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THE MANHATTEN PROJECT During World War II when the war was about to break out in Europe the United States first started looking at building an atomic bomb but the Germans were already two years ahead of the Americans A nuclear bomb at the time would provide definite power to end the war Albert Einstein was concerned that the Germans would develop and use nuclear weapons first That prompted Einstein to write his letter to President Roosevelt on 2 August 1939 Einstein suggested that an enormously powerful weapon could be made with uranium as fuel and proposed that a special team can explore this possibility Roosevelt responded quickly and set up a study committee which reported back that Einsteins ideas were possible Then the top secret Manhattan project was established headed by Robert Oppenheimer Basically the aim of the project was to produce the worlds first nuclear fission powered weapons There were a few possibilities for the construction of the bomb Uranium which consisted mainly of Uranium 238 was ignificantly ess fissionable than Uranium 235 Uranium would have to be enriched a very difficult process Another possibility was to use Plutonium a synthetic material that could be produced in the nuclear fission of natural Uranium A reactor had to be constructed with only a very small margin for error Enrico Fermi was attempting to establish the first nuclear chain reaction The project separated into three teams of scientists to separate out the few kilograms of fissile material needed for a bomb One team attempted a technique on uranium known as electromagnetic separation A second team also tried to separate uranium by a gas diffusion method The third team was headed by Enrico Fermi producing plutonium 239 by bombarding uranium 238 in a nuclear reactor After almost four years of research two of the methods were successful gas diffusion and the irradiation of uranium 238 These methods were used to produce fuel
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