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National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

The Y-12 Plant

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Electromagnetic Separation
Alpha & Beta Calutrons
Calutron Girls
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Quick Fact:
The Y-12 Plant used the electromagnetic separation method, developed by Ernest Lawrence at University of California-Berkeley, to separate uranium isotopes. When an electrically-charged atom was placed in a magnetic field, it would trace a circular path with a radius determined by the atom’s mass. U-235 was lighter than U-238 and could be isolated by placing a collecting pocket in its path.