The element of the week is—you guessed it—uranium, and this week Bill and his crew take us through the engineering that goes into enriching it, i.e. into producing uranium metal with a much-higher-than-natural abundance of the lighter U-235 isotope. This is the technology that produces the “higher octane” uranium used to make nuclear power and also, unfortunately, the really “high octane” version used to make the simplest type of nuclear bomb.
One of the great treats of my chemistry education at UT-Austin was having the original gaseous diffusion process for enriching uranium explained to me by a man who actually worked on the Manhattan Project to implement it, the late great Dr. Norman Hackerman. Bill treats it just as well, and goes on to cover the details of the more modern gas centrifuge process. A more foreboding subject than usual, for an Engineer Guy video, but perhaps more fundamentally important than any of them. The details of this technology are at the heart of vital policy decisions being made every day, in the corridors of power, and to understand one requires understanding the other. [Thanks, Bill!]