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Where the bombs were built
July 24, 2009 11:54 AM   Subscribe

Photos of nuclear-explosives production facilities built during the Manhattan Project, by photographer Martin Miller. He also took photos of nuclear missile sites built during the cold war.
posted by of strange foe (24 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
Lovely stuff.

On my first trip to the US, before 9-11, my now-wifes dad, the nuclear engineer, drove us out to the Hanford Nuclear Reservation to have a look at some stuff. We didn't really get very far before some security dude asked us what we were doing and gave us the stink-eye, and I suspect photos would have been out of the question. We didn't even try photography or get close enough to anything to really see much, though I can confirm it's a big old desert full of ominous looking slightly decayed buildings.
posted by Artw at 12:15 PM on July 24, 2009


I love the high-tech stencils on the main control console. It's so wonderfully utilitarian, like they refused to spend money on anything unrelated to the actual production/enrichment process.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:30 PM on July 24, 2009


Amazing pictures.

I love the 12th picture down on the second link. Especially the line "Or the next one is free" because its all about freedom.
posted by lilkeith07 at 12:45 PM on July 24, 2009


I was thinking, "Gee, they sure did have shabby facilities back in 1943." Then I came to the picture with the minivan, and realized the dates in the captions are not when the photos were taken.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:10 PM on July 24, 2009


Amazingly disturbing.
posted by odinsdream at 1:10 PM on July 24, 2009


I was thinking, "Gee, they sure did have shabby facilities back in 1943."

On the other hand, terrific cameras.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 1:35 PM on July 24, 2009


Awesome pictures.

For some reason, many of them had me thinking "huh, it feels like the first Doom's scenarios, without the demons, though".
posted by Iosephus at 1:59 PM on July 24, 2009


No. 1 Rod. Insert. Withdraw.

Story of my life.

Excellent find -- I've got a whole shelf devoted to the nuclear arms race, so I've read all about these things, and it's awesome to see them in color pictures for the first time
posted by Devils Rancher at 2:16 PM on July 24, 2009


The phrase "The banality of evil" works quite well for these images.
posted by longsleeves at 2:19 PM on July 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


This is good
posted by KokuRyu at 2:23 PM on July 24, 2009


The phrase "The banality of evil" works quite well for these images.

Or maybe the "Ambiguity of Evil." The Bomb is probably the most evil invention of Man when you consider the essence of evil, though not necessarily the act of its inventing. The guys who did that work thought they were saving mankind, and that their work was heroic. I wonder sometimes how many of the Nazis who worked in concentration camps felt that way.

(note: I am in no way drawing an equivalency -- I am merely wondering about the states of mind)
posted by Devils Rancher at 2:27 PM on July 24, 2009


Anyone else think it was kind of weird that there were random Youtube music links after each picture in the second set?

Great images, I've always been interested in WWII-era nuclear technology, and I think it'd be really cool to live in a decommissioned missile silo.
posted by DMan at 3:07 PM on July 24, 2009


Or.....OR, D. Rancher, perhaps the banality of ambiguity? HMMMMM?

(Sorry.)

By banality, I refer to the resemblance these facilities have to many other industrial plants of that era. In some pictures they look like they might manufacture auto parts or baby strollers.
posted by longsleeves at 3:26 PM on July 24, 2009


By the way, since 9/11 the tours of these sites are all off limits to non US citizens. I know because I drove all the way to Oak Ridge only to find out that I could not get on the tour bus.
posted by A189Nut at 3:56 PM on July 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


That's a nice set of photos, of rarely-seen sites. Y-12 is still mostly off-limits to everybody. The X-10 graphite reactor is now a historic site, but access to ORNL, where it's located, has been strictly controlled since shortly after 9-11. And K-25, once the largest building in the world, is being demolished along with most of the other buildings in its complex (K-31, K-33, and hundreds of smaller buildings). I live near Oak Ridge, and have often ridden my motorcycle past the back side of the K-25 site. It's such a huge building that it's hard to even grasp its size.
posted by wadefranklin at 4:28 PM on July 24, 2009


See also Robert Del Tradici's At Work in the Fields of the Bomb.
posted by Jode at 4:36 PM on July 24, 2009


By banality, I refer to the resemblance these facilities have to many other industrial plants of that era. In some pictures they look like they might manufacture auto parts or baby strollers.

I understood that. Your comment just set me off on a tangent, as I am often wont to do. If you'd told the physicists working on the Manhattan Project that what they were doing might be pure evil, they would have strenuously objected. The only one of them who seems to have kind of gotten it, after the fact, was Oppenheimer.
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:44 PM on July 24, 2009


Q*bert!
posted by Rhomboid at 5:38 PM on July 24, 2009


The Bomb is probably the most evil invention of Man when you consider the essence of evil, though not necessarily the act of its inventing. The guys who did that work thought they were saving mankind, and that their work was heroic.

I think 'evil' is a bit of a stretch; it's hard to say really what a world without nuclear weapons would have looked like. Given how close we came to hot Cold War, even with the threat of it degenerating quickly into the Apocalypse, I find it hard to believe that there wouldn't have been a third great European land war in the 20th century had they not been invented.

If you take that on premise, or even as a possibility — keeping in mind all the destructive technologies that had been invented besides nuclear weapons by the end of the Second World War — then the creation and continued existence of nuclear weapons are much more ambiguous.
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:44 PM on July 24, 2009


I started paging through these before I read the intro and thought the dates were the dates the photos were taken. I was thinking, "wow, they looked old and worn even back then. i wonder if that was a product of the reactions, the materials, the war?" Then I got to the one with the minivan and had to dope-slap myself.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:21 PM on July 25, 2009


Pollomacho, I can't believe you'd be that dense.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:16 AM on July 26, 2009


By the way, since 9/11 the tours of these sites are all off limits to non US citizens. I know because I drove all the way to Oak Ridge only to find out that I could not get on the tour bus.

What? That makes no sense. What part of these historical sites is in any way relevant to national security in our time?
posted by odinsdream at 6:28 AM on July 27, 2009


Y-12 is still very much an active part of the Energy Department's weapons production infrastructure, although the parts of it shown here were mothballed decades ago. It is one of the most heavily secured facilities in th US.
posted by wadefranklin at 7:37 AM on July 27, 2009


What part of these historical sites is in any way relevant to national security in our time?

Just for reference the 8000+ acre research lab at Patuxent, MD that did the toxicology research that Rachel Carson based Silent Spring on some 50-odd years ago is only open to the public one day a year, on which a few busses drive guests hurredly at a great distance past shuttered old lab buildings and pens containing most of the world's few last remaining whooping cranes. Why this would require such high-security is known only to DHS (though I can understand not wanting to upset the cranes)?
posted by Pollomacho at 10:14 AM on July 27, 2009


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