The Neutron's Long Shadow
Traces of the Manhattan Project
The neutron was not discovered until 1932. One hundred billion times smaller than the thickness of a human hair, it could stimulate the decay of certain forms of uranium and it could change uranium into plutonium, a chemical element unnatural to the earth. In fact neutrons could create all manner of unnatural, radioactive, and extremely dangerous forms of elements. Only 13 years later, the Manhattan project had harnessed the neutron’s special powers to produce a uranium bomb that obliterated Hiroshima and a plutonium bomb that devastated Nagasaki. What had begun as a triumph of the human imagination and intellect had resulted in the loss of an innocence that could never be recovered.
In this project are images of some of the surviving facilities of the Manhattan Project. Most were used heavily during the Cold War and all are now dormant or decommissioned. Some of the radioactive byproducts produced in the manufacture of these nuclear explosives will be dangerous for millions of years so the environment can never be restored to its pristine state. At best one can only hope to mitigate further consequences to nature and human health. For such an impossibly tiny object, the neutron has indeed cast a long shadow.