AWE Educational Collection Visit

Published

Visit to the AWE Educational Collection on the 12th  February

This was a unique opportunity for the small group of visitors to see what is probably the only physical historic collection of the UK’s nuclear weapons through the ages.

The event included both multimedia presentations and a guided tour of the museum.

The UKs nuclear development program started with the Frisch–Peierls memorandum which was the first technical exposition of a practical nuclear weapon. It was written by expatriate German physicists Otto Frisch and Rudolf Peierls in March 1940 while they were both at the University of Birmingham during World War II.  The museum has a copy of the document to peruse as the start of the history.

The memorandum contained the first calculations about the size of the critical mass of fissile material needed for an atomic bomb. It revealed for the first time that the amount required might be small enough to incorporate into a bomb that could be delivered by air. It also anticipated the strategic and moral implications of nuclear weapons.

It helped send both Britain and America down a path which led to the MAUD Committee, the Tube Alloys project, the Manhattan Project, and ultimately the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The guided tour gave a detailed history of the development of the UKs nuclear development with insights into the technical and political difficulties.  After moving the team from the UK to the US because of the security concerns at home the joint development program developed the first weapons.  Just after the war a change in US policy meant that all the UK team were sent home without their notes.  After this the UK decided to go ahead on their own and so started the AWE facility at Aldermaston in the early 1950s.

The curator was very knowledgeable and had fascinating stories about each part of the exhibit.  The Nevada underground test site was described with lots of photos and models.  For each different weapon type there was a physical model and details of the device.  The history finished with the Polaris missile system which was in use up to 1996.

Our thanks to our AWE hosts for the excellent tour.

The event included both multimedia presentations and a guided tour of the museum.

The UKs nuclear development program started with the Frisch–Peierls memorandum which was the first technical exposition of a practical nuclear weapon. It was written by expatriate German physicists Otto Frisch and Rudolf Peierls in March 1940 while they were both at the University of Birmingham during World War II.  The museum has a copy of the document to peruse as the start of the history.

The memorandum contained the first calculations about the size of the critical mass of fissile material needed for an atomic bomb. It revealed for the first time that the amount required might be small enough to incorporate into a bomb that could be delivered by air. It also anticipated the strategic and moral implications of nuclear weapons.

It helped send both Britain and America down a path which led to the MAUD Committee, the Tube Alloys project, the Manhattan Project, and ultimately the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The guided tour gave a detailed history of the development of the UKs nuclear development with insights into the technical and political difficulties.  After moving the team from the UK to the US because of the security concerns at home the joint development program developed the first weapons.  Just after the war a change in US policy meant that all the UK team were sent home without their notes.  After this the UK decided to go ahead on their own and so started the AWE facility at Aldermaston in the early 1950s.

The curator was very knowledgeable and had fascinating stories about each part of the exhibit.  The Nevada underground test site was described with lots of photos and models.  For each different weapon type there was a physical model and details of the device.  The history finished with the Polaris missile system which was in use up to 1996.

Our thanks to our AWE hosts for the excellent tour.

Blog IET Berkshire Network 21/03/2018 3:55pm GMT

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