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The Germans succeeded in getting a nuclear reactor to work

Discussion in 'What If - Other' started by T. A. Gardner, Dec 6, 2009.

  1. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    Didn't the people at the facility call that "twisting the dragon's tail" or something? It is truely amazing how little these men and women understood of the dangers and properties of radiation at the time.
     
  2. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    OT but from what I've heard that was pretty much how they discovered nerve gas. They were working on new pesticides and one day someone realized that one of the labs had been pretty quite for a while and went to check ...
     
  3. Chesehead121

    Chesehead121 Member

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    Ech. Why don't the Germans do what they actually managed to do well, jet engines? If they could get a working nuclear reactor/bomb by 1942, as opposed to , they definately could spend their resources better making a jet bomber and fighter by 1942, well before the allies could possibly match it. Sure, it might be a bit less of propaganda and military value, but at least it was practical...
     
  4. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    The Germans didn't actually manage to do jet engines better than anybody else, although they did put a relatively fair amount of resources into them. Italy actually flew a jet in August, 1940, but it's jet technology proved to be a dead end. Britain put far less investment into jet engines, yet was literally within months of flying comparable jets when Germany did. One of the reasons the Allies didn't keep abreast of German developments in jet engines was because it would have interrupted the production lines of piston engine aircraft. Britain did fly it's first production jet in January, 1944.

    When Germany did begin to close in on a practical jet engine, numerous problems arose, not the least of which was a lack of the high temperature materials and alloys required to assure reliable performance. The early German jets were so unreliable and short-lived that the Allies would never have put them into production. The German test flights conducted in 1942 demonstrated not only the potential of axial-flow engine, but also the immaturity of its technology. The Germans found out the hard way over the next couple of years that revolutionary technology cannot mature overnight, even with large investments and with the availability of highly developed testing facilities. Only in mid summer 1944 the Jumo 004B engine was finally ready for series production, and even then it was imperfect.
     
  5. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Actually I believe the Meteor saw squadron operational service before the Me-262. On another forum it was mentioned that the design of the latters engines is pretty much regarded as a dead end while the formers engine design is pretty much the standard. Something about where the fuel was injected I think.
     
  6. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    Actually, the Germans did no better by 1945 than the Western Allies on jet engines and, in some respects far worse. The best German jet engine in terms of performance was the Jumo 004. On the down side it had a service life of about 10 to 15 hours meaning it would need replacing after just a couple of sortes. The BMW 003 was better at a couple hundred hours run time but it produced less thrust.

    The in the US Westinghouse and General Electric had come up with axial turbojet engines that surpassed the German ones in performance and even topped the 011 engine that Germany was experimentally running at the end of the war. The British centrifugal engines were both reliable and had decent performance that matched the German and US axial designs.

    You might note that the US and Britain both had jets of their own flying by the end of 1942 also (the US P-59 and Meteor I). But, they like the Germans spent most of 1943 perfecting and improving their designs. The only real advantage the Germans had was in high speed airframes and aerodynamics, a field the Allies lagged in until late 1944. This was due to their not having built supersonic wind tunnels and having done alot of research on near sonic and trans-sonic flight like the Germans had.

    For the Germans adopting jets earlier was not a war winner for numerous reasons not all of which by a long shot are discussed here.

    Oh, both the Meteor and US P-59 were in squadron service well before the Me 262 made its squadron debut. Of course, the P-59 wasn't being used operationally but for training and research so its squadron service was limited to the US.
     
  7. Kruska

    Kruska Member

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    What if, the Germans had developed nuclear powered jets?

    Sorry T.A.G. I just couldn't resist :D

    Regards
    Kruska
     
  8. Tomcat

    Tomcat The One From Down Under

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    All right guys lets not go back into this jet powered discussion here in this thread.

    If you wish to discuss this please move it to the relevant thread, as this Nuclear Reactor one is quite interesting, I am sure others feel the same so lets keep the great posts going.
     
  9. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    I don't know if I mentioned it, but the design the did have was quite frankly crap. Many of you might have seen photos of it.

    The design was a heavy water moderated reactor. It consisted of a large concrete tank into which the uranium blocks / cubes (each is about 10 to 15 cm square in size) were lowered by a manual chain fall (hoist) arrangement. The blocks were arranged by using stainless steel bailing wire that tied the blocks in a sort of necklace arrangement. The individual necklaces formed a group of rows / rings.
    The idea was that lowered into the deuterium (heavy water) the uranium would begin to undergo fission as the heavy water moderated the neutrons. The problem was the blocks were anything but precisely aligned or shaped. They appear to have been strung together by hand. I doubt anything so crude would have worked in any case.
     
  10. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    That would have been Heisenberg's B-8 experiment in March, 1945, in the village of Haigerloch in the Black Forest. The pit was in a former beer cellar in a natural cavern which had been enlarged. According to David Cassidy, the wires on which the blocks of uranium were strung were of aluminum.

    It was as close as the Germans ever got to a self sustaining nuclear chain reaction. The B-8 pile achieved a neutron multiplication rate of 670%, but it was not enough. Heisenberg calculated they would need about 50% more uranium and heavy water to achieve a critical pile.
     
