Going Nuclear – Part 6 – Uranium Enrichment

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The previous episodes covered the science behind how nuclear reactions and weapons work, but the real barrier to building a device is the creation of the fissile material. Uranium in its natural form cannot sustain a fast chain reaction, it needs to be enriched to eliminate the non fissile isotopes, and developing this process was one of the largest projects in the Manhattan Project.
This is largely a broad overview, much of the details are classified.

This is Cody’s video on Uranium refining for those interested in the Chemistry:

  1. Rider of A Pale Horse

    Oak Ridge is a neat place. But, It is a disappointing place to visit. The interesting part is very well hidden.

  2. MrVipitis

    The energy you can get out of 100grams of the right Uranium, is worth 20M$

  3. Kevin Shepardson

    You talk about making plutonium and I just think of that scene from UHF…

  4. whatthefuck1011

    You should also mention the use of stuxnet to mess with Irans gas centrifuges…

  5. Mars Devastater

    One question Scott: Do you still have anything that might resemble a plan to do another episode of Galileo Conquest?
    I’ve been waiting on that for months now and have begun to wonder…

  6. graymalkinmendel

    I love this, but the background music is making me drousy

  7. NeverTalkToCops1

    Fabulous, you have uncovered rare items in this series. In this video, at 7:00 we see a photograph inside the massive gaseous diffusion plant. Not many pictures of that. Looking forward to the plutonium 239 production inside the “Queen Mary” size buildings at Hanford. Legend has it the radiation was so intense (the process used robots) inside that plant that the concrete became somewhat “spongelike”. Woo!

  8. Castia B

    Well. I’m on a watchlist now.


    So you dont just mix with sodium bicarbonate and stir??????,
    Peace out ✌

  10. Carlos Oliveira

    It’s unbelievable the lengths that they went to get their hands on this stuff. Just the amount of work and resources invested makes it the most expensive material on earth, more than diamonds and gold.

  11. Steve Wiseburn

    Uranium fission and plutonium fusion still used technology from the 1950s thanks to govt regulations do GE. Look into thorium salts reactor.
    Much easier without the problems of Uranium

  12. Prakash Kamath

    Dear Scott …you are awesome…god bless you.

  13. Ranjit

    Scott what kinda work do you do, scientist, physicist?, professor.?

  14. Ultrawup

    Cody’s Lab shout-out, nice!

  15. Gherzahn

    Hey! The Long Dark t-shirt! Good to see other people playing the game as well

  16. Ave Vovus!

    Not Ankarsk, but AnGarsk – town, named by Angara river.

  17. Gregg Weber

    How much effort is used to produce/use a weapon, even a defensive one, compared to other weapons, especially those of the enemy? More useful bang for the buck or the enemy will just allow you, or steer you into a Pyrrhic Victory. I don’t have the time but you should see the consequences of the Economics of War in this matter.

  18. Peter Hobelsberger

    Series continues, nice! Instant Like!

  19. Adam Carroll

    Yessss i missed this series more than you know scott!

  20. The Meme king

    Tbh Scott was probably put on a list for these videos.

  21. Adrian Lyons

    Initially thought the video was going to cover stuff I already knew about nuclear but there were a lot of interesting details here, good work!

  22. VideoNOLA

    Have never heard “gaseous” pronounced as /’gāSHəs/, only /ˈɡasēəs orˈɡaSHəs/.

  23. Sheldon Robertson

    Ahh yes. Enrichment. The truly hard part of building a thermonuclear weapon.


    Is it ok that I barely understand anything?

  25. Southern Bear

    My Physics and Chemistry teachers are getting worried how much I know about making Nuclear bombs. Thanks Scott you are fueling my love of scaring my teachers XD

  26. Ultra Sans

    Hey Scott, great series on Nuclear Weapons, learning just how much I don’t know about them. I was wondering what happened to Galileo Conquest, hasn’t been uploaded in a while. Keep up the good work though!

  27. zubmit

    Damn I love this series so much!

  28. Seth Hansen

    Are you looking to do any Kerbal series? Since you don’t do any I just slowly rewatch the other ones 🙃

  29. Adam Allman

    Another great informative video, thanks Scott

  30. Christopher Brown

    Scott you’re awesome 👍

  31. dan rayman

    I feel like NSA is going to show up at my door for watching these lol. All joking aside Awesome job! this series has been fascinating

  32. Lőrinc Sonnevend

    The Long Dark <3

  33. newsgetsold

    Scott I heard Dr Evil wants to hire you. Your excellent knowledge of rocketry and nuclear physics will complement his plans for World domination.

  34. asdasf asdasd

    part 7 ? part 7 ? part 7 ? part 7 ?
    as you can see i really like your videos keep up the good work

  35. mdk31

    When is Part 7 coming?

