Scientific research in Dayton that resulted in the initiator for the atomic bomb and a power source for spacecraft began during World War II. Work was done at a variety of isolated sites throughout the area. In the late 1940s, much of this work was consolidated at a new site in nearby Miamisburg. The Mound Laboratory, as the new site was called, was the U. S.’s first post-war Atomic Energy Commission site to be constructed. Research continued at the site until 2003. The Mound Laboratory is now home to the Mound Cold War Discovery Center, which aims to educate the public about the developments in scientific knowledge accomplished there.
The Dayton Unit Operations were
established during World War II. Classified work with polonium, a rare chemical
element, was carried out in isolated locations around Dayton, Ohio. The work resulted
in the development of the initiator later used in the atomic bomb dropped in
Nagasaki, Japan in 1945. The Dayton Unit
III, Unit IV, and “the Warehouse” continued hosting research and development
through the early Cold War era.
Mound Laboratory, named for the
nearby Adena mounds, was constructed in 1946 under the Manhattan Engineer
District of the War Department. It was first used in 1948 or 1949 (sources
differ), years after the production of polonium initiators by the Atomic Energy
Commission began. The Mound’s purpose was to continue the work started by the
Dayton Units, though it later expanded to other research, some of which is
still classified today.
In 1961, Mound scientists started research on plutonium-238, which they
believed could be used for electrical power on spacecraft. They developed units
called Systems for Nuclear Auxiliary Power (SNAP) that have since been used for
space missions and satellites. In 1994, SNAP became the sole focus of work done
at Mound. Cleanup of the site began one year later, and all work at the site
ended in 2003.