Skip to comments.The Demon Core
Posted on 07/25/2009 11:40:45 PM PDT by ErnstStavroBlofeld
August 26, 1945. Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico.
Twenty four year old Harry Daghlian is working late, and alone. Both are violations of safety protocol, but Harry doesnt care. Hes good at his job, and hes careful. He doesnt have to be working this late, six days ago the Japanese surrendered, and the war is over. But, that doesnt mean his work isnt still important. The bombs he helped build won the war, and hes going to keep making them as long as he can.
This night, Harry is working on placing the final tungsten bricks in a neutron reflector around plutonium bomb core. The reflector would lessen the amount of plutonium needed for the bomb to go critical. When he was placing the final brick, his hand slipped. The small brick hit the core, and sent it critical. A blue light issued out from the core, dosing him with radiation. Frantic, Harry knocks off the brick in hopes that it will stop the reaction. Unfortunately, it doesnt and hes forced to disassemble much of the neutron reflector before the core retreats from criticality.
He saved the lives of everyone at the lab, but there was nothing to be done for Harry Daghlian. He died twenty one days later from accute radiation poisoning.
For many of those twenty one days, one of the old guard of Los Alamos, Louis Slotin, could be found by Harrys side. Louis was known informally as the chief armorer of the United States. He had built the test bomb that was detonated at Trinity. He wanted to get out of military work, but there wasnt anyone else with his experience or skill for building bombs.
Nine months after the accident that took the life of his friend Harry, Louis was working with the same core. Instead of using several tungsten bricks for the neutron reflector, the new construction relied on two beryllium hemispheres to encapsulate the plutonium core. The core was already placed in the bottom hemisphere as Louis moved the top into position. He was aligning the top with the use of his hand and a screwdriver, when he slipped. The top hemisphere struck the core, causing it to go critical. A burst of blue light and a wave of heat struck the scientists in the room. Instinctively, Louis pulled his hand up, his thumb still hooked into the beryllium hemisphere. The criticality was stopped, and the lives of the men in the room were saved. But, like his friend, Louis wasnt so lucky.
Louis Slotin died nine days later of acute radiation poisoning. Another victim of what came to be known as the demon core.
The assembly Louis was working on was to be the final test of the demon core. It was fitted into a bomb and used as the ABLE test during Operation Crossroads at the Bikini Atoll.
Exactly. It killed two men in a very horrible way.
I like the Coca Cola bottle in that photo
Things were rather primitive back then when building bombs.
It’s a shame...
but he did to himself.
If he didn’t screw up, he would be alive.
For the first nuclear reactor, the SCRAM stood for the Safety Control Rod Axeman. His job was to cut a rope to drop the nuclear control rod, dropping the rod and ending the chain reaction.
Later, the “drop the control rod” technology killed several workers. The rod was dropped too far, the reactor overheated and blew out, the reactor over heated. Workers ran in to help and were irradiated. Eventually it was shut down, and they found the first man killed by the out of control reactor. He was pinned to the ceiling by the safety control rod. The cure was to control the position of the control rod with a worm gear, which positively controlled its position.
After one radiation accident, the chief called out for everyone to hold still, and he walked around to each of them, and they drew chalk lines around their feet to mark where they were standing during the incident. That enabled the calculation of their dose, and this was matched to their eventual symptoms and time of death to better understand the effect of radiation on the human animal.
In the tradition of Lavoisier a good scientist always wants to do one last experiment.
Tell us about SNAP-9..........
the true cause of cancer.
Picture of Daghlian's hand.
Thanks for posting this.
I had not heard of this fascinating bit of nuclear history.
That photo shows the demon core to be too close to that guy's family jewels. How many heads did his children have?
Been to Trinity... it’s awesome, even though there’s hardly anything there. You’re standing right at the spot where that first atomic bomb blew up... It’s on part of the White Sands Missile Range and is only open two days a year, for a few hours for each of those two days.
I think there’s only been about 50,000 or so people in the U.S. who have visited the site since that time.
A few years later, a co-worker with my Dad, one of his crew of mechanics, boarded the chase plane that had followed the Enola Gay over Hiroshima. That plane, intending to photograph the bomb damage, accidentally flew through the edge of the cloud of fallout from the bomb. While on board, my Dad's friend got some oil on his hands and picked up a rag on the plane and wiped his hands. Around 20 years later, he started developing tumors on his hands. He reported them to his supervisor after the doctor diagnosed them, and he was medically retired with full pay by that afternoon.
This guy lived about five doors down from where my Mom still lives. He lived to a ripe old age, in fact outlived my Dad who died at 85, but his hands kept producing tumors that had to be cut off. He also had extremely sensitive skin and they were easily damaged by even the lightest touch.
Radiation is nothing to play with... or to wipe one's hands with.
The interesting thing about driving in on the military grounds there, in going to Trinity, is that you are told that you cannot take any pictures on the way driving in. But, once you are at the gravel parking lot there at the actual Trinity site, then you can take pictures...
But, there’s about nothing to see on the drive there, so I don’t know what kind of pictures that one would get, besides dry parched ground and some mountains... it’s really out in the middle of nowhere.
New Mexico’s Trinity Site: A pocket full of Trinitite
Trinitite is the green glassy substance that was formed on the ground there, at the time of the blast. You’re not supposed to pick up any of it on the grounds, but it’s sold in various stores in the local area. It’s supposed to be slightly radioactive, I guess.
Trinity Atomic Web Site
Trinity (nuclear test)
If you’re out there, right off the Trinity site, at night, on the highway going past the front entrance (going in to Trinity), you can see some strange lights moving around there at night... kinda weird... One time I was there, and stopped off and looked around on the way to Socorro, New Mexico, for the night, and some strange lights and what they were doing made me want to get out of there in a hurry and hit the road again... LOL...
