Top positive review
Interesting story of SR-1 reactor accident and some other reactor history
on March 29, 2014
This is the story of the U.S. Army's SL-1 nuclear reactor and the accident in Idaho. In the early days of atomic power after WW II, all of the armed services wanted to have their own nuclear reactor programs.
The AIr Force had a program to build a reactor to put on an airplane and use as a source of power. The Air Force actually had a reactor built and carried it an on aircraft, but did not use it for power. Very fortunately, there were no crashes, as it would have been a mess to clean up. One big problem was proper shielding fro the reactor as shielding is very heavy, and the shielding was an issue.
The Army wanted reactors to use as power sources at remote sites like the DEW line.
The Navy wanted reactors to power ships. Adm Rickover was the driver who made it happen for the USN and instilled the highest standards in the service.
In the early days, the reactor designs were new, and the control systems, and training programs were all being developed.
The Army SL-1 reactor was a small unit with five control rods, with one in the center. It was located by itself and isolated from other facilities. The reactor design was such that the center control rod was critical. If it was removed too far, the reactor could go critical with all of the other four control rods fully inserted. During the manufacture and assembly of the reactor, some boron strips were tack welded in the channels for the control rods. Then in the operation, there were sometimes problems in moving the control rods, that were attributed to problems with the boron strips in the control rod channels. On 3 January 1961, there were three US Army personnel working on the SL-1 reactor. They had a task list. Apparently, when the three were working on a task involving lifting up the center control rod, an error occurred. Most likely, the control rod stuck, and then when it was forced, it suddenly came out too far, and the reactor went critical almost instantaneously and emitted a very high level of radiation, and blew the top off the reactor. All three people were killed as a result of this event. The book then covers the resultant clean up and associated efforts in the Idaho desert. It needs to be noted that these three people were killed by a military (Army) reactor program. No one has been killed by the Navy or the commercial power programs in the US.
Interesting book with lots of history of the nuclear reactor programs in the US.
This book would be of interest to people who are interested in the history of the nuclear power program in the US.