Argonne's Experimental Boiling Water Reactor in Film

May 12, 2020, 5:16PMANS Nuclear CafeWill Davis

The second of our special series covering documentaries of early US reactors is this very thoroughly set up and filmed documentary on the Experimental Boiling Water Reactor, produced by Argonne National Laboratory.

EBWR as it was commonly known began construction in 1955.  Argonne itself designed the reactor, for which Babcock & Wilcox constructed the reactor vessel.  Sargent and Lundy acted as architect - engineer for the project, with construction oversight by the Atomic Energy Commission; the Sumner Sollitt Company acted as the construction General Contractor.  Graver Tank and Mfg. Co. constructed the containment enclosure for the plant, which measured 80 feet wide and had a full height of 119 feet although a considerable portion of that height was invisible as it was below grade.

The major power equipment contractor for the EBWR project was Allis-Chalmers, who supplied the entire turbine generator, the main condenser, the feed and circulating pumps, the entire diesel generator set (A-C owned Buda, maker of diesel engines, at this time), all motor controllers and control centers as well as remote controls, all transformers and switchgear, and other ancillary equipment.

Construction cost of the facility, originally, was $5 million above and beyond the R&D.  Later, the plant was modified to accept a much higher steam flow and power (although the turbine generator was not replaced and steam was simply dumped) which cost another $2 million.

Originally, the reactor was rated 20 MWt at a steam flow rate of 60,600 lbs/hr (600 psig, 489F) and in this configuration achieved criticality in December 1956.  The turbine generator was rated 6250 KWe maximum with a normal gross output of 5000 KWe; net power, which could be supplied outside, was 4500 KWe.  The reactor was successfully operated at about three times its original output and, later, was further modified to allow a 100 MWt power rating - the shutdown for modification being in January 1962 with the plant back in operation in the Spring of that year.

Now, let's take a look at this excellent half-hour long film on EBWR!

Data from:

Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company brochure on EBWR project

The Atomic Energy Deskbook, Hogerton; Reinhold Publishing, New York 1963

Nuclear Reactor Plant Data, Vol. 1; ASME, McGraw-Hill New York 1959.