Monday, June 18, 2012
Because of the high demand for copper during the war, the electromagnets were instead wound with silver wire, borrowed from the U.S. Treasury. Readers may recall that in 1943 the U.S. was still on the silver standard and our currency was backed by silver reserves held by the treasury. A paper note was imprinted with the words "Silver Certificate," and a person could exchange one for the equivalent amount of silver on demand. So during WWII, our currency was backed by the calutrons at Y-12, at least in part. After the war the silver was reclaimed and returned to the treasury. Congress repealed the silver standard in 1963, and by 1968 currency could no longer be redeemed for silver.
After the war all uranium enrichment was done by gaseous diffusion, at K-25 and its sister plants. Y-12 continued to operate with other defense missions. Now known as the Y-12 National Security Complex, it is operated by the U.S. Department of Energy through its National Nuclear Security Administration. You can learn more about Y-12 by visiting their web site here. Look at the articles written by Ray Smith, Y-12 historian. They're excellent.
All photographs used are U.S. Government photographs and are in the public domain.