Physics in Perspective

, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 461–479 | Cite as

The Feed Materials Program of the Manhattan Project: A Foundational Component of the Nuclear Weapons Complex

  • B. Cameron ReedEmail author


The feed materials program of the Manhattan Project was responsible for procuring uranium-bearing ores and materials and processing them into forms suitable for use as source materials for the Project’s uranium-enrichment factories and plutonium-producing reactors. This aspect of the Manhattan Project has tended to be overlooked in comparison with the Project’s more dramatic accomplishments, but was absolutely vital to the success of those endeavors: without appropriate raw materials and the means to process them, nuclear weapons and much of the subsequent cold war would never have come to pass. Drawing from information available in Manhattan Engineer District Documents, this paper examines the sources and processing of uranium-bearing materials used in making the first nuclear weapons and how the feed materials program became a central foundational component of the postwar nuclear weapons complex.


Leslie R. Groves Edgar Sengier African Metals Corp DuPont Eldorado Mining and Refining Electro-Metallurgical Company Harshaw Chemical Iowa State College Mallinckrodt Chemical National Bureau of Standards Union Minière du Haut-Katanga uranium uranium oxide 



I am grateful to Stan Norris for providing me a copy of Colonel James Marshall’s diary and permission to reproduce the photo in figure 4, and to Becky Jordan of the University of Iowa library for supplying me with a copy of Ref. 11. I thank Peter Pesic and Robert Crease for a number of suggestions that substantially improved this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Basel 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhysicsAlma CollegeAlmaUSA

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