Nuclear History

In focus: The Three Mile Island special report

April 28, 2022, 3:00PMNuclear News

This week’s #ThrowbackThursday post features the special report published by Nuclear News in April 1979—one month after the accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant. Titled “The ordeal at Three Mile Island,” the report provides readers with a quick review of the accident, how it happened (as much as was known at the time), its immediate effects on the general public, and the public discourse that followed. It should come as no surprise that the report covers some negative responses from the public and politicians of the time, but it concludes with the responses of some policy leaders who tried to put the accident into perspective.

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.

Looking back at coverage of TMI

March 31, 2022, 3:30PMANS Nuclear Cafe

This week for the #ThrowbackThursday post, we are again turning to the April 1984 issue of Nuclear News, which was highlighted in February when we looked at the start of the federal program to convert research reactors from the use of high-enriched uranium to low-enriched uranium. This week, however, we are reviewing the coverage presented in that issue about the five-year anniversary of the Three Mile Island-2 accident.

60 years of headlines from the Advanced Test Reactor

March 24, 2022, 3:01PMANS Nuclear Cafe
Cover of the April 1962 issue of Nuclear News (left), ATR core diagram appearing in October 1969 issue of Nuclear News (center), and cover of the October 1969 issue of Nuclear News (right).

The Department of Energy and Idaho National Laboratory announced this week that the sixth major core overhaul of the Advanced Test Reactor (ATR) is complete, after an 11-month outage that began in April 2021. The ATR was built as a key piece of mission support for U.S. Navy programs and first reached full power in 1969. Today it remains “the world’s largest, most powerful and flexible materials test reactor,” in the words of INL—quite a feat for a reactor that was planned over 60 years ago.

Eleven years since Fukushima

March 10, 2022, 12:01PMANS Nuclear Cafe
The Fukushima Daiichi site before the accident.

Today’s #ThrowbackThursday post looks back at some of Nuclear News’s reporting on the Fukushima Daiichi accident, which was initiated 11 years ago tomorrow. The news reporting includes the initial coverage of the event from the pages of Nuclear News in April 2011 and the in-depth coverage of the 2011 ANS Annual Meeting, where special sessions focused on the accident.

Clinch River in the Spotlight

February 17, 2022, 3:15PMANS Nuclear Cafe
An advanced nuclear reactor technology park is hoped for the 935-acre Clinch River site. Image: TVA

Last week’s announcement from the Tennessee Valley Authority about its “New Nuclear Program,” which outlines the potential development of the Clinch River site near Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Eastern Tennessee, is the catalyst for this week’s #ThrowbackThursday post. The Clinch River site was originally planned to be the location for the Clinch River Breeder Reactor, a project that, at the time, was meant to be the future of the nuclear industry in the United States.

How the Olympics put a spotlight on HEU in research reactors

February 10, 2022, 12:04PMNuclear News

Today’s #ThrowbackThursday post looks at the initial debate surrounding the conversion of research reactor fuel from high-enriched uranium to low-enriched uranium. An article published in the April 1984 issue of Nuclear News (available to all ANS members), titled “NRC studies HEU-to-LEU fuel conversion issue,” was written by the ANS Washington editor John Graham, and brings up several items of interest.

The story: Graham introduces the readers to the growing security concerns around HEU and notes that the issue has its roots in the nonproliferation concerns from the Carter administration that forced the domestic nuclear industry to abandon certain projects—the subject of a #TBT post a couple of weeks ago.

Remembering the 1984 Nuclear Power Olympics

February 3, 2022, 12:04PMANS Nuclear Cafe

With the 2022 Winter Olympics officially starting tomorrow morning with the opening ceremony, Nuclear News dug through the archives for the perfect #ThrowbackThursday post: a look at the fictional 1984 Nuclear Power Olympics!

For those who are new to Nuclear News, “Backscatter” was a long-running column frequently penned by ANS member and amateur humorist Bill Minkler. The September 1984 Backscatter was a response to that year’s Summer Olympics; Minkler provided a review of the events and winners of his fictional counterpart, “held” in Hoboken, N.J.

The following text below is a reprint of Minkler's article from 1984. Enjoy!

Why is Jimmy Carter trending on Twitter?

December 17, 2021, 11:59AMANS Nuclear Cafe
The young Jimmy Carter, years before his presidency. (Click to view entire graphic.)

Jimmy Carter is trending on Twitter this week because of his ties to nuclear power. Carter, the 39th president of the United States, was a member of Rickover’s nuclear navy about 70 years ago when he was assigned to help in the aftermath of an accident at the Chalk River Laboratory in Ontario, Canada.

The history and future of civilian nuclear power afloat

December 10, 2021, 2:35PMNuclear NewsGail H. Marcus and Steven M. Mirsky

In the early days of the development of nuclear power, a broad range of nuclear technologies and applications were explored. Among these developments were the use of nuclear propulsion for ships, both military and civilian, as well as a floating nuclear power plant. While the use of nuclear power for naval vessels, including submarines and surface ships, continued, most of the civilian uses of nuclear power on the water were ultimately terminated.

Recently, however, there has been a resurgence of interest in both floating nuclear power plants and the use of nuclear propulsion in the civilian sector. The renewed interest makes this a particularly timely moment to recount the initial developments in this area. Some of the early civilian nuclear vessels were discussed in two sessions during the June 2021 ANS Annual Meeting, “NS Savannah History” and “History of Non-­Naval Nuclear Ship Power.” This article draws on the presentations from those sessions, the second of which was cochaired by the authors, as well as on other studies of the history of nuclear power.

