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The Mannheim Project: A Technological 'What If?'

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  • #31
    Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
    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).
    Another serious problem that hasn't been addressed is the need for power and lots of it. The US was lucky in having the Grand Coulee Dam available to supply power to the Haniford reactors. I'm estimating it was supplying 500MW in 1943 and an additional 250MW each year until 1950. Likewise, the research facilities at Los Alamos were well supplied by the Hoover Dam and Oak Ridge by the Tennesee River stations. Germany did not have anything like that amount of spare generating capacity and neither did Britain.

    I'd like to see people argue their way out of this little problem

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    • #32
      Originally posted by broderickwells View Post
      Another serious problem that hasn't been addressed is the need for power and lots of it. The US was lucky in having the Grand Coulee Dam available to supply power to the Haniford reactors. I'm estimating it was supplying 500MW in 1943 and an additional 250MW each year until 1950. Likewise, the research facilities at Los Alamos were well supplied by the Hoover Dam and Oak Ridge by the Tennesee River stations. Germany did not have anything like that amount of spare generating capacity and neither did Britain.

      I'd like to see people argue their way out of this little problem
      I'll give it a go.

      Norwegian heavy-water was produced at a hydro-electric plant. I don't wish to invoke ASBs but would it not be possible to ramp up its generating capacity so this apparent shortfall was covered? The Norwegians might object but as an occupied nation they're not going to have much say in the matter. It might even by 'sold' to them as a price to be paid for the protection provided against their Bolshevik neighbour!
      Signing out.

      Comment


      • #33
        broderickwells wrote:

        Another serious problem that hasn't been addressed is the need for power and lots of it. The US was lucky in having the Grand Coulee Dam available to supply power to the Haniford reactors. I'm estimating it was supplying 500MW in 1943 and an additional 250MW each year until 1950. Likewise, the research facilities at Los Alamos were well supplied by the Hoover Dam and Oak Ridge by the Tennesee River stations. Germany did not have anything like that amount of spare generating capacity and neither did Britain.

        I'd like to see people argue their way out of this little problem
        There are a number of problems with this.

        Firstly, you are making the mistake of assuming that if the US does something in a particular way, there is no other way of doing it. Actually the British has invented a much more efficient way of enriching uranium, though it was put on the back-burner when Tube Alloys turned into the Manhattan Project.

        Secondly, the British would be working on a much smaller scale (no plutonium bomb) so they won't require as much power.

        Thirdly, you seem to be claiming that the entire output of these generating stations was devoted to the Manhattan Project, and this doesn't actually seem to be true.

        Lastly, the British had no trouble producing fissile material once they realised that the US was going to be treacherous about honouring their agreement to share the results of the programme - and they did it without any significant increase in generating capacity.

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        • #34
          Just a note--there's no "I" in Hanford.

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          • #35
            Originally posted by Mycroft Holmes View Post
            broderickwells wrote:



            There are a number of problems with this.

            Firstly, you are making the mistake of assuming that if the US does something in a particular way, there is no other way of doing it. Actually the British has invented a much more efficient way of enriching uranium, though it was put on the back-burner when Tube Alloys turned into the Manhattan Project.
            I'd be interested to know what that was since the only two methods I know of that existed at that time were thermal diffusion as done at Oak Ridge and later abandoned as a method (by the end of the war no less), and gaseous diffusion which became the prefered method late in WW 2 by the US and then was adopted post war by everybody.
            It was replaced by centrifuging of various sorts in the late 50's and 60's and beyond.

            Secondly, the British would be working on a much smaller scale (no plutonium bomb) so they won't require as much power.
            You still need 98%+ enriched uranium to build any bomb at all and that requires a massive enrichment processing system whatever one you choose. While gaseous diffusion doesn't require the huge power that thermal does it is still expensive.

            Thirdly, you seem to be claiming that the entire output of these generating stations was devoted to the Manhattan Project, and this doesn't actually seem to be true.
            That is true, they didn't consume anything close to the output of these power plants. But, they did require massing of expensive equipment and considerable numbers of trained personnel to operate. For Britain this would have put a dent in other production.

