Tag Archives: Atomic Snapshot

Model 2302 Super Sniffer

On the corner of Ruby Hill Avenue and Monroe Street is the Eureka Sentinel Museum, housed in the old Eureka Sentinel newspaper building in Nevada.

Nuclear-Chicago’s Model 2302 Super Sniffer

An unassuming display case of artifacts from the Sentinel offices contains the 1954 Nuclear-Chicago Model 2302 Super Sniffer.

To capitalize on the uranium fever spreading across the West, Nuclear-Chicago created this low cost, general purpose instrument for the detection of x-rays, gammas, and high energy betas, specifically designed for uranium prospecting. Using standard flashlight batteries, it could be used continuously for up to 2 hours. The unit came with earphones, batteries, radioactive check source, a U.S. government prospecting book and instructions — all for $49.50.

Nuclear-Chicago was founded by Jim Schoke, and later joined by John Kuranz and Thomas Mitchell, in 1946. All three were members of the Army’s Special Engineer Detachment of the Corps of Engineers and worked on the Manhattan Project at the Metallurgical Laboratory (MetLab) at the University of Chicago working for the instrument group.

Enjoy the 1955 Warner Bros. short film, “Uranium Fever.”


In front of the lobby of the Department of Energy‘s James V. Forestal Building, a low-rise Brutalist office building in Washington, D.C., is Robert Russin‘s Chthonodynamis sculpture carved from a single block of Norwegian granite.

Chthonic is derived from Ancient Greek meaning earth or soil. Dynamis (dunamis) also comes from Ancient Greek and refers to power and potentiality. Together, they form Russin’s description of the worldwide hunger for energy (“Earth Energy”). The sculpture depicts energy inside a hollow sphere, with the figure of a man attempting to contain it.

The 10-foot sculpture was installed in 1992. Russin was an American sculpture from Wyoming who created a number of public sculptures throughout the United States.

Plutonium Scale

Seederer-Kohlbush scale @ Hanford B Reactor

This Seederer-Kohlbusch scale, circa 1944, is found in a side room of the B Reactor at Hanford along with displays of other artifacts and mementos of the Manhattan Project. This is the original scale used to weigh the first milligrams of plutonium (Pu) produced at the facility.

Hanford B Reactor

In October 1943, construction began on the B Reactor at the Hanford Site in Washington, with the purpose of producing plutonium. Fuel slugs — uranium billets extruded into slugs and sealed in aluminum jackets — were then placed in the reactor for several weeks to a year. The reactor went critical on September 26, 1944. The first irradiated slugs were discharged from the reactor on December 25, 1944.

T Plant located in 200 West Area of Hanford. (T Plant @ Hanford.gov)

Fuel slugs were then removed from the reactor and placed in a 90-day underwater cooling off period before being transported by train to the Hanford T Plant, which began operations on December 26, 1944. Next, the bismuth phosphate process was used on the fuel slugs to separate the plutonium from uranium and other fission products. The final processed product was plutonium nitrate, which made for safer shipping to Los Alamos.

In late January, 1945, the first milligrams of plutonium produced at Hanford were weighed on this scale then sent by courier to Los Alamos for testing. Los Alamos received its first plutonium from Hanford on February 2, 1945.

Building D, Tech Area, Los Alamos (Tech Area Gallery @ OSTI.gov)

Subsequently, Building D in the Tech Area at Los Alamos would purify and fabricate the plutonium nitrate received from Hanford into the highly purified metallic hemispheres used in the Trinity and Nagasaki devices.

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