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The Mannheim Project: A Technological 'What If?'

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  • #16
    Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
    No, because the single biggest factor in making a bomb at all is either producing the plutonium or enriching uranium sufficently. It would have pretty much come close to bankrupting either nation to do this.
    Hmmmm, Britain yes (it's why they readily shared their research with the US) but given the way the German war economy functioned they *could* have found a way. For argument's sake I'd rather assume that finance wouldn't have been too much of an issue although I concede that I could be invoking economic alien space bats here.

    Germany's heavy water reactor likely wouldn't have even worked on the first few tries and would have required an entire redesign of the fuel from 1 kg blocks on necklaces of stainless steel wire to a more stable and regular configuration.
    My limited knowledge of the German programme points to this being a scientific dead end.

    While either Britain or Germany might have done a graphite moderated reactor like the one Fermi had pre-war at the University of Chicago, this would have been only a starting point for practical development.

    So, without a massive program that used mass quantities of electricity in one case and mass produced reactors in the other neither could manufacture the necessary fissile material to produce a working bomb.
    Which kind of puts a dampener on things. Although a quick read on Wiki suggests that until 1942 things were pretty even in the race to develop a bomb.

    As for delivery, a US bomb design of 1945 could have weighed as little as 4,000 lbs. Almost 50% of the weight of the first bombs used was armor plating on the bomb to make it flak resistant. Remove that armor and you get a roughly 5,000 lb bomb. Take out another 1,000 in casing and structure to support that weight and you're at 4,000 lbs.
    So if things were getting desperate the Germans could have risked it in a stock twin-engined bomber although given the ceiling for such an aircraft it would have been tantamount to a suicide mission.
    Signing out.

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    • #17
      If the only serious hindrance is a lack of sufficient funds as well as material resources, perhaps we could have asked the Americans to participate in the project.

      Why not? They liked that kind of technological thing as was shown in the real timeline. Why exclude them anyway? They were more anti-Communist at the time than most of the European states.


      Philip
      "The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts." Bertrand Russell

      Comment


      • #18
        Originally posted by PhilipLaos View Post
        If the only serious hindrance is a lack of sufficient funds as well as material resources, perhaps we could have asked the Americans to participate in the project.

        Why not? They liked that kind of technological thing as was shown in the real timeline. Why exclude them anyway? They were more anti-Communist at the time than most of the European states.


        Philip
        Three reasons:-

        1) Many of the leading scientists had recently fled Nazi Germany and probably would object even if not involved
        2) If FDR is in power he would block it as he was more anti-Nazi than he was anti-Communist. Plus Lend-Lease is very important to the scenario for balance as much as anything.
        3) [Stamps Feet!] It's my thread and I say they're excluded!!
        Signing out.

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        • #19
          Originally posted by Full Monty View Post
          3) [Stamps Feet!] It's my thread and I say they're excluded!!
          Good one!

          So, if you exclude the Americans, where are you going to come up with the dosh then?

          Or could it have been done on the cheap? Enlist Heath Robinson maybe?


          Philip
          "The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts." Bertrand Russell

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          • #20
            Originally posted by PhilipLaos View Post
            Good one!
            One has to invoke OP privileges every now and again.

            So, if you exclude the Americans, where are you going to come up with the dosh then?

            Or could it have been done on the cheap? Enlist Heath Robinson maybe?


            Philip
            As I replied to TAG I could be relying on economic alien space bats. However, the Nazis proved themselves to be masters of financial manipulation so a few extra mefo's would go part of the way. Additionally there would be extra resources that historically were pumped into the air and naval campaigns against the British. Finally the fuel crisis that hobbled Western European industry under Nazi occupation would be somewhat ameliorated in this scenario plus there would be the bonus of semi-normal trade with Britain and its Empire. I'm not going to claim that it would be 'business as usual' in the west or that the extra funds made available would cover the cost (there are a lot of holes in the theory certainly) but for the sake of discussion let's assume they will.
            Signing out.