            Lastly, the British had no trouble producing fissile material once they realised that the US was going to be treacherous about honouring their agreement to share the results of the programme - and they did it without any significant increase in generating capacity.
            The British nuclear weapons program, as well as that of the French, was a fraction the size of the US one... whatever the reason. Once the basic techniques were known on how to produce a bomb the cost of production falls dramatically. The US had already done the bulk of the research and development work in getting a working bomb.

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            • #36
              Originally posted by Mycroft Holmes View Post
              broderickwells wrote:
              Originally posted by broderickwells View Post
              Another serious problem that hasn't been addressed is the need for power and lots of it. The US was lucky in having the Grand Coulee Dam available to supply power to the Haniford reactors. I'm estimating it was supplying 500MW in 1943 and an additional 250MW each year until 1950. Likewise, the research facilities at Los Alamos were well supplied by the Hoover Dam and Oak Ridge by the Tennesee River stations. Germany did not have anything like that amount of spare generating capacity and neither did Britain.

              I'd like to see people argue their way out of this little problem

              There are a number of problems with this.

              Firstly, you are making the mistake of assuming that if the US does something in a particular way, there is no other way of doing it. Actually the British has invented a much more efficient way of enriching uranium, though it was put on the back-burner when Tube Alloys turned into the Manhattan Project.
              No they didn't. The British were first to realise that the amount of fissionable material was 10's of kilograms of uranium, not tonnes. And the work was done by exiled Germans.

              You are assuming that Britain or Germany has the spare workforce to construct these various projects - Hanford took 50,000 workers - as well as the necessary amounts of concrete and steel. Finally don't forget the money - $US2 billion in 1945 with a total labour force of 130,000. 90% of that was spent on factories processing the fissionable material. Or does Britain have an endless supply of handwavium?
              Secondly, the British would be working on a much smaller scale (no plutonium bomb) so they won't require as much power.
              Considering the British knew of the possibility of converting U-238 into Pu-239 and had confirmed it during 1940, they would probably have chosen to pursue this path too. There is a lot more U-238 than U-235. Refining it does not involve uraniumhexafluoride. Both systems require truckloads of power, but a breeder reactor generates fissionable material, even if it would have turned Wales into a wasteland.
              Thirdly, you seem to be claiming that the entire output of these generating stations was devoted to the Manhattan Project, and this doesn't actually seem to be true.
              In 1943-5 practically the entire output of the Grand Coulee Dam was devoted to the Manhattan project. The only other serious consumer in the Pacific NW was Boeing. Or are you saying that both Britain and Germany had huge amounts of spare electrical capacity?
              Lastly, the British had no trouble producing fissile material once they realised that the US was going to be treacherous about honouring their agreement to share the results of the programme - and they did it without any significant increase in generating capacity.
              On 1 November 1952, the US tested their first fusion nuclear weapon.

              The British tested their first fission nuclear weapon on 3 October 1952....
              Last edited by broderickwells; 08 Sep 13, 17:36.

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              • #37
                Originally posted by Full Monty View Post
                I'll give it a go.

                Norwegian heavy-water was produced at a hydro-electric plant. I don't wish to invoke ASBs but would it not be possible to ramp up its generating capacity so this apparent shortfall was covered? The Norwegians might object but as an occupied nation they're not going to have much say in the matter. It might even by 'sold' to them as a price to be paid for the protection provided against their Bolshevik neighbour!
                Heavy water doesn't make a fission bomb, it moderates neutron behaviour in nuclear reactions. Besides, the French had bought all of Norway's stock of D2O in 1940.

                Nice try, but my first degree was a BSc.
                Last edited by broderickwells; 08 Sep 13, 17:17.

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                • #38
                  Originally posted by broderickwells View Post
                  Heavy water doesn't make a fission bomb, it moderates neutron behaviour in nuclear reactions. Besides, the French had bought all of Norway's stock of D2O in 1940.

                  Nice try, but my first degree was a BSc.
                  You doing a Gllenn?

                  Whether heavy water makes a bomb or not is immaterial. The Germans were making it for use in their atomic programme at a Norwegian hydro-electric plant. The power generated by the plant might be enough to satisfy the needs you describe .... assuming a bit of typical British ingenuity combined with German engineering excellence.
                  Signing out.

