tv Oak Ridge National Laboratory CSPAN November 25, 2016 4:55pm-5:06pm EST
plutonium, not produce large amounts of it. originally the first reactor that was developed was that the university of chicago, and enrico fairmay was the principal scientist to develop that reactor. he did it in the squash court of stag field, which is where football used to be place at the university of chicago. they weren't playing football anymore, so that's where he ended up in the squash courts under the grandstands at stag field he produced the first reactor and proved it could be created and maintained. that's what you have to have in order to produce plutonium is a chain reaction, but the government said, no, this is not the place to be messing around with nuclear reactors in
downtown chicago. and so we're going to buy a tract of lan somewhere, and they ended up in east tennessee, about 100 square miles down here. the purpose of this facility at oak ridge -- it wasn't oak ridge at the time. it was just a farm community, and the purpose here was to not only build what we know today as the graphite reactor to produce these trace amounts of plutonium, which would be used as a fuel and a weapon, but also to enrich uranium, because the arm corps of engineers, which ran the manhattan project under general listly groves, groves was sort of a fella that said, well, we don't know if plutonium is going to be a better fuel for a bomb or enriched uranium, so we'll just produce both of them. we don't have time to try wen and then try the other.
so here at oak ridge, two facilities known as k-25 and y-12 were set up to produce enriched uranium. they both produceden rich uranium by different methods. clinton laboratories, which is where the plutonium was to be experimented with, y-12, which was for enriched uranium, and k-25, which was for enriched uranium. all three facilities were separated by ridges, and many, many miles of distance, so that's what oak ridge was, but that's not the entirety of the manhattan project. in addition, there was hanford in the state of washington, where the plutonium was actually produced in kilogram amounts, and then the third major facility was at los alamos in
new mexico where scientists there under the direction of robert open hyper actually designed and built the nuclear weapons p the university of chicago had the metallurgical laboratories where a lot of the basic work on plutonium was done, and then there were universities all over the united states, columbia, michigan, iowa state, berkeley at california, and so on, all of which participated in various ways in the manhattan project. it was a massive undertaking, $2.2 billion, which was a tremendous amount of money during the war years. not so much today, of course, and the money was allocated without the knowledge of congress and even vice president truman didn't know about it. so it was conducted in secret.
there were secret cities here at oak ridge. they had to build a secret city that ultimately ended up housing 75 or 80,000 people. you couldn't get in, couldn't get out without going through security. we were fearful that the germans would get access to our technology, and so it was obvious that all this had to be done in secret, and it was. people in the vicinity didn't know what was going on. it was a super-secret project. if you were hired here and worked on the project, you only knew what your job was. you weren't informed as to what anybody else was doing, so you only saw a little piece of the entire project. really with a few exceptions, you couldn't put together the entire story and under what was going on. eventually after a year or two, they actually began to produce some enriched uranium over at
y-12, and that enriched uranium was carried out of here in a handbag, in a valise. in a train it went out to loss alamos, someone just carrying it normally, and likewise small amounts of plutonium were shipped up to chicago where they could characterize it, and out to los alamos where they could learn how to build a bomb using plutonium. everything was coming in, trainloads and trainloads, but nothing as far as anybody could tell was ever going out. but it was a very ultra-secret undertaking. no one knew what was going on, except the managers, until the bombs were actually dropped on hiroshima and nagasaki in japan in august of 1945. it was at that point that the local population here and the workers who had worked at y-12
and k-25 and so on actually learned that they had been producing an atomic weapon. they went wild. there were dances in the streets and parties and everything. you can still see people in the streets holding up newspapers that says what -- you know, we proud a bomb and the war was over, so on. here at oak ridge national laboratories, or clinton laboratories it was known at the time, we had build this reactor, and built a bunch of technology around the reactor, around the effect of radiation on humans, and the effects of radiation on the environment, fish and other critters out there, and we knew an awful lot about the technology associated with atomic energy. so the decision was made
actually before the war ended in august of 1945 to maintain this reactor that had been built at clinton laboratories, known today as the graphite reactor, and use the graphite reactor for purposes of better understanding nuclear power, nuclear energy, and most importantly use the reactor for produces radio isotopes. radioactive isotopes that could be used in medicine. energy technology, for instance, and energy conservation is a major undertaking. how do we build buildings and houses that conserve energy rather than waste it?
newt ron science going all the way back to the origins of the graphite reactor. we now have the palation newt ron source, which was built at the cost of -- and the application of the spallatio number newt ron source, and when it comes fully online, a couple thousand visitors will come around here from all the around the world to use the facility. super-computing at various times the oak ridge national lab has the vastest civilian super computer in the world. other times we'll be second or third on the list.
it is a multidisciplinary premier research facility, virtually any type of scientist, engineer or social scientist can be found here somewhere on staff. if you need to undertake a research project that involves multidisciplines -- chemistry biology, engineers, physics, whatever -- you'll find those people here that can contribute to that research, and there are ought sorts of uneed pieces of equipment which are not available out there to the average researchers. in various ways those research researchers can get access to certain pieces of equipment here. so we've got a facility that is truly multidisciplinary, has the resources for undertaking virtually any kind of computational or physical research activity that you can