by Will Davis
Over the years that I’ve been writing for ANS, I’ve managed largely through that association to come into possession of a number of fairly odd things. I mean, all of us have things that the “normal person” (and by that I mean non-nuclear) would find pretty strange, but I’m telling you I have some strange things that are a bit further out than garden-variety strange. I’d like to tell you about just two.
At one point after having written about some of the smaller upper-western “rural” reactor projects I was contacted by someone in the nuclear field (remaining nameless) who worked at a plant up there to simply get my address. This gentleman simply “wanted to send me something,” figuring that it would be in good hands.
A while later I received a very large package which contained three big, thick books – books that really surprised me when I looked at them. They were nuclear plant operating manuals, published by Allis-Chalmers, for the Pathfinder plant.
The manuals I received aren’t the entire set – there are three big books though, and there’s some insight. This plant was unusual, as I’ve written many times, because it attempted to include nuclear superheating of steam already developed in a BWR. The idea here was to use “one reactor” to do that but really what they had was two very closely coupled but yet distinctly different reactor cores in the same vessel; an annular core consisting of boiling water elements around the outside, with steam flow upward (and forced recirc) and then, in the very center, a down-flow superheater core of highly enriched uranium with a painfully thin clad.
Startup of the reactor and transition to operating on the grid was, by the account given in this manual as I read the operations anyway,