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Offline Rennhack

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Unique Reactors
« on: Oct 27, 2006, 08:47 »
1951: The EBR-1 and the Four Light Bulbs

Idaho might not be the first State that comes to mind when people think about the atom, but "the Gem of the Mountains" has played a significant role in developing nuclear power for more than 50 years. In 1951, the National Reactor Testing Station (now known as the Idaho National Energy and Environmental Laboratory, or INEEL) used the world's first nuclear-provided electricity to light one of its buildings. The source of the power was the Station's Experimental Breeder Reactor-1 (EBR-1), a unit that continued in service until decommissioned in 1964. More information on the EBR-1, including tours at the museum site, and on the lab's other projects, can be obtained on the INEEL web site.

1954: The First (World)

In the mid-1950's, both the Soviet Union and western countries were expanding their nuclear research to include non-military uses of the atom. However, as with the military program, much of the non-military work was done in secret. On June 27, 1954, the World's first nuclear power plant generated electricity but no headlines--at least, not in the West. The capacity of the world's first nuclear electricity generator was only 5 megawatts (electric), unimpressive when compared to some of today's giants (about a fourth of the World's generators exceed 1,000 megawatts in capacity). Of course, being the first makes the Obninsk Nuclear Power Plant no less impressive. The Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) povide a photo of the Obninsk plant on its web site.

Also in 1954: the world's first nuclear powered submarine, the USS Nautilus, was launched.


1955: The X-39 Engine and the Aircraft that Never Was (and Likely never Will Be)
By 1955, nuclear bombs, nuclear power plants, and nuclear-powered ships and submarines had been developed. Was an atomic-powered aircraft a logical next step? No. But in 1955, the X-39 engine for a proposed atomic-powered bomber was tested in the Heat Transfer Reactor Experiment-1. The original X-39 engine was too heavy to lift by aircraft. The problem was overcome by eliminating the shielding. It will never be known if the Nation could have found a pilot willing to risk significant exposure to radiation while guiding his nuclear-powered bomber down its 10-mile long runway. President Kennedy cancelled the project in 1961. The aircraft was never built but the twin X-39 engines are on display at the Idaho National Energy and Environmental Laboratory.

Also in 1955:Arco, Idaho, became the first town to be lit entirely by nuclear power. The BORAX II reactor, a Boiling Water Reactor (BWR) prototype was used. By the end of the 20 th century, 20 percent of the Nation's electricity was supplied by nuclear power.

1956: Calder Hall unit 1 Comes on Line; the longest-operating reactor

The oldest commercial nuclear generating unit still in operation in 2001 was the Calder Hall Unit 1 (Capacity, 50 MWE) at Seascale, Cumbria, Great Britain. When Calder Hall 1 began operation in August 1956, there were no commercial jet airliners, no man or woman had flown in space, U.S. refineries exported $600,000,000 worth of petroleum products, and motor gasoline sold for 30 cents per gallon . Unit 1 was later joined by the World's second oldest currently operational unit (Unit 2, February 1957) and the third oldest (Unit 3, March 1958). Calder Hall outlasted the 20th century, but none of the quartet (which includes Calder Hall 4) will outlast the 21st century. On March 31, 2003, Cader Hall shut down permanently. Update: The World's Oldest Reactor Retires.

1957: The First Nuclear-Powered Surface Ship (World)

Launched by the Soviet Union during the Cold War, the World's first nuclear-powered surface ship never fired a shot in anger: it had no guns, missiles, depth charges or weapons of any kind. Built in the Admiralty Shipyards of what was then Leningrad, the Soviet icebreaker Lenin was launched on December 5, 1957. The Lenin's career was disrupted in the 1960's by a nuclear accident that killed 30 crewmen. The vessel was repaired and the reactor replaced. It retired in 1989, having completed three decades of service. The first nuclear-powered icebreaker is being converted into a museum, but it has descendents. The Murmansk Shipping Company in Russia has the largest nuclear surface fleet in the world: five Artic-type icebreakers, two icebreakers designed to serve on rivers, and one nuclear-powered container ship. And the Lenin is not the only one that can claim a first. The Artika, which began operation in 1975, was the first surface ship to reach the North Pole. More information on the Lenin and the Artika, and the other eight vessels is available on the Bellona web site.


Also in 1957: Shippingport, the first U.S. Nuclear Power Plant, comes on line
Before the first U.S. nuclear power plant went on line in 1957, nuclear reactors were already in service in the former Soviet Union and in the United Kingdom. Contrary to the saying that there is no glory in being second (let alone third or fourth), the Shippingport Nuclear Power Plant fully earned a place in history. The Dusquesne Light Company worked in partnership with the Federal Government to build the world's first large scale commercial nuclear power plant. The reactors were designed by the Westinghouse Electric Corporation in cooperation with the Division of Naval Reactors of the Atomic Energy Commission. By the standards of the day, it seemed to belong to a different era. President Eisenhower attended the opening ceremonies. Shippingport continued to provide power during the terms of Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and Carter before finally retiring in 1982, during President Reagan's first term. It was decommissioned and the Government declared the site safe for public use in 1987. The Federation of American Scientists displays a photograph worth a look, especially by readers who might wonder if this description is too grandiose.

