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Did the Japanese intend to put some 'glow' into their MW50?

xylstra

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I came across a most curious reference in Mark Felton's book, "YANAGI: the Secret Underwater Trade Between Germany and Japan, 1942-1945", on page 180. It concerns the famous U-234 surrender ("NO, not the isotope, the Unterseeboot!") and the discovery of German high-tech en-route to Japan. Part of the cargo consisted of 10 Canisters (~560Kg/1,235lbs) of U-235 (YES, the isotope this time!), Uranium Oxide. He states that contrary to expectation, that it was not intended for atomic weapon development but rather, it was to be used as a catalyst for Methanol production destined for avaition 'fuel' [surely he means as an MW50 octane booster?].
....."Huh??" It's news to me that UO2 could be used as a catalyst for such a chemical reaction. In fact, the only catalytic employment of UO2 I've come across was some obscure soviet-era chemical process that had nothing to do with Methanol production. I am not, however, a chemical engineer so perhaps I'm wrong. Maybe someone who is can shed light on this?
What I do know is that there was a fascinating documetary video "Japan's Atomic Bomb" (still available) whose producers interviewed surviving Japanese nuclear scientists in which they related that they in making requests to Germany for supplies of Uranium Oxide they would 'camouflage' their request with a plausibly-sounding cover-story to make it seem credible even though they pretty much guessed that the Germans weren't fooled.
So, Methanol production, or Atomic bomb production? Can anyone definitively prove what U-234's U-235 was to have been used for?
 

TomS

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It's not that obscure; even Wikipedia notes that UO2 can be used as a catalyst in the oxidation of methane into methanol and for desulphuring petroleum products. It had other industrial uses as well, in ceramics for example.

I'm highly doubtful of any claim suggesting that the material aboard Uboat 234 was enriched U235. There is no evidence of a successful German uranium enrichment/separation effort on the scale necessary to make more than a half ton of highly enriched uranium oxides. By spring 1945, the US Oak Ridge facility had shipped a grand total of 132 pounds of highly enriched uranium (metal not oxides). No German effort equivalent to Oak Ridge existed, making the existence of over 1000 pounds of primarily U235-based uranium oxide an impossibility.
 

riggerrob

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Notzi Germany, the Imperial Japanese Army and the Imperial Japanese Navy all launched atomic programs, but all were hampered by shortages of supplies. The IJA and IJN did not cooperate and instead competed for the small amounts of uranium available in Asia. Towards the end of WW2, German scientists accumulated almost enough material to build an atomic pile at Haigersloch, Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany. None of them were close to completing a nuclear bomb during WW2.
 

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