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Reactor development

When the United States entered World War II, developing an atomic bomb was a top priority. Known as the Manhattan Project, the race to build the weapon would require the construction of Hanford and the development of the B-Reactor to be done in a short amount of time and in almost complete secrecy. Besides a small number of engineers, the 50,000 workers at Hanford were unaware of what they were working on. The B-Reactor was the first full-scale plutonium production reactor in the world. The plutonium produced there would be used in the first nuclear weapons ever tested at the Trinity site as well as in the Fat Man bomb dropped on Nagasaki Japan. The first batch of plutonium was delivered to the Los Alamos laboratory in New Mexico on February 5, 1945. By April, shipments of plutonium were headed to Los Alamos every five days. In a short amount of time, Hanford engineers produced significant technological advances. Their work was built on the breakthroughs of several scientists dating back to Marie Curie’s discoveries in 1898.

By the end of 1945, Hanford had produced 560,000 curies of plutonium. One curie is equal to 37 billion radioactive atoms in a given second in a test area. The amount of radiation present in a curie of radiation is too much for a human body to withstand. The routine operations of Hanford's first eight plutonium reactors were the main cause of the radioactive contamination of the Columbia River. The first three were built as part of the Manhattan project during World War II. The process of creating plutonium in theses reactors produced large amounts of heat, which required the use of water from the Columbia River in the cooling system. After it ran through the pipes in the core of the rector it was sent back into the Columbia River at very high temperatures.



Atomic Frontier Days Hanford and the American West by JOHN M. FINDLAY AND BRUCE HEVLY
Get book information here.
Read chapter one and answer these questions.


Fallout: Reflections on the 60th Anniversary of the Trinity Test by Bill Witherup

Read the essay here. Answer the questions here.


Module 4 videos and questions


Go to the nuke map.

Download the assignment here.



Download an overview of the Manhattan Project.


World War II and the Manhattan Project

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