Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Red Plate Special

Where did the uranium used in the Trinity, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki atom bombs come from? It is a story that involves red dinner plates, secret deals between governments, and cutting edge science. In September 1942, officials, participating in the United States` Manhattan Project to develop an atomic bomb, visited the New York office of a Belgian firm that sold uranium ore, mined in Congo, for  use in paints and ceramic glazes. Fiestaware from the 30's and early 40's used uranium in their red-orange glazed dishes.The U.S. formed a secret purchase agreement with the firm and the Belgium government to buy uranium. By 1944,  the United States had purchased about 30,000 tons of uranium ore for close to 100 million dollars. 1,200 tonnes of uranium ore was stockpiled in a warehouse on Staten Island, New York. The rest was shipped to the U.S. via ship from a stockpile at the Sinkolobwe Mine in the Belgian Congo. At least one ship was sunk by the Germans. Once in the U.S. the uranium ore was shipped by rail for ore processing at secret facilities using cutting edge science, in remote locations like Oak Ridge, TN and Hanford, WA. 

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