The Dark Cube: Hunting for lost German WWII Uranium

  • April 12, 2023, 4:00 pm US/Central
  • Tim Koeth, University of Maryland
  • Rick Tesarek,

The Manhattan Project was spurred by the fear that Germany was building their own nuclear weapons and Allied anxiety continuously pondered the Nazi atomic progress. General Groves commissioned the military and scientific intelligence mission code-named Alsos, which uncovered that indeed the Germans had a two-year lead on the American nuclear program. In April 1945, in the sleepy village of Haigerloch, Alsos found the culmination of the German nuclear program: a failed reactor experiment, named B-VIII. This incomplete nuclear reactor, built of 664 uranium cubes had come very close to criticality. What had happened?  How did Germany miss the mark? What happened to the German B-VIII reactor? How close did they really get?


But wait, there were more! History has maintained that the German scientists did not have enough uranium to make their WWII nuclear reactor work. Recently declassified documents revealed that over 400 uranium cubes were left unconfiscated – enough for the Germans to make a working nuclear reactor; these 400 uranium cubes fueled a black market which became the world’s first case of nuclear materials proliferation! What happened to all of the uranium cubes?