Maybe those UFOs are drawn to radiation from nuclear bombs... :-)
Remember - You are crunchy and good with ketchup.
for all those that laugh at the chinese, russians, and various middle eastern countries... just remember how 'primitive' our setups were that produced hiroshima and the arsenal we have today.
White Sands Missile Range is the gray area...
[... you’ll see the outline of a big circle and then inside that you’ll see an oval shaped outline. Trinity is inside that oval.
The “Oval” fenced in area...
[... you’ll see a rectangular light colored object, which is a low building which covers a large amount of Trinitite on the site. The small very dark object on the right side of the oval, is the shadow of the Trinity monument, which is the exact location of the nuclear bomb tower.]
By the way, I think, if my unusually retentive brain is working correctly, that I owe you a credit for the line I used in post #19.
One of your old taglines - yes?
White Sands Missile Range is the gray area...
Apparently, you have to set it to “maps” to get the gray area... so you can see it, not the satellite view...
[everybody better duck, now]
Where do the mutant cannibal people live that were in “The Hills Have Eyes”?
Klatu, Berunda, Nec...ummm...errr...mumble mumble mumble.
Klaatu barada nikto.
[you will need to perfectly memorize this should a giant robot named Gort decide to destroy the earth....or if the Evil Dead or Keanu Reeves shows up at your door]....;-D
I said that to my robot and he came back with these:
If any Freepers ever worked at West Fort Hood when it was an atomic storage facility known as as “Site Baker” or “Killeen Base,” it would be great to read any of your recollections of that place that you might be willing to share. Surely your pledges of secrecy are outdated now that the purpose of the site is generally known.
So am I reading this correctly? A piece of tungsten hitting into a piece of plutonium will cause a critical nuclear reaction?! What’s to keep terrorists from doing this today?
Thanks for that post, I remember the first time I read the book ‘Thirty Seconds over Tokyo’, it was a wartime edition with many of the names of the Chinese who helped our air crews escape from the Japs blanked out, likewise for many of the small villages where they traveled, and I remember that part about the crew chief revving the engines of the Ruptured Duck in a manner displeasing to Captain Lawson, lol (not funny at the time, but funny in retrospect now)
One of my great uncles was a welder in the Kaiser shipyards in California during WWII and as the story goes, he and other welders were approached and asked if they would volunteer for a secret welding job, they agreed, were given background checks, sworn to secrecy and then put on a bus with blacked out windows and driven for what seemed like an eternity to a place where they disembarked and told that they would be building a radio transmission tower out in the middle of nowhere (a desert), they built the tower, got triple wages for it in cash, and were driven back to California and told to never speak of it.
Years after the War ended, my uncle saw a picture of that radio tower in a copy of Life Magazine, and that’s when he realized that he had actually helped build the tower from which the Trinity device was detonated.
He only acknowledged it to family members, who mostly kept it to themselves over the years, never looked to cash in on it, or get a book deal, or be ‘famous’ on TV, he was just proud to have been part of it, and was grateful for having been generously compensated for his skills.
Reportedly one of the lines from the critters will be that
humans have torn horrid holes in the fabric of space/time with their atomic bombs and are putting the universe at risk . . . and so
be controlled by a world government etc. etc. etc.
The film “Fat Man and Little Boy” (1989) contains a scene based on these incidents:
They could be Trinitite collectors, too... :-)
I think I even scored some Trinitite... [... I glow at night, too... ]
Hopefully you don’t flash on and off at a rapid rate.
depends on how fast I blink my eyes... :-)
But, aside from all that... (... LOL ...), if anyone gets a chance, they ought to go down to Trinity at least once, sometime, on one of those two days a year, and stand on that spot where the first atomic bomb went off (and get irradiated and kill a bunch of germs in your body... :-) just kidding...).
A more traditional kind of zapping?
You asked — Where do the mutant cannibal people live that were in The Hills Have Eyes?
I don’t know for sure, but I was watching out for them as I was driving across White Sands Missile Range to see Trinity... LOL... (besides watching out for any live missiles flying over my head...)...
It is very easy to build a bomb. All you need is the Uranium and Plutonium which is harder to get. You cannot walk into any Walgreens and ask for Plutonium.
I have been there. If you look very carefully you can see
green glass which contains bits of plutonium.
That is probably he grabbed the core and a sign of acute radiation sickness.I’m interested where you got the photograph because those photographs was the last time I heard to be classified. WARNING TO EVERYONE: When you are starting to get sick from acute radiation sickness, ingest salt or potassium iodide
I am very limited as to where I go. If there are special places or information I need special permission.
But I thought it was very, very tricky to “smash” the component together with the right force... just touching them is enough?
You are talking about the uranium “gun weapon”. It is not tricky at all to get them together. Actually, this is rather easy method.We dropped a uranium gun weapon on Hiroshima.Many nations uses the gun weapon for artillery shells(See Shot Grabel/Operation Knothole) The North Koreans have been producing the tricky plutonium implosion bomb and recently they switched to the uranium “gun” method because it was cheaper and much easier.
The scientists did not test the “gun” design because they were confident it was going to work. But, they needed to test the implosion method because they were not sure it was going to work. Well, it worked.
Google images- 'Daghlian's hand'. There is a picture of it on wikipedia as well.
No reason for it to be classified. At the end of the day, it's just a burn. (granted, not just the 'put some ice on it' type of burn- but still a burn)
I'm well-acquainted with West Fort Hood, and Robert Gray Army Airfield, although not during the timeframe you mention. The bunker where the weapons were stored during the time the site was a nuclear weapons storage site, are of course, still there, and we used them for the storage of far less esoteric items during my time there...