Nuclear Chemistry
Quick Study - Problems

Dr. Frank Settle


Problem 1

U-235 Production

It is 1943 and your group has been assigned the task of developing the entire process for producing enough material for the first uranium bomb. Your facility has a supply of Canadian pitchblende ore that contains approximately 4.2% uranium.

  1. Describe the metallurgy required to separate uranium from its ore. Include chemical equations.
  2. Describe the processes used to separate U-235 from U-238. Include equations for the preparation of necessary uranium compounds. Why was it necessary to convert the uranium to these compounds?
  3. Calculate the amount (in tons) of the pitchblende ore that would be required to produce enough material for the Hiroshima bomb.
  4. What do your calculations indicate regarding the facilities required to produce U-235 for atomic bombs? Does this correspond with what you know or can ascertain about Oak Ridge, Tennessee, the original production site for U-235?

Problem 2

Plutonium Production

It is 1942 and Pu-239 has been found to be a fissionable material suitable for an atomic bomb. Your group has been tasked with developing a method for producing Pu-239.

  1. What is the relationship between U-235 and Pu-239?
  2. Describe the nuclear processes used to produce plutonium from U-238. Include the nuclear reactions that occur in these processes.
  3. How was plutonium separated from the U-238 and other fission products when the fuel rods were removed from the reactor? Include chemical equations for the reactions used in this separation.
  4. How much Canadian pitchblende (4.2%) was required to produce the plutonium required for the Nagasaki bomb? How much waste was generated in producing this amount of plutonium?
  5. What do these calculations indicate about the facilities needed to produce this quantity of Pu-239? Does this concur with what you know or can find out about the Hanford, Washington, site?


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