  36. Daniel Lopez

    Replying to a comment i saw over small yield nuclear devices.
    A Yield smaller than the little-boy would still vaporize a city such as DC completely, ie. anything over 10kt is to be considered threatening, as you can add warheads of said yield to a MIRV (*Multiple independently target-able reentry vehicle*) missile.
    Thus not all of the warhead could be intercepted if deployed before interception.
    Such that even a small yield will be devastating to an infrastructure and population, since you can have many warheads reach a single target or multiple targets simultaneously..
    You may also cause a high amount of damage by encasing the weapon in non fissile nuclear material, thus creating a dirty bomb, which the main effect would be the fallout of said device without destroying much of the infrastructure, but by irradiating the area such that the population has to leave the area.
    But you can irradiate the area to such a level that it can be easily handled by protective gear during an invasion, and then “cleaned” such that now you have the intact infrastructure without further resistance.

  37. Zack Mullins

    Starting in the late 50’s a majority of the US enrichment happened at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion plant.

  38. rnedisc

    FINALLY a new episode! Love this series!

  39. Franko

    First like was given by Kim :)

  40. Toxis

    correct me if I’m wrong, but reverse engineering Stuxnet should give you pretty good insights at least into how Iranian uranium enriching centrifuges work? ;)

  41. redoxee

    I love this series even thouh I understand about 75% (there’s a bit of language barrier ^^)
    I hope you won’t get in trouble by doing research on this subject though :s

  42. KuraIthys

    Ironic that Australia would have developed a more effective enrichment method, given we essentially have no nuclear reactors of our own.
    (we do have something like 1/3 to half of the planet’s supply of uranium though, so… There is that. XD)

  43. Bobby Vincent

    1:00 lol they made Cody take down his video I guess. Or he took it down

  44. Claxvii 177th

    GREAT VIDEO! May the cherenkov radiation glows away from you

  45. Sheldon Robertson

    Allegedly if you touch centrifuge rotors with your bare hand the oxidation caused by your sweat will imbalance the rotor such to make it useless. I wonder why it couldn’t just be re-machined, but that said, be sure to use dummy facilities or display out of spec/rejected centrifuges when the UN comes around. Machining inconel is a pain in the ass.

  46. Janne Aalto

    Nuclear troll train leaving platform! Next stop, Casaba Howitzer!

  47. blah

    YES I love this series so much thank you scott!

  48. kevlarandchrome

    Thanks professor, this series is fascinating, I can’t wait for part 7 and beyond.

  49. k

    tfw all the resources you need to know how to build a nuclear bomb are right here on YouTube.

  50. Peter Jerde

    I could listen to your voice all day long. Truly excellent work you do on these videos!

  51. Matthew Trzcinski

    Ha! the inevitable reference to Cody’s Lab!

  52. Despex ديسبكس

    You are the best on these explanations, i really enjoy watching this, keep it up Scott.

  53. SarmonOflynn

    Oh god, seeing that system mass/energy flow diagram gave me first year chem eng PTSD

  54. Gerg C

    I love watching videos that make me feel stupid. Seriously…I do!

  55. GoatzAreEpic Maokai

    How can one man know so much. True inspiration right here!

  56. Dennis W

    Thanks Scott .. I love this series .. but damn. I feel so dumb. If i watch it over and over, i think i will feel a little less dumb. All that being said, I have enjoyed the videos.
    Just gotta say StuxNet, had nothing to do with “Iranium” .. dont worry bud .. most will have missed that ;)

  57. Joshua Azbell

    I honestly would have disliked this video without the enriching joke at the end.

  58. PappaLitto

    I think you did pretty well for a “non-chemist”

  59. JuJu Tex

    YEA! Oak Ridge boie repin right here! born and raised in the glowing town!

  60. AirlessMICRO

    FBI wants to:

  61. HKA

    Making spinning centrifuges that run at 1000s of revolutions per second requires engineering and metallurgy know how that is far more complex than designing an implosion system once you have the fissile material.

  62. Jesper O

    According to my math they only lost 4083.33 grams of silver

  63. Jaco Vermeulen

    Seems like the video from Cody is no longer available?

  64. Chris K

    “There is some evidence that stuxnet was an attack on natanz” :P It has been conclusively shown, no-one seriously believes it could have been for anything else

  65. HuntingTarg

    YAY, glad to see this series continued (even without CoaDE footage)! Nice job on the research, I learned quite a bit 😉
    Worth the wait.

  66. Rick Graham

    My Ex’s dad worked on the Manhattan project, he is a chemical engineer. He learned German so he could read their papers.

  67. mikeissweet

    LOVE this series! Could go for 10 more episodes 😉

  68. somthing goeshere

    after this series, scott was placed on numerous watchlists

  69. vin 950

    i had no idea geishas were involved in making nuclear bombs!

  70. Eric Albers

    “you might have some ideas about how to build a nuclear weapons” no… no I don’t. I prefer to keep my door on it’s hinges.

  71. OldFormat

    A lot of the non-proliferation arguments seem a bit irrelevant given that some very poor countries (Pakistan, North Korea) have obtained the bomb independently. Furthermore, once you can build your first breeder reactor, un-enriched (or even depleted) uranium can be bred into plutonium and fed back into that same reactor eventually generating excess plutonium for bombs without any enrichment process.
    Anti-proliferation restrictions on civilian power might have made sense prior to the 80s-90s but if we had gone hard on fission power 20 years ago we might now be enjoying cheap power with the lowest greenhouse gases emissions.

