The atomic Bomb is one of the most important inventions created in the United States which was invented mostly by Robert Oppenheimer, David Bohm and Leo Szilard. The atomic bomb made social, economic, and ecological effects on the United States and Japan. United States is the only country in history today to ever use nuclear weapons against other countries, such as Japan in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The person that inspired the invention of the Atomic Bomb was a genius scientist, Albert Einstein. Albert Einstein wrote a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt stating that the Germany may be working on an atomic device that can be used against the United States. After being persuaded by Albert Einstein and other scientists, the United States government decided that an atomic bomb should be built which would be later known as the “Manhattan Project.” In order to build an atomic bomb it cost the United States a lot of money which was approximately $5 billion dollars.
The atomic bomb is an atomic device that contains destructive power which was created by the fission of either plutonium or uranium. The only type of uranium that can be used for atomic bomb is Uranium 235. One of the processes required to building the atomic bomb is removing the Uranium isotope from the natural isotope. Scientists accomplished the task of separating the isotope by a process called the electromagnetic separation, gaseous diffusion, and thermal diffusion. The first atomic bombs to be created to be in history are little boy and fat man. The “little boy” atomic bomb was called the gun type bomb because due to the fact that it shoots uranium 235 into another uranium 235 which in thus leads to a creation of a supercritical mass. Supercritical mass leads to a creation of fission chain reaction, which in thus lead to a release of huge amount of energy which causes the bomb to blow up. The light boy was so powerful that it creates a heat wave over 50 million degrees of fahrenheit and an explosive force of over 11,000 tons of tnt which can be used to kill anything in a mile of the bomb. The “Fat Man” atomic bomb shared a similar destructive power as the “Little boy” but it was made out of plutonium and has a faster fission rate than the “Little Boy” atomic bomb. The “Fat Man” was dropped on the city of Nagasaki, which caused about 60,000 to 80,000 deaths in Nagasaki.
In this Case Study paper I will first discuss the engineering of the atomic bomb. Secondly, after the discussion of the engineering of the atomic bomb, this case study will discuss the problems that scientists had while building the atomic bomb and the solutions to these problems. Lastly, in this proposal I will discuss, the economic, social, and ecological impact of the atomic bomb.
Atomic Bomb Design
Nuclear weapons derive their destructive capablities from nuclear reactions in one of two forms: pure fission reactions or a combinatino of fission and fusion reactions. Atomic bombs fall under the label of fission weapons, although labeling them as such is not quite correct because they derive their energy from from the nucleus of an atom instead. A material capable of sustaining fusion reactions, such as enriched uranium or plutanium, is assembled into a supercritical mass after which it is bombared with neutrons, causing the supercritical mass to break down into smaller parts. A supercritical mass is one where after bombardment, more neutrons are produced than the number consumed thereby creating significant amounts of energy which make atomic bombs so very lethal in addition to numerous radiactive products.
In the case of the atomic bombs dropped by the United States in World War II, Fat Man and Little Boy, as they were titled, were two distinct but equally destructive weapons. Little Boy followed a gun-type model by which a piece of sub-critical material is shot into the isotope Uranium-235, thereby creating a supercritical mass and triggering a chain reaction. However in the development of Fat Man, this method was not capable of sustaining the energy produced by its different isotope Plutonium-239. Therefore a new implosion-type model was adopted where
FatMan followed the implosion-type model where a series of fast and slow chemical explosions generate enough energy to compress a sub-critical sphere of Plutonium-239 surrounded by a reflector made up of Uranium-238. This brings Plutonium-239 to a critical mass as it becomes exponentially denser as neutrons created by bombardment become incorporated into the Plutonium-239.
While the atomic bombs were known for their destructive power as well as their advancements in science, the road to their creation was an ardous one. Pressure from the war efforts and government are paramount and should be duly noted, as the scientists and engineers involved were working not knowing when the next attack would be. At the same time, there was a great deal of secrecy surrounding the project and many security concerns which would have rendered the entire project useless.
