Vemork is the name of an hydroelectric power plant outside Rjukan in Tinn, Norway. It was built by Norsk Hydro, and opened in 1911 its main purpose being to produce hydrogen to produce fertiliser, and was the later the site of the first the first plant, in the world to mass produce heavy water as a by product of hydrogen production. During World War II Vemork was the target of the Norwegian heavy water sabotage. While the power station remains, the hydrogen plant was closed in 1971, and in 1988 the Norwegian Industrial Workers Museum moved in.
In 1911, construction was complete. The plant itself was built to power a factory producing artificial fertilizer by a new method invented by Kristian Birkeland. Later, Norsk Hydro another project that was developed and realized was the production of heavy water (deuterium) by means of electrolysis. The company built a unit for producing high concentrations of heavy water at the Vemork plant at Rjukan although for what purpose is not stated. Production started in December 1934..
During the German occupation of Norway in World War II, the heavy water production plant was sabotaged by SOE in order to prevent the Germans from making an atomic bomb. It was, however, later discovered that the Germans were not as close to making an atomic bomb as was initially feared.
The production of heavy water was judged to be a serious enough threat that at least 5 separate attacks were launched during World War II.
Today the original powerplant is an industrial museum. The exhibitions cover both the heavy water sabotage and the early Norwegian labour movement.
A Norwegian movie about the sabotage operation against the heavy water powerplant was made after World War II, starring several of the original saboteurs. Later, in 1965, director Anthony Mann made an English version entitled The Heroes of Telemark, starring Kirk Douglas and Richard Harris.
In 2003, British survival expert Ray Mears made a BBC documentary series and book called the Real Heroes of Telemark giving a more realistic view of the difficulties encountered in the mission to sabotage the heavy water powerplant.
In 1975 a nonfiction book by (author) Thomas Gallagher and (published) by Bantam called "Assault in Norway" was produced. It states on the cover to be "the true story of the secret mission that blasted Hitler's dream of an atomic bomb".
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