French Interest In Heavy Water 1940

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Carl Schwamberger
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French Interest In Heavy Water 1940

Postby Carl Schwamberger » 17 Jul 2017 05:09

Was reminded this afternoon of a story about the French obtaining Norsk Hydros entire stock of heavy water in 1940. Specifically the Army intelligence service negotiated for and obtained 185kg of heavy water, representing the entire stock possessed by Norsk Hydro.

So, my questions are:

1. This claim supported by any evidence anyone is aware of?

2. What did the French want with the heavy water?

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Gorque
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Re: French Interest In Heavy Water 1940

Postby Gorque » 17 Jul 2017 05:24

Hi Carl:

What did the French want with the heavy water? From Wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tube_Alloys#Paris_Group

Early in 1940, the Paris Group decided on theoretical grounds that heavy water would be an ideal moderator for how they intended to use it. They asked the French Minister of Armaments to obtain as much heavy water as possible from the only source, the large Norsk Hydro hydroelectric station at Vemork in Norway.


HTH

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Loïc
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Re: French Interest In Heavy Water 1940

Postby Loïc » 19 Jul 2017 00:17

yes and here we have still a big evidence of that, as the mysterious prisoner "Z" was imprisoned and hidden in the jail of the city at a critical moment

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A Moi Auvergne

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Re: French Interest In Heavy Water 1940

Postby Carl Schwamberger » 20 Jul 2017 23:14

Thanks & Merci.

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Re: French Interest In Heavy Water 1940

Postby Carl Schwamberger » 26 Aug 2017 16:36

Had some brief moments to think this over, but not to research it much further. My thoughts are these:

1. Would French experiments with a heavy water moderated reaction reached as far as Fermis tests with graphite moderators? That is were they thinking in the correct direction?

2. How far in this direction could these tests reached in 1940-41?

3. Would the French have taken on the 'refugee' physicists ? That is Sizlaird, Oppenheimer, ect... This is not a obvious answer since the French confined many anti Facist refugees rather than include them in their own military/industrial build up 1939-40.

4. Would the French have sought British collaboration this early in their research, in 1940?

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wm
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Re: French Interest In Heavy Water 1940

Postby wm » 27 Aug 2017 00:37

In spring of 1940 the French team led by Joliot planned a string of experiments using uranium and the freshly acquired heavy water but they ran out of time. Their abilities weren't really in doubt (any of their initial mistakes would be corrected by the experiments sooner or later), but the French Government wouldn't be able to finance the later large, "industrial" scale experiments - they simply didn't have money for them.
The French team actually included foreigners: Hans von Halban (Austrian) and Lew Kowarski (Russian). It was Joliot, Halban and Kowarski who patented a simple nuclear reactor and the atomic bomb on May 4, 1939 (both designed were later shown to be unrealistic). Additionally later they patented a method of enrichment of uranium, and a few other things. It is even claimed they discussed a detonation of their bomb in the Sahara.
Halban and Kowarski, with all the relevant papers later fled to Britain.

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Re: French Interest In Heavy Water 1940

Postby Carl Schwamberger » 04 Sep 2017 00:45

Thanks for that. Rhoades may have mentioned these men, but the mass of detail in his book makes it difficult to remember.

I see the question is not so much how relevant their work was, but when the funds would be provided. A combined French British effort is clearly needed here.

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Re: French Interest In Heavy Water 1940

Postby Carl Schwamberger » 06 Sep 2017 14:32

wm wrote:... It was Joliot, Halban and Kowarski who patented a simple nuclear reactor and the atomic bomb on May 4, 1939. ...


This seems to be the same period in early to mid 1939 when the US Navy began allocating funds for nuclear power research. That leads to a question of the USN having much knowledge of French, or anyone else's research.


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