1942 to 1943: Early Manhattan Project

1942 to 1943: Early Manhattan Project

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Chicago Pile Argonne

1943 Feb

The Soviet Union secretly launches its own atomic program under the direction of Igor Kurchatov. The program was extremely limited throughout the war and included no more than fifty personnel.

1942 Dec 6

M. M. Sundt Company is appointed contractor to build Los Alamos Laboratory in a handshake deal. Sundt begins construction immediately, without plans or blueprints in order to finish as quickly as possible.

1942 Dec 2

At 3:49 p.m., CP-1 goes critical. It demonstrates a k value of 1.0006, and is allowed to reach a thermal output of 0.5 watts (ultimately it operates at 200 watts maximum). This is the first sustained nuclear fission chain-reaction with the Chicago Pile-1 (CP-1).

1942 Dec 1

After 17 days of work, Enrico Fermi's group completes Chicago Pile-1. It contains 36.6 metric tons of uranium oxide, 5.6 metric tons of uranium metal, and 350 metric tons of graphite. Construction is halted sooner than planned when Fermi projects that a critical configuration has been reached.

1942 Dec

Plans and contracts are made for the construction of an experimental reactor, plutonium separation plant, and Electromagnetic separation facility at Oak Ridge, TN.

1942 Dec

Vannevar Bush provides Roosevelt with an estimate placing the total cost for the Manhattan Project at $400 million (almost 5 times the previous estimate). Roosevelt approves the expenditure.

1942 Dec

During this month the work on gaseous diffusion is reorganized. On the strength of the Lewis Committee's recommendation, gaseous diffusion is chosen as the principal enrichment approach.  Kellex Corporation, a subsidiary of Kellog is created to build a plant, Percival Keith is put in charge. Contracts are put in place, and hiring begins for plant construction. Kellex immediately begins work on a process for producing usable barrier material on an industrial scale.

1942 Nov 25

General Leslie Groves selects Los Alamos, NM as the site for a scientific research laboratory, codenamed "Project Y". J. Robert Oppenheimer is selected as laboratory director.