The creation of Los Alamos
The U.S. began by setting out a nuclear programme in order to coordinate the research. First of all, ensuring the possibility of chain reaction, in July 1942. Then, creating the first chain reaction in January 1943. Finally, the creation of a real atomic bomb in January 1945.
The « Los Alamos » centre
In September 1942, the spreading of research locations and preliminary studies on nuclear weapons began to pose serious problems regarding communication and coordination. This advocated the establishment of a large laboratory that would unite all the activities related to nuclear research. Colonel Leslie Groves, who had previously overseen the construction of the Pentagon, was appointed head of the atomic weapons project in the summer of 1942. His first decision was to rename the project "The Manhattan District".
The scientist Robert Oppenheimer was responsible for coordinating, organising and overseeing all the research. A team led by Fermi initiated the first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction below the Stagg Field bleachers at the University of Chicago on 2 December 1942. The world's first atomic battery produced half a watt of power. A coded telephone call from Compton saying: "The Italian navigator (Fermi) has landed on the New World, the natives are friendly" to Conant in Washington DC, announced the success of the experiment.
From that moment onwards, the Manhattan Project was launched and thousands of engineers and technicians were recruited and worked in secret to build nuclear weapons.
Two centres were selected for the production of fissile material: Oak Ridge (Tennessee) and Hanford (Washington State). The Oak Ridge site was dedicated to the separation of uranium 235 using giant filters. The Hanford site produced plutonium, since the bomb could be built from uranium 235 or by using plutonium, which was created artificially from uranium.
They also created a site for testing and developing the bomb, called "Los Alamos", New Mexico. This site was isolated and access could therefore be easily controlled. The canyons in the surrounding area could be used for tests with dangerous explosives. As a result, this site was ideal for top-secret research.