At the height of World War II, Oak Ridge, TN, used 20% more electricity than New York City. Why so much?
By the 1940’s, war was being waged all around the world. Though the United States did not see much battle on its own soil, Americans united around the common purpose of victory. Average people and great scientists alike contributed in Oak Ridge, TN, all as part of the Manhattan Project
Not long before, in 1939, German physicists had discovered uranium fission. The implications were huge. The U.S. Realized that it had to act quickly before such potentially destructive technology fell into enemy hands.
After having been plagued by initially slow progress, great strides were being made just as things were becoming more urgent. The small town was suddenly booming with activity. New infrastructure had to be built to make accommodations.
All of the bustle demanded a massive supply of electricity. How much? About 20% more than even the nation’s largest city consumed. It was because of the “Y-12” and “K-25” plants, in large part. Those plants were where uranium-enrichment took place.
Ultimately, because of the work done in Oak Ridge, the U.S. achieved its goal of acquiring extremely powerful weapons, but it wasn’t without its share of controversy. Even many of the physicists who made contributions warned of the dangers and responsibilities that must accompany the possession and use of nuclear weapons.