by Will Davis
Our subject this week is a fairly obscure but nevertheless fascinating film, given the present emphasis on small modular and/or microreactor plants – the Relocation of PM-2A.
This plant, designed by ALCO Products Inc. at the end of the 1950’s, was built to a DoD specification for a small nuclear plant that could be transported by air, and then assembled at a remote site. The plant would have to provide electric power for a base as well as space heating.
ALCO based the plant on the technology it had developed and proven in the SM-1 plant located at Fort Belvoir. That plant, a single loop PWR, was known widely in the early days of atomic energy as both a successful “first” as well as a training hub from which trained operators spread out to all other branches of the services (and even to the NS SAVANNAH.)
ALCO Products press release photo shows the layout of the well known, at least at the time, SM-1 nuclear plant at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Photo in Will Davis collection.
The PM-2A (in which “PM” stood for “Portable, Medium”) was assembled first in the United States although not tested with the reactor operational. The modular units were separated and packaged and flown to Greenland; they were shipped then to the site of Camp Century, which is in remote arctic territory about 150 miles from Thule, Greenland. The plant was installed in tunnels carved from ice and snow.
After operating for several years, the decision was made to remove the plant and bring it back to the United States. The movement of the plant is the subject of our interesting film today.
Although the film states that the plant was moved “for use elsewhere,” the fact is that it never operated again. Instead, it was shipped to NRTS Idaho, now
by Will Davis