            Comment


            • #21
              Originally posted by Full Monty View Post
              Hmmmm, Britain yes (it's why they readily shared their research with the US) but given the way the German war economy functioned they *could* have found a way. For argument's sake I'd rather assume that finance wouldn't have been too much of an issue although I concede that I could be invoking economic alien space bats here.
              I'm not saying they can't but something would have to give. Von Braun's rocket work gets sidelined with near zero funding, the Kriegsmarie is left with no surface fleet, major Nazi construction projects end...
              Something has to give to come up with several billion to make it work.

              My limited knowledge of the German programme points to this being a scientific dead end.
              This is a good picture of the German reactor project:



              The problems are obvious:

              First there is no way to control the reaction other than to remove the core. That is not a good thing if you are anywhere near it...

              The 1 kg blocks of unenriched uranium are randomly placed in "necklaces." This means their neutron cross sections will vary and their interaction will be irregular. You will get hot spots and other spots with no reaction whatsoever. This is nearly worthless to really understand what's going on.

              It is a pool-type reactor. Evaporation of the hot heavy water will limit run times and eventually result in the reactor not being operable.



              Which kind of puts a dampener on things. Although a quick read on Wiki suggests that until 1942 things were pretty even in the race to develop a bomb.
              The Germans weren't even close. They were decades behind the US and even Britain. The physics "brain drain" in the 30's took Germany from first in the world of major countries to dead last and the US from nearly last to first place.
              Worse, Nazi politics saw nuclear and theoretical physics as both "Jewish" and a waste of time.



              So if things were getting desperate the Germans could have risked it in a stock twin-engined bomber although given the ceiling for such an aircraft it would have been tantamount to a suicide mission.
              If they actually had a working bomb they could have delivered a 2,000 kg one using extant aircraft. It's not necessarily suicide if something decent is used like a Ju 388 or equivalent. Of course, the suicide part would be delivering it without first testing one to know its effects.
              The US managed that and came up with a survivable flight profile but just...

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              • #22
                Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
                The Germans weren't even close. They were decades behind the US and even Britain. The physics "brain drain" in the 30's took Germany from first in the world of major countries to dead last and the US from nearly last to first place.
                Worse, Nazi politics saw nuclear and theoretical physics as both "Jewish" and a waste of time.
                Not strictly true. There were elements of the Nazis who saw it that way but not all. The biggest problem was the 'hand to mouth' way the war was administered. The Allies thought long-term and were prepared, and able, to wait until a nuclear bomb was ready. The Germans simply could not do this because all resources who devoted to the immediate problems. This approach hindered the development of all major weapons platforms. Atomic weaponry was considered a waste of time because Germany had no time to waste. This exacerbated the 'brain drain' as young physicists were drafted into the military rather than being allowed to pursue research.
                Signing out.

                Comment


                • #23
                  Originally posted by Full Monty View Post
                  Not strictly true. There were elements of the Nazis who saw it that way but not all. The biggest problem was the 'hand to mouth' way the war was administered. The Allies thought long-term and were prepared, and able, to wait until a nuclear bomb was ready. The Germans simply could not do this because all resources who devoted to the immediate problems. This approach hindered the development of all major weapons platforms. Atomic weaponry was considered a waste of time because Germany had no time to waste. This exacerbated the 'brain drain' as young physicists were drafted into the military rather than being allowed to pursue research.
                  Was there not, at some point, an order from Hitler that any military research project which could not be brought to fruition within 12 months must be discontinued?


                  Philip
                  "The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts." Bertrand Russell

                  Comment


                  • #24
                    I think it's a serious mistake to assume that because the Manhattan Project cost X million dollars, that a British (or Anglo-German) project would cost exactly the same. The Americans built both a uranium bomb and a plutonium bomb, whereas Tube Alloys was only focused on a uranium bomb. I don't know the exact breakdown of costs between the two weapons, but it seems to me that the plutonium bomb cost considerably more to build than the other. Consequently you need to divide the total cost by a factor of 2-3 straight off.

