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.
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