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Re: Theory of Fielding - Set V - Implosion and Uranium Hydride

From: I. Fodor
Date: 01 Oct 1999


It is rather a shame that the British WW2 secret service archives were so far (as far as I can tell) not opened to the public. Therefore you will have to wait (I suppose) to hear what they knew through Griffin (der Greif) as nobody who was involved at that time is alive any more. Concerning uranium hydride, Richard Rhodes quoted in his first book (The making of the atomic bomb) Otto Frisch's memoires "What little I remember". But in his second book (Dark sun) he wrote: "Further examination had made clear to the Americans what Kurchatov immediately deduced, that a hydride core with its slower reaction rates, would blow itself apart before the reaction could chain through enough generations for an efficient explosion. Work on a hydride gun essentially ended al Los Alamos in August 1944, but someone like Nunn May, collecting information far from the source, might not have known that Kurchatov was eager to know if this odd bomb design had been studied only through calculations or experimentally-..." Which would mean the Russians probably didn't know about the Dragon experiment (?) And it would also mean that Kurchatov was quite a capable fellow with a "gut feeling" (intuition ?)

By the way, Chuck Hansen wrote in his book "US Nuclear Weapons": "One early line of research at Los Alamos during WW2 involved the use of uranium hydride for the gun and implosion weapons. This hydride seemed to have certain advantages over metallic uranium as a bomb material. One of the characteristics of uranium hydride is that the mean time between fissions in it is about 100 times that of metallic uranium....[T]he hydride gun was abondoned in February 1944."

One aside note: as a matter of interest, the US had built and test-exploded in 1946 a couple of hydride "shots". So here is a discrepancy in date compared with R. Rhodes (and also in reaction rates, if I am not mistaken).

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