                  Comment


                  • #39
                    Originally posted by Full Monty View Post
                    You doing a Gllenn?

                    Whether heavy water makes a bomb or not is immaterial. The Germans were making it for use in their atomic programme at a Norwegian hydro-electric plant. The power generated by the plant might be enough to satisfy the needs you describe .... assuming a bit of typical British ingenuity combined with German engineering excellence.
                    The problem is that the German heavy water reactor design is crap. They would have had to completely redesign it to get it to work. Using the "necklaces" of blocks of randomly oriented raw uranium would not have worked. They needed to arrange things far more precisely and that called for control rods and a fixed fuel geometry. The graphite route the US (Fermi) took was much simpler even if far more messy.

                    The only way I can see for the German reactor to be controlled is to pull the core from the water. They couldn't have used a neutron poison like boron as an alternate as this would have contaminated the water and been hard to remove later.
                    Pulling the core when it is operating is not a smart thing at all. Between the heat and radiation you are looking at a likely disaster if you do.

                    So, the Germans have to start from scratch after their first attempt fails.

                    Comment


                    • #40
                      Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
                      The problem is that the German heavy water reactor design is crap. They would have had to completely redesign it to get it to work. Using the "necklaces" of blocks of randomly oriented raw uranium would not have worked. They needed to arrange things far more precisely and that called for control rods and a fixed fuel geometry. The graphite route the US (Fermi) took was much simpler even if far more messy.

                      The only way I can see for the German reactor to be controlled is to pull the core from the water. They couldn't have used a neutron poison like boron as an alternate as this would have contaminated the water and been hard to remove later.
                      Pulling the core when it is operating is not a smart thing at all. Between the heat and radiation you are looking at a likely disaster if you do.

                      So, the Germans have to start from scratch after their first attempt fails.
                      Well they do have the British onboard which *could* make all the difference. There's no evidence either way whether it would of course but it's quite conceivable that the pooled intellectual resources would figure it out given Britain's lead in the theoretical side. The real problem as far as I can tell is how quickly they can design a working bomb given the pressure on resources. I'm assuming an Anglo-German Non-Aggression Pact which allows for a degree of cooperation. I'm also assuming US Lend-Lease being granted to the Soviets meaning that the Mannheim Project has to come to fruition by late 1944 or risk being shut down to cover more pressing needs.
                      Signing out.

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                      • #41
                        If I'm not careful ......

                        Signing out.

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                        • #42
                          Originally posted by Full Monty View Post
                          You doing a Gllenn?

                          Whether heavy water makes a bomb or not is immaterial. The Germans were making it for use in their atomic programme at a Norwegian hydro-electric plant. The power generated by the plant might be enough to satisfy the needs you describe .... assuming a bit of typical British ingenuity combined with German engineering excellence.
                          There is the minor problem of enriching the fuel, which really is the problem, no matter what technology route you take. Natural uranium contains about 0.7% U-235. Not enough to to maintain a critical mass. The expensive and energy hungry bit is building the uranium enrichment to get it up to 3-5% U-235 for reactors, and 84% or more for a bomb. You're going to have to invest in a lot of gas and thermal diffusion technology. And you'll need an expert in organofluorine chemistry because UF6 is highly corrosive. There goes another year of research...

                          Sorry, but all the good German scientists have fled to the USA. (Where is that fiendishly twirls his moustaches smiley?)

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                          • #43
                            Originally posted by Full Monty View Post
                            If I'm not careful ......


                            My god, a huhu bug


                            Wire mesh, 8mm spacing

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                            • #44
                              Originally posted by broderickwells View Post
                              Sorry, but all the good German scientists have fled to the USA. (Where is that fiendishly twirls his moustaches smiley?)
                              Not all, and with those dastardly Brits twiddling their canes with unparalleled, er, dastardliness, anything can happen (in the next half hour?)!
                              Signing out.

                              Comment


                              • #45
                                Originally posted by Full Monty View Post
                                Not all, and with those dastardly Brits twiddling their canes with unparalleled, er, dastardliness, anything can happen (in the next half hour?)!
                                International Rescue were supposedly Americans.

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