Manhattan Project Shield Window Fragment - 398g
Manhattan Project Shield Window Fragment - 398g
This specimen is a 398-gram fragment of a leaded glass shield window installed in the T Plant (221-T) Plutonium Recovery Building, the first and largest of two production bismuth-phosphate chemical separations plants used to extract plutonium from fuel rods irradiated in the Hanford Site’s reactors. The Plutonium produced here was used in both the Trinity test on July 16, 1945, and in the "Fat Man" atomic bomb used over Nagasaki, Japan on August 9, 1945.
The Manhattan Project was the codename for the research and development effort which allowed the United States to rapidly develop a series of atomic breakthroughs during World War II, including the first industrial-scale plutonium production reactor and the first atomic bombs. This enormous project involved over one hundred thousand scientists, engineers, technicians, and construction workers at more than 30 sites across the United States, including well-known locations such as Oak Ridge, Los Alamos, Trinity, and Hanford, Washington.
📸 Engineers working in the 221-T Plant
Through these crystal clear windows, scientists at the Hanford Site in Washington produced the plutonium that would eventually be used in the world's first atomic bomb explosion: the Trinity nuclear test where Robert Oppenheimer would recall the words of the Bhagavad Gita, "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds." Later, the site would produce the plutonium used in the "Fat Man" atomic bomb.
Only a few complete shield windows still exist, with many having been broken or lost. The glass was sold during a government surplus auction in the late 1980s as part of the long (and continuing) decommissioning process. The yellow color of the glass is due to a high concentration of lead-oxide (up to 70%), which blocks blue and near-UV spectral frequencies, and also gives the glass its protective qualities.
📸 Holding a 22g specimen. Note the gloves. Always use extreme caution when handling the glass and wash your hands after use (after taking off and carefully disposing of your gloves).
Handling the Glass
There's no fear of radioactivity in this relic due to its high lead concentration. That said, any prospective buyer will still want to be careful to use gloves, as too much lead exposure can be dangerous. This was just one of many dangers scientists working on the Manhattan Project faced on a daily basis.
The glass will be in a clear, plastic bag inside the box, but you should wear latex or nitrile gloves when handling the box as the glass is comprised of 70% lead oxide. While you have your gloves on avoid touching surfaces you might touch later with bare hands, like your smartphone. Wash your hands carefully after taking off the gloves. The main thing you are trying to avoid is ingesting any lead.
📸 A 128g Fragment of a Shield Window
LEAD WARNING: The glass is not radioactive but it is comprised of lead-oxide. The glass should be handled with care and only while wearing gloves.
Lead is known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm. For more information go to www.P65Warnings.ca.gov.
Please Note: All fragments ship with a small information card that also serves as the certificate of authenticity.
📸 ATOMIC BOMBING OF NAGASAKI ON AUGUST 9, 1945, TAKEN BY CHARLES LEVY
More About the Manhattan Project
The Manhattan Project first appeared in the Fourth Edition of the Mini Museum. At the time, we produced a long form article for our Companion Guide Book entitled "Nothing Would Ever Be the Same".
We invite you to learn more about the Manhattan Project through the lives of two very different individuals an American physicist named Luis Alvarez, and Nagasaki bombing survivor, Sumiteru Taniguchi.
📸 T Plant (221-T) under construction.
The Hanford, WA facilities encompass 586 square miles of high desert. The Columbia River constitutes about 50 miles of the site’s north and east borders.
Hanford’s facilities originally had 554 buildings, including several production reactors and the unique chemical processing buildings where Plutonium was extracted from Uranium. These buildings were 800 feet long, 65 feet wide, and about 80 feet high. Standing in one reminded workers of standing in the bottom of a canyon, so the buildings were known as “the canyons.”
📸 Nuclear reactors line the riverbank at the Hanford Site along the Columbia River in January 1960 (USDOE N1D0069267)
For decades, the Hanford facilities produced plutonium for America’s nuclear weapons programs. The last reactor at Hanford ceased operation in 1987. Soon after, the U.S. Department of Energy, the EPA, and Washington State University’s Department of Ecology signed an agreement to clean up the hundreds of billions of gallons of liquid and millions of tons of solid waste stored there.
Today, there are 8,000 employees involved in the deactivation, decommissioning, decontaminating, and demolishing of the site’s facilities and structures, except those designated as part of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park. Tours of the site are available to the public, government officials, the media, and other interested parties. The tours for the public focus on efforts to decommission and decontaminate buildings and building sites, and the disposal of radioactive and industrial chemical waste.