Silver and the Manhattan Project

Discussion in 'US Coins Forum' started by miker, Sep 4, 2006.

  1. miker

    miker New Member

    I never really understood why silver was needed for the manhatan Project. On the History Channel, they gave me the answer. The Manhattan Project was using hundreds of large electro-magnets to make weapons-grade uranium. Since the war was on, copper (needed for the wiring) was in short supply. The Manhattan Project went to the Treasury and was given enough silver to make the wiring that was necessary.
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  3. Cloudsweeper99

    Cloudsweeper99 Treasure Hunter


    - Silver is the best conductor of electricity of all the metals,
    - It resists oxidation, corrosion, and electrical sparking,
    - It is the most malleable metal except for gold, and
    - It is the most ductile of all metals except for gold.

    So for applications such as the Manhattan Project where performance and reliability were important to the survival of the nation, it isn't surprising that silver was used instead of copper. If copper was the preferred metal, it is probable that the government would have found a supply of it even if they had to demolish government buildings and rip out the plumbing to get it.
  4. SCNuss

    SCNuss Senior Member

    If I remember the rest of the story correctly, after the war, the silver was returned to the Treasury. This is what I found.

    Groundbreaking for the Alpha plant took place on February 18, 1943. Soon blueprints could not be produced fast enough to keep up with construction as Stone & Webster labored to meet Groves' deadline. The Beta facility was actually begun before formal authorization. While laborers were aggressively recruited, there was always a shortage of workers skilled enough to perform jobs according to the rigid specifications. (A further complication was that some tasks could be performed only by workers with special clearances). Huge amounts of material had to be obtained (38 million board feet of lumber, for instance), and the magnets needed so much copper for windings that the Army had to borrow almost 15,000 tons of silver bullion from the United States Treasury to fabricate into strips and wind on to coils as a substitute for copper.31 Treasury silver was also used to manufacture the busbars that ran around the top of the racetracks.

    Replacing copper with silver solved the immediate problem of the magnets and busbars, but persistent shortages of electronic tubes, generators, regulators, and other equipment placed the electromagnetic project and posed the most serious threat to Groves' deadline. Furthermore, last-minute design changes continued to frustrate equipment manufacturers. Nonetheless, when Lawrence toured with Y-12 contractors in May 1943, he was impressed by the scale of operations. Lawrence returned to Berkeley rededicated to the "awful job" of finishing the racetracks on time. 32

  5. Duncan

    Duncan Numismatist

    i think soon we willl need to use silver more for conducters and it will drive up the price but not only that perfect for other things too
  6. Mad.Outcast

    Mad.Outcast New Member

  7. Duncan

    Duncan Numismatist

    .....I think i have Covered every back to the future movie LOL
  8. Conder101

    Conder101 Numismatist

  9. jallengomez

    jallengomez Cessna 152 Jockey

    I heard this argument for the first time back in the early '90s. This must be something the PM pushers keep recycling. It would seemingly make sense, but the scarcity is just not materializing.
  10. DoK U Mint

    DoK U Mint In Odd we Trust

    Not News

    This is Not News, but I'm glad it got pulled to the top here.

    Silver is not a "Super Conductor" but has soooooo many other used.

    And it is pretty!:smile
  11. BR549

    BR549 Junior Member

    Yes, like a silver tea pot...

    I'm a little teapot,
    Short and stout,
    Here is my handle (one hand on hip),
    Here is my spout (other arm out straight),
    When I get all steamed up,
    Hear me shout,
    Tip me over and pour me out! (lean over toward spout)

    The Manhattan Project turned the tide in WWII in the Pacific Theater. These "Top Secret" manufacturing plants sprang up out of no where, just like Area 51 of today.

    God Bless America...we will defend our soil eternal.
  12. joey0053

    joey0053 ZERT Operator

  13. Cringely

    Cringely Active Member

    On page 40 of the current issue of American Scientist (vol 99, No. 1) has Cameron Reed's article "From Treasury Vault to the Manhattan Project". The first figure shows the silver, stored in the West Point Bullion Depository, being transferred for "an unspecified wartime industrial use".
    One interesting thing is that the last of the borrowed silver wasn't returned until June 1, 1970. About 67 tons (nearly two million troy ounces) remained in one isotope separator that was used to separate isotopes other than uranium. Many of those isotopes were used for medical tests. Today there is a shortage of medical isotopes in part because of the shut down of the Oak Ridge facilities that made them.
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