The Manhattan Project: Making the Atomic Bomb
Part III: The Manhattan Engineer District
A Brief Scare
Anxious as he was to get moving, Groves decided to make one final quality control check before acting on the decisions of November 12 and 14. This decision seemed imperative after a brief scare surrounding the pile project. While Fermi's calculations provided reasonable assurance against such a possibility, the vision of a chain reaction running wild in heavily-populated Chicago arose when the S-1 Executive Committee found that Compton was building the experimental pile at Stagg Field, a decision he had made without informing either the committee or Groves. In addition, information from British scientists raised serious questions about the feasibility of deriving plutonium from the pile. It took several days for Groves and a committee of scientists including Lawrence and Oppenheimer to satisfy themselves that the pile experiment posed little danger, was justified by sound theory, and would in all probability produce plutonium as predicted.