Nuclear History


The world watched as Queen Elizabeth II welcomed the U.K.’s Atomic Age

September 19, 2022, 9:11AMANS Nuclear Cafe
Queen Elizabeth II visits Calder Hall for its ceremonial opening in 1956. (Photo: U.K. Nuclear Decommissioning Authority)

As citizens of the United Kingdom and others around the world mourn the death of Queen Elizabeth II, many have reflected on how the world has changed during the seven decades of the queen’s reign—the same decades that saw the rise of civilian nuclear power.

Calder Hall was already under construction at the Sellafield site in West Cumbria when Princess Elizabeth became queen in 1953. Queen Elizabeth traveled to the site in October 1956 and declared, in a televised ceremony, that “It is with pride that I now open Calder Hall, Britain’s first atomic power station.” Watch the fanfare in a historical clip uploaded to YouTube by Sellafield Ltd below.

Cue ominous chords and fade in from black . . .

September 15, 2022, 2:52PMANS News

It’s 1976, and you’re watching TV when a public service announcement from the American Nuclear Society airs, showing the earth being squeezed dry of its last drops of oil by a giant hand as it urges more “safe, reliable, and economical” nuclear power plants. The narrator’s last words, intoned over a fading sunset, still ring true today: “Our world is hungry for energy, and we must move ahead to preserve our future. If we don’t, we could find ourselves in the dark ages of the seventies.”

Defending the nuclear discipline

July 18, 2022, 9:32AMNuclear NewsCraig Piercy

Craig Piercy
cpiercy@ans.org

If you keep tabs on nuclear in popular culture, you know that Netflix recently released a four-part series entitled Meltdown: Three Mile Island. Nominally listed as a “documentary,” the series starts out with a generally accurate chronology of the 1979 event. However, it soon veers off the rails into an uncorroborated conspiracy theory of how the cleanup team risked “wiping out the entire East Coast” in their haste to complete the job on time. Nuclear Newswire has done a fantastic job of unpacking the distortions and outright falsehoods in “Meltdown: Drama disguised as a documentary."

Netflix showrunners were clearly more interested in maximizing the number of eyeballs on their content than in the accuracy of the information they present. But should that make us angry? Netflix is not a news organization; they are a highly algorithm-driven purveyor of video entertainment. Their “recommendation engine” knows what we want, and we happily let them spoon-feed us our next binge watch.

Lake Barrett’s reality-grounded perspective on Netflix’s drama Meltdown: Three Mile Island

June 10, 2022, 7:00AMANS News

In an ANS-sponsored online event held on June 8, independent energy consultant Lake Barrett shared his perspective on the Netflix docudrama series Meltdown: Three Mile Island. Barrett, who was the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s on-site director and senior federal official for the cleanup of the TMI Unit 2 accident in the early 1980s, countered inaccuracies in the series during an interview with ANS Executive Director/CEO Craig Piercy.

The Kemeny Commission Report from the pages of Nuclear News

May 26, 2022, 3:15PMNuclear News

This week’s Throwback Thursday post is again about Three Mile Island—this time looking at the coverage from the pages of the December 1979 issue Nuclear News about the Kemeny Commission. The twelve-person commission, announced by President Carter immediately after the accident in April 1979, was headed by John Kemeny—then president of Dartmouth College—with orders to investigate the causes and any consequences of the accident.

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.