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Science, Technology and the Military: The Manhattan Project - Essay Example

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It is exceedingly difficult to imagine that, without the threat of Germany’s developing nuclear weapons during World War II, the…
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Science, Technology and the Military: The Manhattan Project
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Download file to see previous pages What if there had been no Manhattan Project? Pool has argued that, in the absence of an atomic weapons program, the United States would not have built nuclear enrichment facilities. And without the enriched uranium supplied by the AEC’s weapons program, it is unlikely that a nuclear navy program would have been implemented or that a nuclear power program would have been developed (Peter 1999, p. 43). Chauncey Starr, one of the more experienced and thoughtful observers of the nuclear power industry, speculated in the mid-1990s that, in the absence of the threat of war, Hahn and Strassman’s work would have been written up in the scientific literature and treated as a subject of mostly academic interest. Because of high cost, research and development of atomic reactors would have proceeded at a modest pace. Low-power nuclear reactors would have been developed to produce isotopes primarily for medical and industrial applications (Peter 1999, p. 41).
The resulting Manhattan Project, under the overall command of U.S. general Leslie Groves, involved 43,000 people working in thirty-seven installations across the country, and it ended up costing 2.2 billion contemporary dollars. In December 1942 beneath a football stadium at the University of Chicago, the Italian émigré scientist Enrico Fermi succeeded in creating the first controlled nuclear chain reaction. On July 1945, the team directed by the American physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer set off the world’s first atomic explosion at the Trinity site near the Los Alamos labs in New Mexico. On August 5 the Enola Gay dropped a uranium-235 bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, instantly killing 70,000 people, and on August 9 a plutonium-239 bomb fell on Nagasaki, incinerating even more people. Japan surrendered five days later (Peter 1999, p. 44-49).
Structural analysis suggests that technological changes do not necessarily change power structures. They do so only if accompanied by changes in the basic belief systems ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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