Ray Haroldsen tells the story of how BORAX III became the first US nuclear plant to supply electricity to a town.
In the fall of 1954, the US Atomic Energy Commission learned that the Soviet Union was planning to participate for the first time in the annual International Atomic Energy Agency conference on nuclear energy. Up until that time, both the US and the Soviet Union sent scientists and engineers to the conference, but neither actually participated or presented papers.
The AEC did not want the Soviets to gain propaganda points. The leaders of the Commission determined that they needed to show that they were working on civilian applications of nuclear energy. That was especially true in light of the Atoms For Peace speech that President Eisenhower gave in December of 1953.
The only problem was that the AEC’s first reactor designed for electrical power production – the Shippingport reactor – would not be ready in time to present it as a completed action at the conference. The AEC turned to a small team at the National Reactor Testing Station who had just begun operating a small, boiling water reactor that could produce steam at a high enough pressure to turn a turbine and produce enough power to supply a nearby town.
Ray Haroldsen was part of the team that cobbled together enough new and left over components to turn an experimental reactor into a power station and to use a nearby feeder line to actually send the power produced to a real, live American town named Arco. As is the case with most good stories, there were some bumps in the road that needed some creative solutions.
The following links might be useful to you if there are some technical discussions that are not completely clear.
Xenon: A Fission Product Poison (pdf from CANDU fundamentals)