Letter from the Editor Plutonium Politics Leads To Unusual Logic

On December 9, 1996, the United States Department of Energy issued a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement that advocated an investigation of two possible alternatives for handling plutonium from decommissioned nuclear weapons. One option is to combine the plutonium with uranium to produce mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel that can be used in conventional nuclear reactor plants. The […]

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Sources for Atomic Energy Insights Oct/Nov 1996 (PM-3A)

Sources for Atomic Energy Insights Oct/Nov 1996 (PM-3A) Foster, M. E.,Jones, G. M., History of the PM-3A Nuclear Power Plant McMurdo Station, Antarctica, Naval Energy and Environmental Support Activity, Port Hueneme, CA Final Operating Report for PM-3A Nuclear Power Plant, McMurdo Station, Antarctica, Prepared by U. S. Naval Nuclear Power Unit, P. O. Box 96 […]

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Valuable Tool for Antarctic Research or Costly Waste?

Before the discovery of nuclear fission, the only power source capable of supplying reliable electrical energy in remote locations was a combustion engine. Because of its compact nature compared to a coal fired steam engine, the internal combustion engine was the power system of choice. When engineers realized that a fission power plant could operate […]

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A Question of Economics: The Answer Depends on the Assumptions

In 1970, President Nixon affirmed that the United States had long term objectives in the Antarctic regions and consolidated responsibility for management and funding of all Antarctic operations under the National Science Foundation. According to the new arrangement, the NSF was to take over the funding of PM-3A as of July 1, 1972. At the […]

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How Clean is Clean? Blasting Out Frozen Soil

The final disposition of the soil was to spread it out on the ground and cover it with asphalt, turning the expensively gathered Anarctic soil into a parking lot that continues to serve the sailors at Port Hueneme, California. After the decision was made to decommission the PM-3A, the Naval Nuclear Power Unit began planning […]

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Letter from the Editor: PM-3A, Pioneer in Anarctic Research

Recently I took my family to the Tampa, Florida Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI), which had a traveling exhibit on Antarctica. The display included a great deal of information about the dedicated explorers and unique wildlife indigenous to that remote land with one of the harshest climates on earth. Several of the exploration groups […]

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PM-3A Design and Construction: Rapid Pace to Fulfill a Need

Between January 1 and March 1, 1962, the plant was assembled by a team of contractors and military technicians. On March 4, 1962, the plant reached initial criticality. The U. S. Navy began intensive involvement in Antarctic research missions during 1955 in preparation for the International Geophysical Year. The Department of Defense assigned the Navy […]

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Letter from the Editor: RTGs, Batteries That Last and Last

It is almost as if NASA, ever cognizant of the need for taxpayer support of its programs, put this useful device “in the closet”, using it when necessary but maintaining an unofficial policy that technical details were best kept from public view.This issue was inspired by a request from one of our Internet readers for […]

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Nuclear Batteries: Tools for Space Science

The Apollo missions to the moon are famous for heroic astronauts, exciting first steps and incredible pictures that fired the imaginations of a whole generation of scientists, engineers and school children. Mixed in along with the hoopla about sending men into space on huge, fire spewing rockets, however, was some serious science. Each time the […]

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Earth Bound RTG Systems: Uses Closer to Home

Tiny, milliwatt capacity RTGs found a home inside the chests of middle aged people in countries like France, Russia and even the United States. These devices – about the same size as a AA battery – were designed to power cardiac pacemakers. Not all of the RTGs that have been produced have been designed for […]

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