History of Nuclear Fission - Atominstitut


History of Nuclear Fission - Atominstitut

Kernenergie und Umwelt


SS 2009

Prof.Dr. H. Böck

Vienna University of Technology /Austria


Stadionallee 2,

1020 Vienna, Austria



Module 00: Geschichte der Kernspaltung - History of nuclear fission

Module 01: Überblick zur Nukleartechnik - Overview Nuclear Engineering

Module 02: Druckwasserreaktoren - Pressurized Water Reactors (PWR)

Module 03: Der Three Mile Island Unfall -Three Mile Island Accident (TMI)

Module 04: Druckwasserreaktoren russischer Bauart - WWER Reactors

Module 05: Der Europäische Druckwasserreaktor - European Pressurized Water Reactor (EPR)

Module 06: Siedewasserreaktoren- Boiling Water Reactors (BWR)

Module 07: Schwerwasser-moderierte Reaktoren - Heavy Water Moderated Reactors (CANDU)

Module 08: Gasgekühlte Reaktoren - Gas Cooled Reactors (Magnox, AGR)

Module 09: Hochtemperaturreaktoren - High Temperature Gas Cooled Reactors (HTR)

Module 10: Der Tschernobylreaktor - RBMK Reactor (Chernobyl)

Module 11: Flüssig Metall gekühlte Reaktoren - Liquid Metal Fast Breeder Reactors (LMFBR)

Module 12: Reaktoren der Generation IV- Generation IV Reactors

Module 13: Behandlung radioaktiver Abfälle - Radioactive Waste Management

Module 14: Kernenergie im Vergleich mit anderen Energieträgern –

Nuclear Energy vs other Energy sources

Module 00

History of Nuclear Fission

Helmuth Böck

Atominstitute of the Austrian Universities

Stadionallee 2, 1020 Vienna, Austria

ph: ++43-1-58801 14168

fax: ++43-1-58801 14199


Prewar Uranium

• Before 1939 radium was more used than

uranium in medical applications

• Uranium mostly used in ceramic industry,

total world consumption less than 100 tons

80% coming from “Belgian Congo“ mainly

from Kantanga mines

• In 1942 USA bought 1200 tons of high grade

ore from „African Metal Corporation“

• In 1943 USA bought all available uranium to

be used in the Manhatten project but also

during post war weapons development

• As a return Belgium was supported after the

war by the USA and UK in developing the

major nuclear research centre in Mol

• Further a research reactor was donated to

the former „Belgian Congo“ at the University

of Leopoldville now Kinshasa/Dem.Rep. of

Congo after First Geneva Conf. 1955

Working Desk of Otto Hahn

1938 December: Otto Hahn, Fritz Strassmann and Lise Meitner

discover nuclear fission by irradiating uranium with neutrons

1939 Lise Meitner

• Born 7.11.1878 in Vienna

• 1906 PhD at the University of


• Since 1907 cooperation with

O.Hahn in Berlin

• 1922 Professor at the University of


• 1933 lost her job

• 1938 emigration to Sweden

• Employed at the Nobel Institut in

Stockholm until her retirement in


• Died 27.10.1968 in


1939 Albert Einstein

• Albert Einstein urged

fellow scientist Leo

Szilard to write

President Franklin D.

Roosevelt to warn that

the U.S. must not fall

behind Germany in

atomic bomb research

1941 Glen Seaborg

• Born in Ishpeming, Michigan on

19 th of April, 1912

• 1934 graduated at University of

California, completed his Ph.D. at

Berkeley, helped to develop

plutonium in uranium reactors.

