Did the Nazis produce these uranium cubes? Researchers are looking for an answer.

The failure of Nazi Germany’s nuclear program is well established in the historical record. What is less documented is how a handful of...


The failure of Nazi Germany’s nuclear program is well established in the historical record. What is less documented is how a handful of uranium cubes, possibly produced by the Nazis, ended up in laboratories in the United States.

Scientists at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the University of Maryland are trying to determine whether the three uranium cubes they have in their possession were produced by the failure of Germany’s nuclear program during World War II.

The answer could lead to more questions, such as whether the Nazis could have had enough uranium to create a critical reaction. And, if the Nazis had succeeded in building an atomic bomb, what would that have meant for the war?

Researchers at the laboratory believe they will know the origin of the cubes by the end of October. For now, the main evidence is anecdotal, in the form of stories handed down by other scientists, according to Jon Schwantes, the project’s lead researcher.

The lab has no scientific evidence or documentation that would confirm that Nazi Germany produced the black cubes, which measure about two inches on each side. The Nazis produced 1,000 to 1,200 cubes, about half of which were confiscated by Allied forces, he said.

“It is not known where most of these cubes are today,” said Dr Schwantes, adding that “these cubes have most likely been incorporated into our stockpile of weapons.”

“The heart of our efforts is above all to confirm the pedigree of these cubes,” he said. “We believe they are from Nazi Germany’s nuclear program, but having scientific evidence for that is really what we’re trying to do.”

When first produced, the cubes were essentially pure uranium metal. Over time, this elemental uranium partially decayed into thorium and protactinium. To determine the age of the cubes, the researchers plan to use a process called radiochronometry, which can separate and quantify the chemical composition of the cubes.

“Uranium decays at a steady rate,” said Dr Schwantes. “So when we measure the ratio of thorium to uranium in the cube, it’s basically a measure of the time that has passed.”

And fixing a point in time when the cubes were made would help determine if it could have been in the early 1940s in Germany. Such a determination would also raise more questions: Could the Nazis have built their own bomb, lengthening the war or even changing the outcome?

Ultimately, the German forces were defeated by the Allies in May 1945, ending the war in Europe, and in the Pacific, Japan held out until September, surrendering only after the States- United dropped atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing tens of thousands of people.

Dr Schwantes, who said he was drawn to math and chemistry in school, said he preferred not to speculate on how the story could have been different, but said he was surreal to “hold this kind of historical material in your hand and think about where it has been, and who else has held it.

Some historians believe that even with nuclear capability, the Nazis could not have changed the way the war ended.

Kate Brown, who teaches environmental and Cold War history at MIT, speculated that Nazi Germany’s production of nuclear weapons probably wouldn’t have had much of an impact on the war. .

“They were in all-out war mode, more and more,” she said. “They could have made a dirty bomb. It’s not as difficult as building a nuclear bomb.

A key ingredient that the Germans needed to produce an atomic bomb was heavy water, that is, water made up of an isotope of hydrogen called deuterium that has twice the mass of ordinary hydrogen.

In their quest to produce an atomic bomb, the Germans wanted to use a method in which uranium is submerged in heavy water, Professor Brown said. But the Allies dealt “a blow” to those plans when they bombed a factory in Norway which was the only place the Germans could get the key ingredient, she added.

Moreover, to be successful in its efforts, Nazi Germany would have needed large factories to produce bombs, large areas of land to test them, and security against the threat of air attacks so that enemies could not. not spy on them, Professor Brown said.

Adam Seipp, professor of history at Texas A&M University, said Nazi Germany lacked resources because it was “really bad at industrial production.”

“This is one of the reasons they lost the war so catastrophically,” he said.

Professor Brown said that even if Nazi Germany had been able to produce a dirty bomb, the Germans would have needed a plane that could fly undetected over a long distance.

“They wouldn’t have had planes that could have reached cities like Moscow,” she said. “Really, the only target I can think of would be London,” she said.

Professor Brown said that while a Nazi bomb wouldn’t have had much of an impact on the war, the Nazis paved the way for the Cold War simply by trying to build one. The Soviets, who were then allies of the United States in defeating Germany, knew the Americans had pulled this uranium out of the country “directly beneath them,” she said.

“It becomes a real engine of suspicion which triggers the Cold War almost immediately,” Professor Brown said.

After the war, the Soviet Union and the United States both took an interest in German scientists and their equipment, Professor Seipp said. The United States even launched a covert operation, Operation Paperclip, with the aim of “moving high-value German scientists to the United States, and often, frankly, ignoring their highly problematic wartime past, in order to let them stay out of Soviet hats ”.

“It kind of helps widen the growing gap between these old allies,” he said.

There followed an arms race between the United States and the Soviets (the United States first showed its strength when he bombed Japan in 1945), which was followed by space race between the old allies.

So far, Dr Schwantes said preliminary results on two cubes look promising. The science used to date the cubes is not new, he said, adding that radiochronometry is the same technique that scientists used to establish the age of the earth as 4.5 billion years old.

“In our case, it’s the same science applied to different problems,” Schwantes said. As the scientists who established the age of the Earth worked with time scales of billions of years, he said, “We are interested in time regimes that range from zero to 100 years. “

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Newsrust - US Top News: Did the Nazis produce these uranium cubes? Researchers are looking for an answer.
Did the Nazis produce these uranium cubes? Researchers are looking for an answer.
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