National Museum of Nuclear Science and History explores “atomic” culture

September 29, 2023, 12:06PMNuclear News
Comic books and cartoon characters began to be used to provide information and propaganda about nuclear weapons and energy in the 1940s. Items in the exhibition include True Comics #47 (1946), Bert the Turtle Says Duck and Cover (1951), The Mighty Atom, Starring Reddy Kilowatt (1959), and The H-Bomb and You (1955). (Photo: National Museum of Nuclear Science and History)

For many of us, the toys of our childhood leave indelible marks on our consciousness, affecting our long-term perceptions and attitudes about certain things. Hot Wheels may inspire a lifelong fascination with fast, flashy automobiles, while Barbies might shape ideas about beauty and self-­image. For the generation who grew up during the Atomic Age—the post–World War II era from roughly the mid-1940s to the early 1960s—the toys, games, and entertainment of their childhoods might have included things like atomic pistols, atomic trains, rings with tiny amounts of radioactive elements, and comic books, puzzles, and music about nuclear weapons.

CP-1 at 80: The events of December 2, 1942

December 1, 2022, 12:01PMNuclear News

On the eve of the 80th anniversary of the first controlled nuclear chain reaction, Nuclear Newswire is back with the second of three prepared #ThrowbackThursday posts of CP-1 coverage from past issues of Nuclear News.

On November 17, we surveyed the events of 1942 leading up to the construction of Chicago Pile-1, an assemblage of graphite bricks and uranium “pseudospheres” used to achieve and control a self-sustaining fission reaction on December 2, 1942, inside a squash court at the University of Chicago’s Stagg Field.

Today we’ll pick up where we left off, as construction of CP-1 began on November 16, 1942.

CP-1 at 80: Preparing for the first controlled nuclear chain reaction

November 17, 2022, 3:08PMNuclear News
From left, the cover of the December 1962 issue of NN, featuring a model and a medal, both displayed at the 1962 ANS Winter Meeting; a photo of CP-1 during construction, as published in the November 1992 issue of NN; the opening page of a chronological account of CP-1, published in November 1992 to mark the 50th anniversary.

As we approach the 80th anniversary of controlled nuclear fission, Nuclear Newswire is prepared to deliver not one but three #ThrowbackThursday posts of CP-1 highlights unearthed from past issues of Nuclear News.

ANS was founded in 1954, nearly 12 years after the first controlled nuclear chain reaction was achieved on December 2, 1942, inside a pile of graphite and uranium assembled on a squash court at the University of Chicago’s Stagg Field. By 1962, ANS was prepared to “salute the 20th anniversary of the first chain reaction” at their Winter Meeting, displaying a model of Chicago Pile-1 and presenting a specially cast medal to Walter Zinn, a representative of Enrico Fermi’s scientific team. Over the years, ANS has continued to mark significant anniversaries of CP-1 at national meetings and in NN.

ANS Naval Academy student section hosts dinner, receives landmark

April 12, 2022, 12:00PMANS News
The USS Enterprise (CVN-65)

The Naval Academy ANS student section, with support from the Washington, D.C., local section, held its semiannual dinner on March 29 in Annapolis, Md. The event was attended by more than 100 people, including midshipmen, professors from the U.S. Naval Academy, local ANS members, and ANS President Steve Nesbit.

The evening’s program was hosted by the student chapter president, Midshipman First Class Sara Perkins, and was headlined by the director of the Naval History and Heritage Command, Rear Admiral (retired) Samuel Cox.

Former ANS president Wilkins’s role in Manhattan Project highlighted

May 20, 2021, 12:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe
J. Ernest Wilkins Jr. was honored posthumously by the University of Chicago at a special event held on March 2, 2007. (Photo: Dan Dry/Wikimedia Commons)

ANS past president (1974–1975) J. Ernest Wilkins Jr. was featured in a recent article highlighting the unsung contributions that Black scientists made to the Manhattan Project.

Thoughts on THRESHER

April 10, 2020, 9:58PMANS Nuclear CafeWill Davis

As is the case on every 10APR, I find myself – even in the midst of the present national and, really, worldwide crisis – returning to thoughts of the USS THRESHER on this date in 1963. All of us who have been through the Naval Nuclear Power Program and served in submarines are aware to greater or lesser extent what happened; my experience, having served aboard one of the SUBSAFE boats whose development was a direct result of the accident, lends perhaps to more sustained reflection.

Army Off-Road Nuclear Train – 1958

March 27, 2020, 10:09PMANS Nuclear CafeWill Davis

At the end of the 1950’s the US Army was looking at its entire operational sphere to determine in what areas nuclear energy could be of benefit. While many of these are fairly well known today – for example, the small nuclear plants that were to have been installed at remote locations for powering bases like the Defense Early Warning stations – there are a few applications that remain obscure.