Discovered 10 new elements

• 1946 Seaborg was appointed as

Professor of Chemistry at the

University of California and five

years later was awarded the Nobel

prize for his discovery of


• Died Feb. 25 th , 1999

1942 Edward Teller

• 1908 Born in Budapest, Hungary

• 1930 University training in Germany

and completed his Ph.D. in physics

under Werner Heisenberg

• University of Leipzig 1935

• Teller came to the US until 1941, a

professorship at George Washington


• 1941 U.S. citizen

• Joined the Manhattan Project

• 1946 professor of physics at the University

of Chicago

• 1954 to 1958 Associate Director at the new

Lawrence Livermore Laboratory

• 1975 professor of physics at the University

of California

• September 9, 2003 died at age of 95

1942 December 2: Chicago Pile (CP) 1

A team led by Enrico

Fermi achieves the first

controlled, selfsustaining

nuclear chain

reaction at the University

of Chicago.

CP 1 Pile

CP 1 Pile

1945 July 16: Trinity Test

• Trinity Site, Alamogordo Test Range Jornada del

Muerto desert

• Yield: 19 - 21 Kilotons

• Detonation time: 5:29:45 a.m. (Mountain War Time)

• Pu-implosion bomb

1945 July 11: Jumbo

Pu-Implosion Bomb

•Jumbo weighed 214 tons, 10

m long, 4 m large, walls35 cm


•Jumbo was raised up on a

tower 30 m from Ground Zero

to be exposed to the effects

from the Trinity Test.

•5h29min45s: 32 detonation

fired simultaneously - shock


Aerial View of the Trinity Test Site

28 hours after detonation

1945 September: Oppenheimer

and Groves at Trinity Site

In September 1945, many

particpants returned to the

Trinity Test site for news crews.

Here Oppenheimer and Groves

examine the remains of one the

bases of the steel test tower.

Cost of the Manhatten project

about 2.10 9 US$

1945 August 6: Little Boy Hiroshima

(U Gun-type


1945 August 9: Fat Man Nagasaki

(Pu-Implosion bomb)

The rapid spontaneous fission rate of plutonium 239 necessitated that a

different type of bomb be designed. A gun-type bomb would not be fast

enough to work. Before the bomb could be assembled, a few stray

neutrons would have been emitted, and these would start a premature

chain reaction - leading to a great reduction in the energy released.

German Nuclear Bomb

Program during WW II

• Two reactor models bulit , one at Kaiser Wilhelm Institute (Virus

House, one at Heisenberg in Leipzig), uranium from Joachimstal

• Walther Bothe measured C cross section to be 6.4x10 -27

cm 2 ,more

than twice the value of Fermi, , German conclusion: : C is not possible,

this was the end of German graphite reactor

• Germany had no cyclotron while US had 9 in operation and 27

under construction

• Germans confiscated in 1940 1200 ton uranium ore in Belgium

• Summer 1941: German efforts depend on U nat and Norsk Hydro

heavy water, only about 130 lt available in Leipzig

• German bomb race ended on 20.2.1944 with sabotage on a ship-

ferry at Lake Tinnsjö/Norway

sunk, with 26 persons drowned and

D 2 O barrels lost into the lake

• April 45 material captured by US Army near Stassfurt/G

German Nuclear Bomb

Program during WW II

• Heisenberg ruled U-235

separation impossible, , Gustav

Hertz who developed gaseous diffusion was dismissed as


Aryan, , his method was used in the Manhattan


• Manfred von Ardenne and Houtermans worked in

German Postverein and favoured Pu as bomb material,

but Pu was never produced in Germany

• Further German efforts to build a reactor with U nat and

D 2 0 , invasion to Norway

• 24.4.1945 Sowjet soldiers found 250 kg U nat , 3 tons of

UO 2 and 20 lt D 2 O in Berlin – Kaiser Wilhelm Institut

1945: Haigerloch Experiment

• 23.4.1945 US Army

entered Haigerloch

• 664 U nat cubes on 78

chains submersed into

a tank with 3m

diameter filled with

D 2 O

• Criticality never


Plutonium as Explosive

• 2-3 neutrons per fission event

• Neutron energy approx 1 MeV

• Energy release 0,9 MeV per nucleon

• One generation 10 - 8 s

• 10 kg of Pu 2.5x10 25 atoms

• Each neutrons produces 2 new neutrons

• 56 generation are necessary for 2 56 = 10 25

• 56 generation times 10 -8 = 0.56 μs

• Pu-bomb

with 10 kg and density 19kg/dm 3

• Volume 530 cm 3 , diameter 10 cm

• If only 10% of Pu-nuclei

are fissioned = 2.5x10 15

equal to about 20kt TNT


15 MW

Critical Masses

of some metallic spheres without and with a reflector of

10cm U nat

Isotope (phase*) unreflected reflected

U-233 16 kg 5.7 kg

U-235 48 kg 15.7 kg

Pu-239 (α) 11 kg 4.5 kg

Pu-240 (α) 40 kg 19.6 kg

Pu-240 (δ) 60 kg 35 kg

Pu-242 (α) 95 kg 48 kg

Pu-242 (δ) 146 kg 73 kg

*The phase represents different densities of the metal

Energy Distibution released from a

typical Bomb

• Pressure: 50%

• Thermal radiation, heat: 35%

• Prompt radiation (gammas, neutrons): 5%

• Delayed radiation (fission products): 10%

1946 July:




U.S. begins atmospheric and underwater tests of weapon

designs in the Marshall Islands.

1950 January to 1951 November 1

President Harry S.

Truman authorizes

accelerated research

on a hydrogen bomb.

Battlefield effects of

blast and fallout are

studied during

Operation Buster-

Jangle in Nevada,

where soldiers are

exposed to a 21-

kiloton test six miles


1952 October 3: First UK A-bomb A


• In the Monte Bello

Islands, Australia

• Thedevicetestedwas

a plutonium implosion

bomb similar to the Fat

Man using UK and

Canada supplied Pu

First H-Bomb H

Tests: USA, USSR

1.11.1952: The U.S. tests the world´s first

hydrogen bomb, code-named Mike, at

Eniwetok Atoll in the Marshall Islands, 10,4

MT bomb weigth 65 tons, too heavy due to

liquid D 2 and T 3 , 1954- Bravo test, dry H-

bomb LiD 15 MT

22.11.1955: The Soviet Union

successfully tests a hydrogen

bomb, detonating a 1.6-

megaton device dropped from

the air in the Semipalatinsk Test

Range, Kazakhstan

EBR 1 :First Reactor Generating Electricity

At that time little was known how to build reactors to produce

useable quantities of electricity. Because of the post-war

shortage of available uranium, the Atomic Energy Commission

wanted to test whether a reactor could "breed" more fuel than

it consumed while still serving as a source of power. This

objective led to many "firsts" in the development of the EBR-I.

Built in Arco/Idaho

EBR 1: First Reactor Generating Electricity

Construction started 1949, December 20, 1951 EBR-1: First

atomic reactor in the world to generate usable amounts of

electricity (four light bulbs) located 18 miles southeast of

Arco, Idaho, it used Pu as fuel and liquid sodium as coolant

First Reactors in USSR and UK

• USSR: First NPP 1954 in Obninsk, 5 MW, 110 kM SW of


• UK: 1955 Calder Hall UK, 2 blocks each 50 MW e , in

Sellafield North Cumbria, 2004 shut down

December 8, 1953:

“Atoms for Peace"

President Eisenhower

addressed the United Nations

General Assembly with his now

famous speech. He urged that

nuclear nations begin making

joint contributions of nuclear

material to an International

Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

to be established under the

United Nations.

Foundation of the International

Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

October 1956: The IAEA formally was established to prevent

the proliferation of nuclear weapons and promote the

broadest use of nuclear electric power.

Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organisation

(CTBTO) Vienna


• www.nukeworker.com/pictures

• www.nuclearweaponarchive.org

• www.atomicheritage.org

• www.princeton.edu/~globsec/publications/effects/effects


• http://www.nuclearterrorism.org/

• http://www.nti.org/

• www.nti.org

• Richard Rhodes “The Making of the Atomic Bomb”

Simon&Schuster Paperbacks ISBN 0-684-81378-5

• John Cornwell “Hitler’s Scientists” Viking Publ. ISBN-0-


• Rainer Karlsch: „Hitler´s Bombe“

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