“Does Serco have keys to the patent vault for the nukes of Kim Jong-un?”

Source: NPR News

The Rush to Patent the Atomic Bomb

March 28, 2008 • by DAVID KESTENBAUM

Read an Excerpt from Lavender’s February 1946 testimony.

This patent is for the Calutron, an electromagnetic method for separating uranium-235 from natural uranium.

This patent, part of some obscure chemical process in the enrichment of uranium, sat in secrecy for nearly 60 years from its application date to when it was granted. Wellerstein says this seems to be the longest time so far that a patent made secret during the Manhattan Project has waited for granting.

This patent claims it is a general invention for a pressure-sensitive switch. Wellerstein says it is the barometric detonation system used in the first atomic bombs.

The U.S. atomic bomb was such a secret, scientists and engineers sometimes talked in code. It was the Manhattan Project, not “The Atomic Bomb Project.” Plutonium was referred to as “copper,” and the bomb itself as “the gadget.”

But at the same time, scientists and engineers were furiously filing secret patent applications that described many of the parts in exquisite detail. Those patents sat not behind the fences at Los Alamos, but in a vault at the U.S. Patent Office.

The atomic bomb patents show up only as footnotes in most historical accounts, but they’ve recently consumed the life of Alex Wellerstein, a 26-year-old history of science graduate student at Harvard University, who wanted to know more about this largely forgotten part of the Manhattan Project.

A Patent on the Atomic Bomb?

A while back, Wellerstein was reading through an old news clipping from the 1960s which quoted a Manhattan Project scientist referring to a patent on the atomic bomb.

“I didn’t know what that meant,” Wellerstein says. “I didn’t know if it was rhetorical, or if there really was a patent on the atomic bomb.”

Please go to NPR News to read the entire article.


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