Ray Haroldsen, back by popular demand, shares some more stories about his experiences on the technical team of the EBR-1, including some information about the results of the core melt that occurred in Nov 1955.
Last week, Ray Haroldsen shared some of his memories as a member of the technical team at the National Reactor Testing Station near Idaho Falls, Idaho. We chatted for nearly an hour, but decided that there was plenty more to tell. I thought it would be a great idea to continue the conversation. Based on the comments that I have received on this blog, on Atomic Insights, and via email, it appears that many of you agree.
During Atomic Show #069, Ray talks about some specifics of the design and operation of EBR-1 and about the AEC leadership’s decision to keep the news about the core melt that occurred in November 1955 out of the public domain. Even at the time, Ray and his team were not comfortable with the decision – they thought that it would be better to open and to investigate the cause of the problem to gain understanding that would be valuable in the future.
One thing that people need to understand about the core melt – though it actually caused more damage to the core than was first assumed – more than 60% of the core material was fuzed into a single “clinker” of enriched uranium, zirconium and stainless steel – the only effect of the accident outside the core was to slightly increase the activity levels that could be measured in the inert gas in the reactor tank. No one was exposed to excess radiation as a result of the melt and the core container was not damaged at all. In fact, the same container was later used when EBR-1 was reassembled and continued to operate until 1963.
Hope you enjoy listening again to a first hand account from an atomic pioneer.
To learn more about EBR-1 and see some pictures and sketches, check out an online version of the official history of the NRTS: Proving the Principle Chapter 6 (7.9 MB PDF)