  72. Sergey tinldw

    It is so hard to watch the Cody’s video these days

  73. AshGreninjaBC

    Hey Scott, I met you in a Team Fortress 2 lobby 8 years ago. Glad to see u still making videos

  74. crush537

    I would watch an episode about how they get the material into the final form. How do they get it into a sphere?

  75. rocketboyty

    @scott just curious if anyone has contacted you from the state department after doing all the research for these vids? Another enjoyable video never the less =)

  76. Andy Lee Robinson

    Could a Hilsch Vortex tube do isotopic separation? It produces hot and cold gas based on average kinetic energy of the molecules, but the vortex/cyclone runs at over a million rpm because only the gas rotates.
    Presumably it could also produce oxygen enriched air on demand.

  77. Weed Man West Vancouver (BC)

    There is also U233 which you get by breeding with Thorium. M

  78. TheArklyte

    Part 6 and we had gotten to enrichment… I have a feeling that we’ll get to engines only after they’d finally get to be tested irl. Part 73?

  79. Anthony Barker

    5:53, You mean 100kWhrs/SWU, not 100kW/SWU. (Great videos, love them).

  80. Sean McDonough

    10:20 – I thought it was a _proven fact_ that Stuxnet was built for sabotaging the Iranian nuclear programme?

  81. DumbSkippy

    For all you 235 purification needs call Australia on +61 1800 NUKES :-)

  82. Brady McIntosh

    I clicked that link so hard my mouse went super-critical, causing a nuclear explosion which killed me and prevented me from writing this comment.

  83. ProgHead777

    In 1964, the US Government conducted an experiment, called the “Nth Country Experiment”, in which they tasked a small handful of civilians, all recent physics PhDs, to design a functional nuclear weapon using only information that was PUBLICLY available at the time. The civilian physicists succeeded. This proved that the only obstacle to obtaining nuclear weapons capability was the MONUMENTAL engineering feat of refining and stockpiling the fissile material needed to construct a working bomb. Back in 1964, 54 years ago. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nth_Country_Experiment

  84. BlackSkullArmor

    Dear Scott,
    I know this might seem like an unusual request, but can you tell us about your daily scalp routine? Are you naturally bald or do you shave to maintain baldness? Any moisturisers or oils recommendation for keeping the scalp healthy? That sort of thing
    Hope you see this, thanks

  85. Alex D

    That closing pun gave me cancer

  86. HuntingTarg

    BTW +Scott Manley
    Have you ever considered doing a joint project with Issac Arthur?

  87. 10mintwo

    The silex method is so exotic and beautifully clever. They’re somehow using hyperpolarized (nuclear spin purified) parahydrogen Raman conversion cells to shift a CO2 laser’s wavelength to the precise infrared resonance absorption line of a U235 to F molecular bond. I would love to know how they prevent things like collisional excitation transfer to neighboring U238-F molecular bonds from ruining the efficiency.

  88. Dirk Dwipple

    For my senior science project. I built a full cut away model of a A bomb. My science teacher gave me a B. I told her if I had twenty two pounds of plutonium she be in trouble.

  89. zapfanzapfan

    Yepp, enriching uranium-235 is the limiting step, which is why heavy water reactors and graphite reactors for producing plutonium from unenriched uranium is so popular.

  90. Keyboard runner

    And there are still some idiots who think that the Nazis pulled the enrichment off DURING the war, got weapons grade uranium AND tested the bombe over the Baltic sea.
    At least after watching this video everyone has to acknowledge that is was impossible for Germany to concentrate this amount of industry, hidden from allied eyes and the constant hail of carpet bombings.

  91. MotherEric

    Loved the closing pun!
    Also I loved that line of:
    “Some argue efficiency is less desirable, because it makes it easier for groups to develop nuclear weapons”
    , I could imagine the science and engineering team holding a party after some discovery, then someone being like “wait…”!

  92. The NotFlat Earth

    North Korea war heads are so bad they could improve yield by 400% just by watching this series

  93. tanks608

    that is absolute amazing that they only lost that much silver

  94. 5chr4pn3ll

    Finally the next step in this “how to” series. At this pace I’ll never be a superpower.

  95. Mirodin

    Did anybody else find something called “NSAtool.exe” running in their task manager? meh, can’t be too serious I guess.

  96. Ray Ceeya

    Just a heads up, but if you ever find yourself in the Pacific North West, you can tour the Hanford B reactor. I grew up across thre river from the bloody thing, and it is open to the public now. Absolutely horrifying how crude the damn thing was.

  97. Bad Beard Bill

    1 million gee?
    The lengths we’ll go to just to get enriched uranium/plutonium.
    Also, lasers? We’re basically at the point where we need to ask the question: what can’t lasers do? Instead of asking what lasers can do.

  98. Lessinath

    Sadly the Codyslab video was removed.

  99. Jim's videos

    All the science is fun but the engineering to make it happen is the real magic.

  100. Scooch

    You say “fly safe” but, I really feel like after watching this series I’m not going to be allowed on airplanes anymore. 😔

Comments are closed.