Experimental Breeder Reactor I: A retrospective

December 19, 2019, 5:29PMANS Nuclear CafeWill Searight

In the not-so-distant 20th century past, our planet was in an uncertain new-world order. The second of two major wars had dramatically reshaped the landscape of the world's nations. It was not by any means assured that the extraordinary nuclear process of fission, which itself had been discovered mere years before the second war's end, would be successfully utilized for anything but the tremendous and frightening powers realized in thermonuclear warheads. In the years following, a humble project materializing out of the National Reactor Testing Station in Idaho was to challenge that assertion and demonstrate that nuclear fission could indeed be a commercial, peaceful source of electrical power for civilizations around the globe.

RadioNuclear 22: HBO’s Chernobyl: A Setback or Opportunity?

June 27, 2019, 2:14PMANS Nuclear CafeDoug Hardtmayer

Episode 22 of RadioNuclear is now available. In this episode, we discuss the recent miniseries "Chernobyl", which recently concluded on HBO. We debunk some of the more egregious articles written in the wake of the show (see links to these articles below). We also discuss good ways to engage with individuals who are captivated with the show, and not necessarily familiar with nuclear technology.

Anniversary Observations

March 11, 2019, 6:00AMANS Nuclear CafeAlan Medsker

The seismic event was huge and was felt all over the world.  With a moment magnitude of over 9.0, the earthquake and was the fourth largest ever in the more than 100 years of recorded history.  Huge land masses shifted as much as 2.4 meters, and the rotation of the earth was changed so that days were suddenly just a little (but measurable) bit shorter.  It had sped up the world.

EBR-1 in Photos

December 20, 2018, 5:02PMANS Nuclear CafeWill Davis

December 20, 1951 marks an important date in the history of nuclear power; it's the date on which the first useful electric power was generated by atomic fission.  While the now-famous event at that time only powered four light bulbs, the somewhat stunt-like nature of the day obscured the fact that the plant was actually set up to generate considerably more power, and did so.  Let's take a look at this fact and, at the same time, the facility through illustrations from my collection and from photographs that I took myself while touring EBR-1 earlier this year.

Nuclear Plant Construction Delay and Cost 3

November 2, 2018, 5:24PMANS Nuclear CafeWill Davis

Reactor vessel delivered to Calvert Cliffs; from brochure in Will Davis collection.

The year 1971 saw a continuation of the general trend of rising capital costs for all types of power plants, described by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) in its publication for 1971 as having "risen rather rapidly."  According to the AEC, the aggregate major causes for the increases in costs specific to nuclear electric power plants were as follows, with author's analysis accompanying each:

A Small But Nagging Point

December 1, 2016, 5:48PMANS Nuclear CafeWill Davis

SIR Naval Prototype Plant rolled into containment sphere; March 20, 1954.  From brochure "The Seawolf Story" in Will Davis library.

SIR (Submarine Intermediate Reactor) Naval Prototype Plant rolled into containment sphere at West Milton New York; March 20, 1954. From brochure "The Seawolf Story" in Will Davis library.

We're coming up on another anniversary of the startup of the Shippingport Atomic Power Station in early December.  That plant was more or less a Navy plant (at least in terms of the NSSS or Nuclear Steam Supply System) built not for powering ships but instead for powering businesses and homes.  The move to get that done was rapid and fluid - and now there's maybe a hint of evidence that it could have been a returned favor to Admiral Rickover.

Historic Idaho Reactors Detailed at ANS Winter Meeting

November 8, 2016, 10:00AMANS Nuclear Cafe

Installation of SPERT-II reactor vessel.  From IDO-16050, published 1959, in Will Davis library.

Installation of SPERT-II reactor vessel at National Reactor Testing Station, now Idaho National Laboratory. From IDO-16050, published 1959, in Will Davis library.

The history and lore surrounding the dozens of reactors constructed and operated at the Idaho National Laboratory could fill a book - and has filled at least one whole book and parts of many others.  Today, at the American Nuclear Society's 2016 Winter Meeting a unique presentation was given in the early afternoon by Harold McFarlane, who retired after 44 years working with Argonne National Laboratory (which operated a number of the reactors built in Idaho.)

In an Era of "Firsts," an "Almost"

August 23, 2016, 7:56PMANS Nuclear Cafe

Powder Metallurgy Facility, Sylvania-Corning Nuclear Corporation, Bayside, New York.  From Will Davis' collection.

Powder Metallurgy Facility, Sylvania-Corning Nuclear Corporation, Bayside, N.Y.     From Will Davis' collection.

The era of the "first nuclear build" in the United States (from the Manhattan Project of the Second World War at the earliest, through the final commercial plant orders in 1978) was by nature one of nearly continuous "firsts" in its opening decades, as nuclear energy moved from being a thought to a possibility to a reality and took on many forms and nuances.