by Will Davis
In deference to the holiday season, I’ve decided to run something lighter than usual – an almost-listicle describing five historic nuclear facts that might surprise people in the field young and old!
1. The first US sale of energy generated by nuclear power was from a Navy prototype.
Navy SIR prototype from Bechtel Corporation artwork in author’s collection.
Although the 1950’s are filled with historic names like EBR-II and Shippinport as regards the progression toward viable generation of electricity by atomic power, the first actual paid sale of such energy in the US happened in upstate New York on July 18, 1955 – two years plus before the startup of Shippingport. This event occurred at the Navy’s Submarine Intermediate Reactor prototype plant at the Kesselring Site, West Milton New York as the prototype’s power was applied to the local grid accompanied by a now largely-forgotten ceremony at the site. The essentially experimental nature of the plant as well as its small output made continued sale wholly impractical, but in terms of historic milestones the event remains significant. (See more here.)
2. Fluid fueled reactors already came and went in the 1950’s.
Enthusiasts of nuclear power today are often found touting fluid fuel, or molten salt reactors and their supposed advances – but did you know that a range of fluid fuel reactors was developed and sold in the 50’s? These small research and training reactors, generally known at the time as “water boilers,” used a solution of either uranyl sulfate or uranyl nitrate, in water. This was contained usually in a spherical shell through which cooling water and perhaps experimental rabbit tubes also passed. Oak Ridge National Laboratory designed and built two test units in the 1950’s. Commercially, Atomics International sold thirteen of these for use here and abroad. Another was built by
by Will Davis