1962: The First U.S. Nuclear-Powered Surface Ship

The contrast between the world's first nuclear-powered surface ship, Lenin, and the world's first nuclear-powered commercial vessel, the Nuclear Ship Savannah, is substantial. They can be visualized as two horses, the workhorse Lenin and the show horse Savannah, snubbing each other. The U.S. vessel is the namesake of a vessel launched a century earlier, the first steam-powered vessel to cross the ocean. The nuclear-powered version was a remarkably beautiful and graceful ship, that could (and did) carry cargo. It was an expensive way to carry cargo, however, so the vessel was heavily dependent on the Federal subsidy it received as a unique ship. The nuclear-powered Savannah was conceived by President Eisenhower to promote the "Atoms for Peace" program (a program that also led to the building of the first U.S. nuclear power plant. The ship was launched in 1962 and retired in 1979. Their careers were vastly different, but the show horse and the workhorse share identical fates: put out to pasture as museums.


Also in 1962: The first Swiss Reactor begins a short life

It is quite possible that the first thought that will occur to most readers is, "I didn't know Switzerland had any nuclear reactors." Those familiar with the Swiss nuclear industry may be surprised that Switzerland's oldest reactor is not Beznau 1. Beznau 1 is the oldest of Switzerland's 5 commercial reactors. According to Swissinfo1 , the experimental reactor at Lucens opened in 1962 and generated electricity for the first time in January 1968. The reactor closed permanently following a pressure tube burst in 1969, the same year that Beznau 1 went on line. No tours of the power plant are conducted—in fact, visitors to Lucens, Switzerland, may be tempted to ask if this power plant is in a cave somewhere. The answer is yes.

1964: Construction Begins on a “Time Machine”

A vehicle that can carry people back and forth through time remains a product of science fiction, but the Advanced Test Reactor (ATR) is, in a sense, a virtual “time machine.” Construction of the ATR began in 1964, and the reactor first reached criticality in 1967. The impact of years of radioactive exposure of materials in a commercial nuclear reactor can be duplicated in weeks or months by the ATR. Why would anyone want to duplicate years of exposure in such a hurry? One answer is that the Navy used it to test materials and fuels used by nuclear-powered vessels. Now that you've read about the birth of the ATR, leap ahead in time to 2004 and read about the ATR: Still New After 37 Years.

1965: The ML-1: Reactor in a Box

The startup date for the ML-1 Mobile Power System is believed to have been some time in 1965. Although the ML-1 reactor itself could be packed into a single box, the complete system required 6 shipping containers. In addition to the reactor, a container was needed for the control room, another for the heat conversion system, and a total of three boxes for the cabling, auxiliary gas storage and handling equipment, and tools and supplies. The containers could then be loaded aboard a train, truck, or large cargo plane. The ML-1 is described by Atomic newsletter was “the first nitrogen cooled, water moderated reactor with a nitrogen turbine energy conversion system.”

1967: The Last that Became a First2.

Years ago, Hollywood produced a comedy called, "The Wackiest Ship in the Army." It was loosely based of the real life (and highly dangerous) exploits of the USS Kiwi, a spy ship in World War II. The Kiwi was not the Army's only ship. The last nuclear power plant built by the U.S. Army was on a converted liberty ship, the USS Sturgis. The Department of Energy describes the Sturgis as follows: STURGIS Floating Nuclear Power Plant; Designation MH-1A,
Location: Gatun Lake, Canal Zone; Principal nuclear contractor: Martin; Pressurized water reactor, Capacity: 10,000 net kW(e), Authorized 45,000 kW(t), Initial criticality, 1967; Shutdown (permanently), 1976. The vessel provided power to the Canal Zone. It was the first floating nuclear power plant and, for nearly three decades, appeared to be the last. In 2008 (described in the 2008 highlight), the Russians plan to bring on line the next floating nuclear power plant. More information on the Sturgis, is available from two sources: "MH-1A" First Nuclear Power Barge: Pioneer Barge Built in America" in the August 1996 issue of Atomic and "Nuclear Power: An Option for the Army's Future," in the Army Almanac. In the latter source, there is a photo of the ship.

1969: Oyster Creek and Nine Mile Point, the two Oldest U.S Reactors, go on line

By the time the 21 st century began, the United States had no commercial nuclear generating units still in operation that were built in the 1950's. The retirement of Haddam Neck 1 (the U.S. record-holder for longevity) in 1996, reduced to 4 the number of operable U.S. reactors built during the 1960's. The record for longevity is now shared by two reactors that went into service one year after Haddam Neck: Oyster Creek 1 in Forked River, New Jersey, and Nine Mile Point 1 in Oswego, New York. Both units are boiling water reactors, both went into service on the first day of December 1969, both were built by General Electric, and both were still producing electricity according to the latest available data (February 2003). Oyster Creek's license was issued before that of Nine Mile Point, making it officially the oldest operating U.S. reactor.


