Seven Decades Past, A New Dawn

September 26, 2014, 6:47PMANS Nuclear CafeWill Davis

Shortly before midnight on September 26, 1944, a sustained chain reaction was begun for the first time in a nuclear reactor whose purpose was not merely to prove that fission could be achieved or sustained. The brand new reactor at Hanford Engineer Works, Washington state, had only been complete for about a month; its first uranium fuel had begun loading only on September 13. Incredibly, this facility, of a nature that had never been attempted before (as man had only been aware of fission, itself, for less than a decade) was built in the incredible time span of 11 months; ground had been broken to build the reactor building in October 1943.

Caught in the Leadership Paradox: Insight from Admiral Rickover

July 3, 2014, 4:56PMANS Nuclear CafePaul E. Cantonwine

Recent scandals at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and General Motors (GM) have struck a chord with the media and the American people because they represent the worst in bureaucracies-where the lives of individuals seem to get lost in the bureaucratic woods. In the case of the VA, lying about wait times blocked pathways for care and potentially resulted in the early deaths of some veterans. In the case of GM, the bureaucracy put horse blinders on its employees so that they couldn't recognize the safety significance of ignition switch problems linked to at least 13 deaths.

Nuclear Power Uprates: What, how, when, and will there be more?

June 26, 2014, 5:55PMANS Nuclear CafeWill Davis

Calvert Cliffs Plant; two unit nuclear generating station.  Baltimore Gas and Electric Company brochure, October 1980.

Calvert Cliffs Plant; two unit nuclear generating station. Baltimore Gas and Electric Company brochure, October 1980.

I received an email this morning (in the midst of my daily avalanche of promotional emails) with a link to a brief story about uprating of nuclear plants worldwide (in other words, increasing the power output of an already-built plant)-what had been done, how many were planned, and so forth. I wondered to myself just how many nuclear plants in the United States had been uprated, and when they started-and given the recent hullabaloo over the recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency CO2 emission policy, it seems like (in addition to discussing small modular reactors) we might also want to toss the uprate card back on the table. Instead of flat or only slightly rising demand for electricity, we may face a steady lowering of generating capacity as plants that are high CO2 emitters (and thus violators) get shut down. Sure, renewables will play a part, and so will increased efficiency, but having more power is better than having less, or too little. I found no quick and easy reference for the kind of analysis I wanted, so I took a little time and did it myself.

Pathfinder: A Path Not Taken

June 13, 2014, 6:00AMANS Nuclear CafeWill Davis

Pathfinder Atomic Power Plant.  Press photo, Will Davis collection.

Pathfinder Atomic Power Plant. Press photo, Will Davis collection.

The recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announcement of policy regarding carbon emissions from power plants has triggered a renewed interest in nuclear energy over the past few weeks; along with this of course comes a focus on small modular reactors (SMRs) and their availability for replacing existing fossil-fueled plants or facilities. We have discussed this topic here at ANS Nuclear Cafe before, in terms of the possibility of adding an SMR onto an existing facility-see "The Hook-Ons."

Return to the 1970s

May 1, 2014, 5:57PMANS Nuclear CafeWill Davis

LetsGoBookIn the 1960s, visions for nuclear power were hopeful and plentiful; nuclear plants of all sorts imaginable* were under consideration and under construction in areas both urban and remote, while future plans portrayed an enormous nuclear plant build-out with a complete fuel cycle that included fuel recycling and breeder reactors.

Pioneering STURGIS will go to shipbreakers

April 17, 2014, 3:55PMANS Nuclear CafeWill Davis


Nuclear barge STURGIS; photo from US Army Corps of Engineers

Last week, we were reminded of a mostly forgotten but ambitious effort spanning the late 1950's and 1960's by the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and the U.S. Army-to develop a versatile range of small nuclear power plants-when it was announced that CB&I had been awarded a contract to decommission the former Army nuclear power plant barge STURGIS.  While many have recently touted the Russian Akademik Lomonosov as the "first floating nuclear power plant," the expected completion date for that plant in 2016 will put it almost exactly a half century later than the successful STURGIS.

Eisenhower's Atomic Power for Peace III: CAP and Power Demonstration Reactors

March 20, 2014, 3:57PMANS Nuclear CafeWill Davis

Hallam Nuclear Power Facility; part of Sheldon Station.

In our previous installment we looked at the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) Five Year Plan for development of commercial nuclear power in the United States. In this final installment, we'll look at two programs that were initiated in the mid-1950s to help launch the era of construction of commercial power reactors-the Civilian Application Program, and the Power Demonstration Reactor Program.

A Century of Technology – Remarks by Richard Rhodes

January 14, 2014, 7:00AMANS Nuclear CafeRichard Rhodes

[Richard Rhodes, historian and author of numerous books including the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Making of the Atomic Bomb, was the keynote speaker at a special dinner held in observance of the 75th anniversary of the discovery of nuclear fission at the American Nuclear Society 2013 Winter Meeting.  Many ANS members and others, both in attendance and unable to attend, have expressed a desire to see in print his remarkable presentation on the fundamental technological revolutions and advances of the past century, especially the monumental discovery and application of nuclear technology.  The speech is printed in its entirety in the January edition of Nuclear News, and below.]

Eisenhower's Atomic Power for Peace - The Civilian Application Program II

January 9, 2014, 3:58PMANS Nuclear CafeWill Davis

Westinghouse Electric Corporation promotional illustration showing "PWR" (Shippingport Atomic Power Station) plant and site.  "Selected Articles on Nuclear Power," Westinghouse Electric (see sources.)

Westinghouse Electric Corporation promotional illustration showing "PWR" (Shippingport Atomic Power Station) plant and site. "Selected Articles on Nuclear Power," Westinghouse Electric (see sources).

The commercial nuclear power program in the United States was sparked by the Shippingport Atomic Power Station project-but one project does not a program make. Action by the U.S. Congress soon after the announcement of the project ensured that a wide program that would evaluate other approaches was launched: