Szilard’s chain reaction patents 440,023 & 630,726 lodged 1934

The titles of these British patents are:

Provisional Specification No. 7840 1934
Improvements in or relating to the Transmutation of Chemical Elements

Accepted Dec 12 1935.

Provisional Specification No. 19157 1934
Accepted March 30, 1936 (but withheld from publication under Section 30 of the Patent and Designs Acts 1907 to 1932)
Date of publication 1949.

An explanation of these patents can be found within the power point presentation available for download at (Entitled “Environmental Impacts of Nuclear Technologies.” Author: Bill Menke, October 19, 2005.) This documents reproduces part of the patent 630,726, In this Szilard explains what his chain reaction does:
“A neutron chain reaction generates power and produces radio-active isotopes. The reaction takes place in mass (3), Fig 1, comprising indium, and beryllium, bromine or uranium.” (Source: “Environmental Impacts of Nuclear Technologies.” Author: Bill Menke, October 19, 2005, as above.)

For an illustration of a chain reaction producing more neutrons than it consumes, and producing more energy than it consumes, see plate 15 of Menke’s power point display. A chain reaction in this case relies upon an arrangement of uranium atoms undergoing fission. Neutron release, and resultant energy release rapidly accelerates.

Szilard was of the view that the liberation of neutrons via bombardment of select substances by chain reaction would produce power and radioactive substances. He saw this in 1934. Fission was not discovered until Dec 1938 and was first reported in publications in 1939 (Hahn et al).

The chain reaction and fission are two separate events. However, the chain reaction enables uranium fission to be designed so as to produce either a bomb or a reactor.

Szilard had a theoretical understanding of what substances might work to release energy and produce radioactive substances via chain reaction. The funds he needed to confirm his theory were not available to him. By 1936 Szilard became so concerned about the possiblity of Nazi scientists understanding his patents and using them to construct an atomic bomb, that he asked the British Patent Office to withdrew the patents and to assign them to the Royal Navy in secret. This was done. The patents were not published until 1949. In the meantime, the patents were passed to the University of California, San Diego. They reside in archives there today.

With the publication of Hahn et al’s paper in Germany in 1939, Szilard knew with certainty uranium would work. He moved from England to the USA and began working with Fermi. They soon confirmed the work of Hahn, and at Columbia University they began designing the special graphite/uranium lattice needed to produce a controlled chain reaction of pure natural uranium (natural isotope mix, that is unenriched.) located within a lattice of very pure graphite.

By 1941 the existence of Plutonium, element 94, had been confirmed by Seaborg. Ernest Lawrence reported this the President’s Uranium Committe/S1 and announced that a “second route to the bomb” have been opened.

The President ordered the funding of a uranium reactor, which, using Szilard’s “Improved Method for the Transmutation of the Chemical Elements” would transmute uranium into neptunium which decays to Plutonium. The plutonium bomb did not need the very costly and slow process of uranium enrichment that the uranium bomb needed.

Under the control of the Manhattan Project, a project code named “The Metallurgical Laboratory” was commenced at Chicago University. Its aim was to produce plutonium using the Szilard method, Szilard and Fermi were moved to Chicago from Columbia University. General Groves confiscated all royalties payable to Szilard for the use of his method. Groves considered Szilard to be a dangerous man, and had the FBI investigate him. The Szilard-Fermi uranium reactor became operational on 2 December 1942. Full scale production of plutonium commenced with the construction of Hansford and Oak Ridge reactors. The sole job was to produce plutonium from uranium using the Szliard chain reaction transmution method using a lattice arrangement of uranium and graphite. (Smyth, 1945 reproduced at:

In 1945 Szilard learned that the plutonium bomb and the uranium bomb would be used against Japan despite the fact that Germany was by then defeat and it was known for sure that the Nazis did not possess an atomic bomb. The British had known this since 1943. (Kramer).

In response Szilard started a petition to protest against the use of the nuclear weapons.

In August 1945 the city of Hiroshima was destroyed by a uranium bomb and Nagasaki was destroyed by a plutonium.
Both relied on fission and chain reaction. The plutonium could not have been constructed if Szilard’s method of transmuting uranium into plutonium in a reactor had not been used.

After spending truly awesome sums of money to build the first stockpile of atomic weapons, the USA found itself with the design of the Fermi-Szilard reactor. As well as producing radioactive substances, it produced heat. Using this heat to boil water to produce steam, electricitiy was generated. Groves had the excuse with which to claim reactors are “civilian”. Their construction in the US however was not rapid, industry being suspicious of the dangers. It took special protections, subsidies, ongoing support, and laws limiting the liability of commerical reactor operators before many were built.

Today Indian authorities complain that people in India demonstrate and protest against reactors being built because of the intevention of “Foreign Powers”.

In the context of modern India, reactors are the original idea of the Hungarian scientist, Leo Szilard, aided by the Italian Enrico Fermi, working in the USA with massive war time funding. Reactors definately are a foriegn idea. As a consequence, the origin of nuclear protest happened not in India, but in the United States. One of the first nuclear protestors was Leo Szilard himself in 1945.

In the beginning, if was the scientists who led the anti-nuclear protest movement. And this continued in an organised fashion for many decades.

Though the original generation of nuclear scientists are now all, by and large, passed away, a general theme holds true.

Nuclear reactors are the product of the 1930s. That’s when Szilard first patented his method.
He knew that the process would produce many radioactive substances. He knew that the process would produce energy sufficient to make massive bombs. His project was commandeered by the Manhattan Project.

In today’s world, if renewable energy became subject to the funding of its own “Manhattan Project”, reactors would be revealed to be as dangerous and out of date as they really plainly already are.

Australia can be run on the electricity generated by solar/thermal power stations. There is no need for nuke plants unless a nations also wants nuclear weapons. A world constantly at war provides endless excuses for the construction of nuclear plants.

They are dual use. You cannot have plutonium bombs without nuclear reactors.

The Indian authorities knew this very well. Which is why they continue to build reactors despite the protests of ordinary Indians.

When Szilard drafted the letter to Roosevelt Einstien signed, he specifically warned that the vast quantities of radioactive substances produced by fission would not stay confined to any military target.

Easy. Just wipe out the women and children as well as the 30% who were legal targets under the rules of war.
Call the enite city criminal, but never oneself.

Blaming the locals in India is just the Indian government doing the same thing. Groves did the same thing to
Leo Szilard when Leo protested at the death of innocents.
Einstien’s FBI interview. A failed attempt by Groves to find a reason to imprison Szilard.

Reactors demolish civil liberty world wide and in all epochs.

Next post :

How radioactive is uranium?
Are the fission products more or less radioactive than uranium?
What happens when uranium is left in the ground.
Police Minister Kevin Foley’s last stand.

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