1986: The Reactor that Changed History (plus Three Reactors that did Not)

More than a decade has passed since a nuclear accident in the Ukraine made "Chernobyl" a household word throughout the world. Even with the millions (billions?) of words written since the incident in April 1986, many false perceptions continue. For example, the death toll was not in the hundreds. The fire did not destroy the power plant. In fact, three of Chernobyl's four reactors were later returned to service. The number 3 reactor continued operating into the 21st century (depending on how the century is calculated, since it closed in December 2000). As often happens, however, failures are better remembered than successes. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) produced a fact sheet on Chernobyl which may or may not answer all the questions, but at least approaches the subject impartially.

1989: (August 1988 and June 1989) Largest U.S. Reactors Go into Operation

When the South Texas Project reactors went on line in 1988 (unit 1) and 1989 (unit 2), they were the largest reactors in the United States at that time. They were the largest ever to go on line in the United States but new construction at Palo Verde may have increased capacity sufficiently to make Palo Verde unit 2 the largest (as of July 31, 2005) in operation now. Only one fourth of the World's commercial nuclear generating units currently in operation have capacities of 1,000 MWE or greater. The United States has 51 such units, the most of any country. The five largest U.S. units are located in the Southwest.

The largest reactors are not in the United States, however. (see 2000: The First of the World's Two Largest Reactors Goes On Line)

2000: The First of the World's Two Largest Reactors Goes On Line
The United States has the most nuclear reactors, Russia had the first, and the United Kingdom has the longest-operating, but all four of the largest reactors ever built are in France. They were supplied by a French company, Framatome, to Electricite de France. Chooz B1 (with a net capacity of 1,455 megawatts/electric) , was the first of the four to be completed. It went into service in the Ardennes in August 1996. Its twin, Chooz B2, is equal in capacity and is now also in service. They are larger (by 5 megawatts/electric) than the recently completed Civaux 1 and 2 reactors. By comparison, the total capacity of all the electric powerplants, nuclear and otherwise, in Vermont and Rhode Island (as of January 1, 1997) is slightly under 1,650 MWE.

2003: Do They Deliver? Japan Offers to Build a Reactor in Galena, Alaska
As pro- and anti-nuclear advocates (and many of those in between) ponder when, where, and if the next commercial reactor will come on line in the United States, the possibility arises that it might be in Galena. Where?? Japan's Toshiba Corporation has offered to build a 10 MWe reactor to provide light and heat to Galena, a remote Alaskan village on the Yukon River. The proposal, its possible implications, its prospects and potential hurdles are discussed in "Village invited to test cheap, clean nuclear power," by Joel Gay. The article, which includes a diagram of the proposed reactor, appears on the web page of the Anchorage Daily News. One of the obstacles cited is "public skepticism." For many of the reactors described in this section, public skepticism proved a very significant hurdle—before they were built.

Also in 2003, India Announces a Breakthrough

Anil Kakodkar, Chairman of India's Atomic Energy Commission, announced that India plans to build a prototype advanced heavy water reactor (AWHR). The unique design has completed peer review. The estimated construction time is seven years, but a start date has not yet been announced. According to The Times of India, this unique reactor will be fueled by a mix of thorium and uranium and will yield more uranium than it consumes3.

2004: The ATR: Still New After 37 Years

Construction work on Idaho's Advanced Test Reactor (ATR) began in 1964, making 2004 its 40 th anniversary. The unit went critical in 1967. Most of the new technologies of the 1960's have long ago disappeared into obsolescence, but the ATR remains “the most powerful test reactor in the United States.” The ATR has had a very active life, but it is far from ready for retirement. It is currently being used to support the development of the Generation IV reactors for the U.S. Department of Energy, and it will be contributing to NASA's space program. For some spectacular photos of the ATR and a more information on its very active past and future, see Tamara Bailey's article entitled, “The Advanced Test Reactor Turns 40 and Still Meeting Research Needs” on the INEEL web site.

2008: The Floating Reactor (the Severodvinsk Reactor)

In 2008, if all goes according to plan, the world's first commercial floating nuclear power plant will be ready to begin operation... Pravda, the Russian news publication, reported the project was approved by the head of the Ministry for Nuclear Power, Alexander Rumyantsev. Sevmash Enterprise, which specializes in submarine construction, will build the vessel. Rosenergoatom, the Russian nuclear firm, will supply the reactors. Two such floating power stations are planned, each anticipated to cost $100 to $120 million. The first one will supply power to the city of Severodvinsk, approximately 50 miles west of Archangel.

Offline SloGlo

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Re: Unique Reactors
« Reply #1 on: Oct 29, 2006, 09:02 »
as a sidebar note to the shippingsport reactor... when jimmy carter cancelled plans to build breeder nuke plants in this country, shippingsport was critical in a breeder mode, and supplying power through duquesne light company to the commercial grid.
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Offline Mike_Koehler

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Re: Unique Reactors
« Reply #2 on: Oct 31, 2006, 12:04 »
I wonder if that Indian reactor is using any of Shippingport's technology? It appears to have the same fuel isotopes.

Mike
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