                    Secondly, American weapons always cost a lot more than their British equivalents: a Mustang cost more than twice as much as a Spitfire; a Sherman cost more than a Cromwell, and so on. This was partly due to higher wages, but mostly due to lower efficiency: the US achieved high levels of production by throwing resources and warm bodies at the problem rather than by being particularly cost-effective. The book Britain's War Machine mentions this, and it's also referred to in the official history of British war production (available on Hyperwar). This is why the British worked on the basis of $10 = 1 rather than the official exchange-rate of $5 = 1.

                    As a result I'd estimate that the British could have produced a uranium bomb for something like 12-18% of what the Manhattan Project cost. Assuming that Britain is not being bombed and blockaded in this scenario its economy will be in much better shape, so I think this would be easily affordable.

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                    • #25
                      Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
                      Look at the US program: Billions were spent to build Oak Ridge where electromagnetic seperation of urainum was done. ...
                      I wonder if anyone has information on the actual costs. When Rhodes did his research for 'The Making of the Atomic Bomb' he found a lot of info was still either classified, or not in the records he was searching. Rhodes did note the electrical wiring of the magnetic separators was not copper but silver. For several technical reasons silver was chosen, one of which was there was a sufficient quantity of silver bullion stored away in US bank vaults. While there was a accounting cost in removing that bullion from the banking system it did obviate the need to pressure US industry with providing the wire (copper or silver) from scratch.

                      Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
                      In a building half a mile plus long 1152 electromagnetic seperators ran 24/7 for years to get enough material to build just one bomb. Centrifugal diffusion was in its infancy. ...
                      I dont remember exactly when the Oak Ridge site had construction started, but it had to be latter 1942 or later. The Uranium was ready for the device in the summer of 1945 so construction was a bit over a year and production about the same, with some overlap, maybe 36 months maximum or perhaps closer to 30 months.

                      QUOTE=T. A. Gardner;2628398]...At Haniford WA the US build 8 large graphite moderated reactor plants to produce plutonium and that too took years of effort to make enough material for just a few bombs.[/QUOTE]


                      Rhodes wrote that there were three reactors operating at Haniford in 1945, a pilot or test model and two production reactors. Maybe he meant two production 'sites' or complexes of four reactors each. It will take some time to get the book out and check.

                      Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
                      Germany's heavy water reactor likely wouldn't have even worked on the first few tries and would have required an entire redesign of the fuel from 1 kg blocks on necklaces of stainless steel wire to a more stable and regular configuration.
                      Both the Oak Ridge and the Haniford plants required frequent rework during construction each time tests showed earlier assumptions wrong. These were not projects kicked off with fully developed plans in place, they were Fast Tracked in every respect with the initial plans consisting of a few pages
                      hardly a step beyond back of envelope calculations. How Todt or Speers organization would have handled this project I cant say, but certainly the misallocation of engineers and other academics to the army would have been a influence.

                      Originally posted by Full Monty View Post
                      Not strictly true. There were elements of the Nazis who saw it that way but not all. ..... This exacerbated the 'brain drain' as young physicists were drafted into the military rather than being allowed to pursue research.
                      'Hitlers Scientists' by John Cornwell has some descriptions of the individual physicists involved in the German atomic research and their background, what the accomplished ect... the very limited 'lab bench' nature of their work is clearly illustrated by Cornwell.

                      Originally posted by Mycroft Holmes View Post
                      .... Assuming that Britain is not being bombed and blockaded in this scenario its economy will be in much better shape, so I think this would be easily affordable.
                      Britain was setting up is atomic project in Canada. The work was to be accomplished there. Development of a portion of that 'research' facility continued through the war and interacted with the work in the US. While the costs and requirements were unknown in 1941 the British leaders had decided to move ahead with all possible speed in 1941.

