this substance against his enemies. Despite blowing up the plant while the Hydro was sunk, the Norwegians did not destroy all the Germany supply of heavy water the Nazis began to move the following year by train and ferry. He and his generals had already ordered their Norway counterparts to attach a bomb to the vessel.
This story originally appeared in The Sun. Hitler's nuclear plans crushed by sinking ferry According to a new documentary, Adolf Hitler's plans to blow up London with a nuclear bomb very nearly succeeded, had it not been for Winston Churchill ordering the sinking of a Norwegian vessel.