General Discussions  
This is the place to discuss general issues related to the U-boat war or the war at sea in WWII. 
Re: Italian subs and nuclear cargo?
Posted by: Simon Gunson ()
Date: March 27, 2006 11:06AM

This nuclear issue deviates from my interest in Itlian boats at Portland but is related to the surrender of Ammeraglio Cagni at South Africa, which may have carried nuclear material.

The conventional wisdom is that Germany could not enrich uranium. The truth is that South Africa and Pakistan have both enriched uranium for A-bombs using gaseous centrifuges developed by Germany in 1942.

Uranium oxide powder is mixed with flouric acid to make uranium hexaflouride. This gas is spun at up to 500rpm and the containment bowl is heated from below which boils enriched U235 to the top. Electro-magnets then sluce the enriched material from the top.

The Nazi gaseous centrifuge project was discovered by British espionage through project Epsilon in Stockholm. Large contracts were awarded in Nazi Germany for manufacture of such centrifuges in 1944.

These centrifuges had nothing to do with heavy water from Norway, where the sabotage of the Voermark plant and later sinking of the Telemark ferry did nothing to hamper uranium enrichment.

Everybody knows the efforts of Prof Werner Heisenberg, but there were at least three competing nuclear projects in Nazi Germany. Possibly four.

(1) The Kaiser Wilhelm Gesellschaft (KWG) project of Heisenberg to develop fission for nuclear power.

(2) The secretive OKM Naval Weapons Office or Kreigsmarine project under General Admiral Karl Witzell and Konteradmiral Wilhem Rhein (which amongst other things was involved with towed V-2 capsules and planning to power a type XXI with a nuclear reactor). The science team was led by scientist Prof Walther Bothe. When the OKM nuclear laboratory at Hamburg was destroyed by allied bombing in 1943, efforts were shifted to Koneigsberg on the Baltic.

(3) The plutonium bomb project of Dr Fritz Houtermans (who studied nuclear physics at the Ukraine Physics Insitute in 1934). The plutonium project was least likely to succeed because plutonium is derived by a six step chemical precipitation process from spent nuclear fuel. Since Heisenberg failed to develop the nuclear reactor a plutonium bomb was impossible.

(4) The Heereswaffenamt uranium enrichment project, subsequently taken over by the SS under leadership of Dr Paul Harteck. This HWA project had far superior funding to Heisenberg's project. Allied intelligence and bombings continually pin-pointed enrichment laboratories and bombed them before they came online. Harteck's final laboratory was found under a football stadium in Stadtilm by the ALSOS mission. It is likely therefore that Germany persued a joint venture with uranium starved Japan to develop uranium enrichment out of the range of Allied bombing.

(5) Goering's privately funded Reichsforschungsrat-Goering (Physikalische Technishe Reichanstalt [PTR] at Ronneburg) to develop an A-bomb which was headed by Kurt Deibner. Diebner's efforts were later absorbed by the SS project under Paul Harteck. Deibner was also the German Army's chief nuclear physicist. Deibner was a strident campaigner for the A-bomb during 1941.

(6) In addition Japan had two A-bomb projects one army and the other navy which amalgamated in 1944 and shifted to the Imperial 8th Japanese Army laboratory at Hungnam in (northern) Korea. From July 1943 the US was intercepting requests to Berlin for uranium shipments to Japan from General Touransouke Kawashima.

The voyage of U-234 was not the first to carry uranium oxide cargo (yellow cake). The website J-fleet.com carries logs of voyages by I-class submarines to France. According to Japanese historians they carried uranium oxide in a paste with mercury much like dental amalgam. This makes sense since it would resist crushing at depth when packed in the keel. It could easily be separated post voyage to yield two valuable cargoes, uranium and mercury. Many u-boats also carried mercury according to manifests.

It is known that I-52 sunk in the mid Atlantic nearing France had 800kg of Uranium cargo awaiting her. I-30 is known to have carried uranium cargo back from France, but she was sunk on her return after making it back to Singapore.

It is possible uranium oxides were carried from August 1943 onwards. The Government of west Germany went to enormous expense to lift the wreck of U-859 near penang in 1974 and used the deep sea lift ship Flex LD which had associations with CIA deep sea recovery missions. It is interesting that whilst most u-boat wrecks have remained war graves that they thought it important enought to raise U-859. At Singapore some u-boats were slipped to remove cargo from their keel boxes.

Given that some WW2 secrets will remain under embargo for 100 years, one can suggest that maybe nuclear secrets will be the last to emerge from WW2.

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Subject Written By Posted
Italian sub at Portland Maine ??? Simon Gunson 03/12/2006 11:40AM
Re: Italian sub at Portland Maine ??? Peter Ladd 03/12/2006 05:33PM
Re: Italian sub at Portland Maine ??? Vince 03/12/2006 10:58PM
Re: Italian sub at Portland Maine ??? BrianV 03/12/2006 11:48PM
Re: Italian sub at Portland Maine ??? Simon Gunson 03/13/2006 03:47AM
Re: Italian sub at Portland Maine ??? Manfred 03/13/2006 04:42AM
Re: Italian sub at Portland Maine ??? Simon Gunson 03/13/2006 11:11AM
Re: Italian sub at Portland Maine ??? Paul 03/13/2006 05:18PM
Re: Italian sub at Portland Maine ??? Simon Gunson 03/14/2006 08:56AM
Re: Italian sub at Portland Maine ??? Paul 03/14/2006 04:08PM
Re: Italian sub at Portland Maine ??? Capt Ken 03/20/2006 07:26PM
Re: Italian sub at Portland Maine ??? paul 03/20/2006 11:28PM
Re: Italian sub/oleary incedent Capt Ken 03/22/2006 01:10AM
Re: Italian sub at Portland Maine ??? JR 03/14/2006 05:31PM
Re: Italian sub at Portland Maine ??? JR 03/14/2006 05:22PM
Re: Italian sub at Portland Maine ??? Simon Gunson 03/19/2006 12:38AM
Re: Italian sub at Portland Maine ??? Simon Gunson 03/19/2006 10:31AM
Re: Italian sub at Portland Maine ??? paul 03/21/2006 01:24AM
Re: Italian subs and nuclear cargo? Simon Gunson 03/27/2006 11:06AM
Re: Italian subs and nuclear cargo? Paul 03/27/2006 03:53PM
Re: Italian subs and nuclear cargo? Simon Gunson 03/28/2006 06:43AM
Re: Italian subs and nuclear cargo? Paul 03/28/2006 03:30PM
Re: Italian subs and nuclear cargo? Simon Gunson 03/29/2006 05:14AM
Re: Italian sub at Portland Maine ??? Riccardo Celi 01/30/2012 12:16AM
Re: Italian sub at Portland Maine ??? Paul 03/29/2006 04:57PM
Re: Italian sub at Portland Maine ??? Simon Gunson 04/03/2006 06:42AM
Re: Italian sub at Portland Maine ??? Paul 04/03/2006 02:37PM
Re: Italian sub at Portland Maine ??? paul 04/04/2006 04:07AM
Re: Italian sub at Portland Maine ??? Simon Gunson 04/04/2006 09:46AM
Re: Italian sub at Portland Maine ??? Simon Gunson 04/04/2006 09:24AM
Re: Italian sub at Portland Maine ??? John Layte 01/28/2012 07:23PM


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