                      Comment


                      • #26
                        The US and its' western allies were essentially running multiple atomic weapons projects at the same time. Because it wasn't clear what would be the best route to a weapon when it started, they simple chose to pursue all the most promising routes and forged ahead. Two paid off.

                        This was enormously expensive, but with US resources, this wasn't a major issue.

                        All the Germans will need is a physics genius who sees one of the most promising routes, and has the personality necessary to convince the hierarchy to let him do it. A good grasp of economics wouldn't hurt him either

                        Maybe one of those folks who historically ended up at the front, or otherwise in uniform ...
                        Amateurs study tactics, Professionals study logistics.

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                        • #27
                          Originally posted by Roadkiller View Post
                          All the Germans will need is a physics genius who sees one of the most promising routes, and has the personality necessary to convince the hierarchy to let him do it. A good grasp of economics wouldn't hurt him either
                          Thats easy enough RK. Just import Sergo from in that WWIII in 1946 thread, change his name to Boris, and presto: problem solved.

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                          • #28
                            Originally posted by Carl Schwamberg View Post
                            I dont remember exactly when the Oak Ridge site had construction started, but it had to be latter 1942 or later. The Uranium was ready for the device in the summer of 1945 so construction was a bit over a year and production about the same, with some overlap, maybe 36 months maximum or perhaps closer to 30 months.



                            Rhodes wrote that there were three reactors operating at Haniford in 1945, a pilot or test model and two production reactors. Maybe he meant two production 'sites' or complexes of four reactors each. It will take some time to get the book out and check.



                            Both the Oak Ridge and the Haniford plants required frequent rework during construction each time tests showed earlier assumptions wrong. These were not projects kicked off with fully developed plans in place, they were Fast Tracked in every respect with the initial plans consisting of a few pages
                            hardly a step beyond back of envelope calculations. How Todt or Speers organization would have handled this project I cant say, but certainly the misallocation of engineers and other academics to the army would have been a influence.
                            This is Oak Ridge under construction



                            I can tell you unequovically that neither OT or Speer could call on the sort of mechanization you see in that film. There is a German corps worth of private automobiles alone in some seens. The number of cranes, bulldozers, earth scrapers, steam shovels, and other machinery seen likely exceeds what is available in the entirety of Germany.

                            And, yes, both Oak Ridge and Haniford, along with much of the rest of the Manhattan Project were built on the fly and as portions were finished they went on line and into production immediately.

                            As for Haniford's reactors, they kept building additional ones as they went. I think 8 was the final number completed. But, the engineers and scientists there had an advantage in that they also had working "piles" as the graphite moderated reactors were called in that they had a working one in Chicago (Fermi's orignal at the University of Chicago).

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                            • #29
                              Originally posted by Full Monty View Post
                              Simple premise. For whatever reason, in 1940 the world leading British theoretical atomic physicists team up with Werner Heisenberg's team trying to build an atomic weapon in Germany (dubbed, by me, 'The Mannheim Project'). All other things being equal, could they have built a working bomb and a functional delivery system before the Third Reich collapsed?
                              I would have to say no. The deuterium damper route proved to be a dead-end.

                              Had they built one, however, Stalin would have been in for a very large surprise, since nukes were literally made for the kind of massive armies in the field that he threw at Germany.


                              And, of course, one nuke on London would have taken Britain completely out of the war.

                              I'm mindful of Hitler's grandiose scheme to nuke New York - he didn't have the restrints that Truman had.
                              Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? Who is watching the watchers?

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                              • #30
                                Originally posted by The Ibis View Post
                                Thats easy enough RK. Just import Sergo from in that WWIII in 1946 thread, change his name to Boris, and presto: problem solved.
                                Well, now that you state the obvious answer, anything is plausible
                                Amateurs study tactics, Professionals study logistics.

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