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.
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...