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Tons of uranium were stored right in New York: how a nuclear bomb was created in Manhattan


Nadezhda Verbitskaya

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New York, as the largest city in the United States, should think about its security. And he always did. Exactly 80 years ago in 1942, this is where the super-secret Manhattan Project began. The Manhattan Project is not just a code name adopted by the secret services. This is his real location. The first nuclear reactor was invented here - at Columbia University in the north of Manhattan. And the first headquarters was opened in Downtown Manhattan, says “Voice of America".

The massive, secrecy-filled Manhattan Project has written a new chapter in human history, ushering in the nuclear age. Almost 130 people across the country were involved in the program to create the first atomic bomb. Work on it was carried out at more than 30 sites in the US, UK and Canada. The main test site Los Alamos was located in New Mexico. But the name of the project was not accidental. In 1942, it began precisely in New York.

The first headquarters of the Manhattan Project was located near New York City Hall at 270 Broadway on the 18th floor. It all started here in Lower Manhattan, hence the name of the project.

Katherine Sullivan is an activist and coordinator for NYCAN, a New York-based campaign to abolish nuclear weapons, and knows the history of its creation in detail.

“On January 22, 1939, the first successful experiments on the splitting of the atom were carried out in the building of Columbia University in New York by Enrico Fermi. And that was really the beginning of the development of weapons to split the atom,” says Sullivan.

For secrecy purposes, a special Manhattan Engineering District was created as part of the US Army, which was engaged in the program

The famous Howard Building on Broadway also had something to do with it. Meetings of project participants were sometimes held here. Before its main venues moved from New York to other states.

The Baker and Williams warehouses in the Chelsea area in the 1940s were where radioactive materials for the Manhattan Project were stored. With the precautions of the security measures of the time.

“The barrels in which the uranium ore was stored remained there for decades. And were not properly cleaned up until the 1980s and 1990s. I personally know one worker who cleaned them. And he told me that those barrels were still warm. They were paid bonuses for securing the premises as quickly as possible. But it's interesting that they stayed there for so long,” Sullivan says.

New York was not only the place where the Manhattan project began. Here was born, as he is called, the father of the atomic bomb, the American theoretical physicist Robert Oppenheimer. His family lived on the Upper East Side at 155 Riverside Drive.

Nuclear weapons and everything connected with them have been a hot topic for New York recently.

Social advertising video about how to behave in the event of a nuclear attack, discouraged many.

On the subject: Iran threatens to quickly build nuclear missiles and turn New York into 'hellish ruins'

New Yorkers are advised to stay inside buildings, stay away from windows and wait for messages from the authorities. The metropolis reacted to the video with surprise, skepticism, and someone - with fear. Is there anything the authorities know about, but they don't tell us?

The public service advertisement of the New York city hall caused a strong reaction in the press, everyone remembered the bomb shelters. In 2006, one of these bunkers was found unexpectedly under the Brooklyn Bridge. An abandoned bomb shelter under the arch of the Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan was discovered by accident during a technical check of the condition of the structure.

At the same time, stocks of medicines, blankets and packages of crackers were preserved in the Cold War bunker. After the Caribbean crisis was over in the 1970s, nuclear bunkers were largely forgotten and turned into basement warehouses. But signs reading “Nuclear Shelter” can still be seen on some buildings in New York.

Jeffrey Schlegilmilch, director of the emergency preparedness center at Columbia University, believes there could be thousands of them in the state.

“The idea was to sponsor state and municipal programs to build fallout shelters. That is, if there is an explosion, you head to the nuclear bunker and wait until it is safe. There you have a supply of food and water. When it became clear that the amount of nuclear weapons that were aimed at the US and the USSR would destroy all life on Earth, fallout shelters ceased to be of great importance in such a threat. So the program just stopped over time,” Schlegilmilch says.

Activists of the New York company for the prohibition of nuclear weapons were outraged by the video of social advertising from the mayor's office. They also made a special statement for the press: “Social advertising of the mayor's office is like a farce. Even a quick Google search on a nuclear explosion will prove that you can't escape a thermonuclear weapon by running inside a building. The entire city will be destroyed in a matter of seconds.”

The mayor of the city, Eric Adams, tried to calm everyone down and explained the position of the authorities

“No, I don't think it was panicking. I firmly believe that it is better to be safe than sorry. The message was made after the attack on Ukraine. And our emergency response team took the action by saying, "Let's get ready." It doesn't matter if it's a nuclear attack or a natural disaster," Adams said.

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