Nuclear Technology publishes special issue on the Manhattan Project

December 7, 2021, 12:01PMANS News

A special issue of the ANS journal Nuclear Technology, published last month, observes the 75th anniversary of the Trinity experiment, the world’s first nuclear explosion, on July 16, 1945, near Alamogordo, N.M. The experiment was a first step toward the conclusion of the Manhattan Project and the end of World War II. The special issue, The Manhattan Project Nuclear Science and Technology Development at Los Alamos: A Special Issue of Nuclear Technology, was sponsored by Los Alamos National Laboratory and curated by Mark Chadwick.

Thanks to LANL, the 23 papers published in the issue are open access, which means that a subscription is not required to read this contribution to the history of science. The issue can be accessed on the journal’s platform, hosted by Taylor & Francis, publisher of ANS’s technical journals.

USS Enterprise named an ANS Nuclear Historic Landmark

December 2, 2021, 9:30AMANS News
The USS Enterprise was officially decommissioned in February 2017.

The USS Enterprise (CVN-65), the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, has been named an ANS Nuclear Historic Landmark. The designation was officially recognized on December 1 during the ANS Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C.

The inscription on the plaque presented by ANS reads, “In recognition of the most advanced nuclear engineering technology of the 1950s and for her 51 years of service to our nation, the USS Enterprise (CVN-65) is designated as an ANS Nuclear Historic Landmark.”

Tennessee Civil Rights pioneers to be honored by the American Nuclear Society

November 29, 2021, 12:51PMPress Releases

The American Nuclear Society (ANS) is honoring 85 former students from Tennessee, known as the Scarboro-Oak Ridge, TN 85, and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) with the society’s inaugural Social Responsibility in the Nuclear Community Award for their roles in integrating in 1955 the first public schools in the southeastern United States. The award will be presented at the upcoming 2021 ANS Winter Meeting and Technology Expo (Nov. 30 – Dec. 3) being held in Washington, D.C.

Cintichem’s research reactor and hot cell facility decommissioning

November 12, 2021, 4:35PMNuclear NewsThomas S. LaGuardia and Joseph E. Carignan

The Cintichem radioisotope production facility was located in Tuxedo, N.Y., 60 miles northwest of New York City, on a 100-acre site in the Sterling Forest Industrial Park. The facility was owned and operated by Union Carbide Corporation until 1984, when it was sold to Hoffman-LaRoche, a large pharmaceutical company.

The facility consisted of a 5-MWt, pool-type research reactor and production facility, connected via a 12-foot-deep, water-filled transfer canal to a bank of five adjacent hot cells. The facility began operation in the early 1960s, producing neutron-irradiated, enriched uranium target capsules. The fuel was 93 percent high-enriched uranium.

ANS member Hart featured in Argonne Voices post

October 29, 2021, 9:30AMANS News


A recent podcast style conversation on YouTube spotlights the journey of J’Tia Hart, an ANS member with an uncommon and inspiring story. The video is part of the Argonne Voices series, an oral history project recording the stories of the people behind the science at the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory. This year is Argonne’s 75th anniversary.

Background: Hart, who recently moved from Argonne to the DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory, is a nuclear engineer and was the program initiator for Argonne’s Women in Science and Technology–also known as WIST–one of the lab’s employee resource groups.

Hart’s friend Amanda Joyce interviewed Hart in the YouTube post. Joyce is a cybersecurity expert who runs the DOE’s annual CyberForce Competition.

Oak Ridge museum opens Alvin Weinberg’s personal archives to the public

August 19, 2021, 9:30AMNuclear News


Alvin M. Weinberg, a founder, Fellow, and fifth president (1959–1960) of the American Nuclear Society, was a Manhattan Project physicist who studied at the University of Chicago before building a celebrated career in Oak Ridge, Tenn., where he influenced the development of peaceful uses of nuclear energy in the United States. Weinberg’s personal files tell the story of his decades of work in Oak Ridge from the 1940s to the 1980s, and the Alvin Weinberg Archive Project was created to digitize the archive, ensuring that it would be accessible to researchers and the public.

A place in time: Weinberg arrived in Oak Ridge, Tenn., in 1945, and soon became head of the Physics Division of Clinton Laboratories. In 1948, the laboratory was renamed Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Weinberg was appointed director of research, a role he held until 1955, when he was named laboratory director. In 1974, Weinberg moved 17 file cabinets from ORNL to Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU), where he founded the Institute for Energy Analysis (IEA) and served as its director until his retirement in 1985. Under Weinberg’s guidance, the IEA studied atmospheric carbon dioxide and its effect on global warming, as well as alternative energy sources.

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.

Ann Winters: On the 100th anniversary of Wilkinson’s birth

August 1, 2018, 9:10AMNuclear News


Dennis Wilkinson would have celebrated his 100th birthday on August 10, 2018. The life and career of the man who captained the first nuclear-powered submarine and the first nuclear-­powered surface ship and was the first president and chief executive officer of the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO) have been captured in Ann Winters’s book, Underway on Nuclear Power: The Man Behind the Words, Eugene P. “Dennis” Wilkinson, Vice Admiral USN.

Because of his inherent drive, Wilkinson was often called a cowboy, maverick, visionary, innovator, and superb leader. As the first commanding officer of USS Nautilus, he was a major player in revolutionizing underwater warfare. Nautilus and its crew were immensely popular, at home and abroad, and in the 1950s became what we now call “rock stars.” Nautilus gave nuclear power celebrity status at a time when the United States and the world were grappling with Cold War issues.