From a scientific perspective, one of the main issues was figuring out an isotope stable enough such that it could hold together in a bomb without misfiring or not firing at all. This was exacerbated by the fact that there was not much known about the elements and their isotypes as everything had been recently discovered or theorized. In developing Little Boy, the main issue was obtaining the Uranium-235 isotope itself. Most uraniaum found naturally in the world exists in the U-238 form; this was a problem because U-238 when bombarded would turn into U-239 and fail to fission, thus no subsequent chain reaction detonation. To combat this, Harold Urey and Ernest Lawrence, two scientists working on the bomb, spearheaded an enrichment laboratory and plant in Oak Ridge, Tennesse where they devised an extraction system absed on gaseous diffusion as well as magnetic separation of the two isotopes. In the case of Fat Man, plutonium was first deemed impossible to use because of its numerous impurities. While the scientists involved determined that an implosion-type bomb was highly efficient, the issue of purification of Plutonium-239 was solved through a precipitation process with bismuth phosphate where itw as the most stable. Another issue was building it to such a size that it needed to fit in the B-29 fortress bomber plane that was carrying it, so adjustments were made both to the bomb’s design as well as the B-29 so that it could seamlessly carry the bomb to its final destination.
The Economic Effects of the Manhattan Project
The Manhattan Project was large-scale research and development project aimed at producing atomic weapons during World War II. The project had both immediate and long-term economic consequences, affecting both the American and worldwide economies.
The United States invested nearly $2 billion (approximately $26 billion in 2014 dollars) in the Manhattan Project and employed more 130,000 people. 90% of these costs were for constructing factories and producing fissile materials, while the remainder was invested in development costs. Research and development took place in more than 30 sites across the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada. A total of four weapons were produced by 1945, bringing the cost per bomb to approximate $500 million (1945 dollars). In comparison, the amount spent on the Manhattan Project represented 90% of expenditures on small arms during the same period and 34% of the total spent on tanks. Thus, in the short-term, this huge expenditure boosted the American economy, by providing over 100,000 jobs, as well as creating new industries tasked with producing the materials needed for creating and assembling nuclear weapons. Additionally, the atomic weapons used by the United States brought a quick end to World War II. While it is hard to quantify the economic impact of this, it surely helped the American and global economies to transform from ones primarily supporting a war effort to more prosperous peacetime economies.
The long-term effects of the Manhattan Project are difficult to quantify, but are nevertheless numerous. One of the long-term economic effects of the Manhattan Project was that it began the arms race during the Cold War. Thus, until the 1990s, both sides of the Cold War greatly developed their arms manufacturing industries, creating both jobs and investments, but also perhaps funneling money away from other areas of the economy that could have benefited from increased investment. At the same time, the swift end to World War II brought about by the Manhattan Project’s atomic weapons altered the trajectory of the world’s economy. During the first half of the 40s, the global economy was aimed at supporting the war effort, however, following the end of the war, we see an era of stability and prosperity, as war torn regions rebuild and being to stimulate their economies. Finally, another economic effect of the Manhattan Project is one imposed on the economy of Japan. The destruction, death, and disease caused by the detonation of the atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki clearly had a huge impact upon the Japanese economy. Money was needed to rebuild destroyed cities and care for the wounded. To this day, survivors of the bombing and their children and grandchildren may still require medical care due to the exposure to radiation.
As mentioned, the development of atomic capacity, entered us into a nuclear arms race also known as the cold war. Because of the sheer destructive power, this created a psychological burden never before held by society. While war had always been harmful to humanity, the mere possibility of it had not, until now, threatened the “survival of Western civilization” and “perhaps the survival of humanity itself” (Frank, 1981). Unfortunately, because both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R realized this, neither side wanted to deescalate this arms race. This, it was reasoned, would make the society they were protecting seem weak and put them in danger of imminent and existential threat (Rogers, 1981).
This threat was sold to the public through media and was a primary influence of the so called ‘second red scare.’ It was also known as “McCarthyism” because a large amount of the fear being peddled through the media was being promoted by Senator Joseph McCarthy (Schrecker, 1998). On TV, he would make accusations of treason and subversion of various people and groups he considered communist without giving any evidence (Schrecker, The age of McCarthyism: A brief history with documents, 1994). The increased public’s perception of a potential danger, not only to American society but to the whole democratic way of life, created an us-vs.-them mentality in the American public. On the ‘us’ side, there was a sense of togetherness that created strong bonds based around feelings of national pride. However, directed towards the ‘them’ side was a sense hysterical hostility that could only be mustered towards an enemy of mythic proportion (Murray, 1955). To make it worse, this hostility was not just directed at Russian, but anyone, including fellow Americans, that were suspected of being communist (Secrecy, 2006). This created a feeling of mass-paranoia in the public towards anyone that didn’t fit into the stereotype of a traditional American. Some of these people that this suspicion was directed towards included artist, actors, homosexuals, and university students and professors. In particular, this resulted in a trend of anti-intellectualism that characterized American public opinion for decades (Schrecker, No ivory tower: McCarthyism and the universities, 1986).
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