  11. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

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    The high capacity tubes are ok with a EMP, other than very close range. In the case of the Japanese it appears the large stationary trancievers, both military and civilian were being temporarily knocked out. Part of this may have been delicate components, part may have been the circut breakers protecting the radios from lighting strikes on the antenna towers. In the case of the phone system I've read of nearby telephone excahanges in Nevada/New Mexico being shut down when the circut breakers were tripped by the EMP. The same thing suposedly happened to USN communications equipment at the Crossroads tests, and in Japan, to the telephone system. The transmission lines were acting as antenna in some cases creating power surges in the cables & switch equipment.

    The open source material I've found on this is very vague compared to the school room stuff we were given.
     
  12. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    The big difference with tubes and EMP is that the tubes will generally survive the hit whereas modern micro electronics won't. The difference is in their ability to asorpb the surge without damage. MOSFETs, FETs and, IC circuits are some of the more easily damaged ones today. Just a small surge will blow microscopic "holes" in the various layers of semiconductor causing the device to fail.

    Anything without full electrical shielding and good drains (grounding) will be subject to EMP effects. Hardening isn't too hard to do.
     
  13. ickysdad

    ickysdad Member

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  14. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    I think you would find that the method described here (thermal diffusion) was both investigated and built by the US in the forties. The Navy did the thermal separation methods with uranium hexafluoride, and the MED (Army) focused on the gaseous/magnetic separation method for the great bulk of the U-235 production, and explored the centrifugal method as well.

    First off it has been estimated that starting from 50,000 tons of mid-grade uranium ore you can get less than a ton of the kind of uranium atom needed to make a bomb with the most effiecent method of separation/enrichment. Of course, while only a few kilograms of nearly pure (over 90%) U-235 are required for each explosive device, it must be remembered that the Germans had mis-estimated the amount early on, and until post-Hiroshima hadn't altered their number for a critical mass requirement.

    The U-238 uranium oxide ore the Nazis had access to was the "mid-grade" quality from the Czech mines, running at about 20-35% U-238 isotope in the ore itself. The German engineers and phsycists had concentrated their ore in "yellowcake" at almost 75-80% U-238, when the Alsos Unit captured their stockpile it was only 1500 tons.

    The raw ore deposits of the Belgian Congo which the US had access to was the best in the world, at nearly 60% uranium oxide in the ore. Not only did we (MED) purchase/confiscate the tons of Belgian ore which were on Staten Island when war broke out, we continued to import the ore from the Congo through-out the war, only loosing one shipload to torpedoes in the entire period.

    America also had access to the millions of tons of lower-grade ore from the Canadian fields, the high-grade Canadian fields had yet to be discovered, while those at Greater Bear Lake had been in production for decades. The MED also investigated the centrifugal separation process, and the USN investigated the thermal separation process, but Groves and the S-1 Committee decided that the conversion to either of the different production methods would set back the production of U-235 during the conversion process.

    We were already producing uranium hexafluoride gas for our own "gaseous diffusion" method, so that wasn’t the problem eventhough it was nasty stuff to work with. The centrifugal method worked, and is most widely used today, the thermal method is less efficient as its product is not pure enough to produce weapons grade fissile material without further "enrichment".

    Then, one must remember just how nasty Uranium Hexafluoride (UF6 ) is, coupled with the difficulty of production of the material, and it isn’t a very easy material with which to work, even today.

    UF6 is a white crystalline solid at room temperature (its triple point is 64°C (147.3°F) and it sublimes at 56.5°C (133.8°F) at atmospheric pressure). The liquid phase only exists under pressures greater than about 1.5 atmospheres and at temperatures above 64°C (147.2°F).

    See:

    Uranium Hexafluoride - Molecule of the Month

    And:

    The substance decomposes on heating, producing toxic fumes of hydrogen fluoride (see ICSC 0283). [it] Reacts with aromatic compounds, such as benzene, toluene and xylene. [it] Reacts violently with water and ethanol. [it] Attacks many metals forming flammable/explosive gas (hydrogen - see ICSC 0001).[it] Attacks plastic, rubber and coatings.

    See:

    URANIUM HEXAFLUORIDE (ICSC)

    It has such a nasty corrosive nature, that a substance which had been developed by DuPont (and had no use before this time), was used to line the plumbing at the Oak Ridge facility; Teflon. It can be contained in pure nickel seamless tubes, but those weren't easy to produce during war-time on either side of the conflict.

    I don't think (IMO) that this Harteck method would have speeded up the Nazi program in the least. Their lead theoretical physicist (Heisnberg) had made a mistake in his original estimate of the amount needed for an explosive device, and didn't alter the critical mass number until he heard of the Hiroshima explosion while being held in captivity at Farm Hall in Great Britain. He had the capacity to figure it out, and came to the proper amount the following day, but he spent the entire night trying to figure out where he went wrong, and how the allies were able to accomplish something he felt couldn't be done for decades.
     

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