Friday, February 14, 2014

arctic transportation and architecture for a 1960 Army research station

I love these old Helicopters

And this beast is called a Peter Plow, snow milling machine, and was sourced from the Swiss who used them to open up Alpine mountain roads

most of the transportation gear had to be kept in a heated garage to prevent the grease from freezing, oil from solidifying etc

I watched this years ago on the Discovery, History, or Learning channel.. and at that time was only fascinated by the fact that a portable reactor was made in the 60's. Ponder that for a moment. They had enough demand and need for reactors, that they designed and built portable units. Now, what was that energy crisis bullshit we've been fed for the past 40 years? PORTABLE reactors for electricity supply, with a milspec, and DOD part number.


  1. Yes, the military did a lot of crazy shit in the 50's and 60's with nuclear power.

    This was the beginning of the nuclear era - when everything was thought to be possible. Remember the famous statement made at that time: nuclear power would be "too cheap to meter"? Well, it wasn't. It was the same with the Army Nuclear Power Program (ANPP). Read about the ANPP (including the reactors in Greenland, Alaska and Antartica) here:

    And just because they had milspecs and DOD part numbers didn't make them safe. Commercial nuclear power plants use 4-7% enriched uranium fuel and have to be refueled every 1 to 2 years. In order to make these Army reactors run for continuously for many years without refueling they had to use HIGHLY enriched uranium fuel (95-96% enrichment) just like the Navy submarine reactors.

    The difference between the two enrichments can be quantified by comparing the "LD 50/30" radii calculated for a commercial reactor and a submarine reactor. "LD 50/30" stands for "Lethal Dose for 50% of the population within 30 days". These statistics are calculated for both worst case reactor meltdowns and for nuclear weapons. It is measured in the radius from ground zero. Obviously, the bigger the "LD 50/30" radius the worse the event (be it a bomb or a meltdown). A typical commercial reactor has a "LD 50/30" radius of 5 miles. A typical submarine reactor has a "LD 50/30" radius of 30 miles.

    And the milspecs and DOD numbers didn't help the three man operating crew of the ANPP SL-1 reactor in Idaho . In 1961 an accident occurred during maintenance where the reactor went "prompt-critical" and the resulting steam explosion (like Chernobyl) destroyed the reactor and killed the three men.

    The Army and Navy had their reactors. The Air Force wanted in on the nuclear genie also. Check out this page:

    They just couldn't figure out how to make it work without killing the bomber crew from radiatiion exposure.

    I picked up most of this information during my 30+ years working as an engineer in commercial nuclear power plants.

    1. I never heard about the Idaho reactor, other than that's the state where the Navy has it's final Nuke training school with a reactor or two. I don't see that there's a problem with nuke electrical power plants, other than they gave up on making them, and they are going obsolete pretty fast in the US. The only issue I've heard of is the civilian operators being inadequate. I was a submariner, and having a reactor a hundred feet away is a non-issue for me, as I have confidence in the way, and the guys, operating it. Not so with the boneheads running civilian plants. 3 Mile, Chernobyl, Japan after the tsunami, and just recently the closure of San Onofre here in San Diego. Those nubs had a leaky pipe, then a billion dollar boondoggle, now we have no more power plant! I'm all good with my Navy nuke power plants, but Air Force? There is a stupid idea.

    2. The SL-1 accident was the only US reactor accident to cause fatalities. There are some interesting videos on YouTube that document the incident and the cleanup. One of the operators was impaled by an ejected control rod and skewered to the ceiling of the reactor room.

      As for the boneheads running civilian plants - many of those civilian nuc plant operators out there are ex-Navy pukes (both in the control rooms and in the corporate management). I worked construction and startup at Seabrook Station (NH) back in the 80's. I joked then that I feared there were so many ex-Navy employees on-site that when the Unit was finally commissioned they might crack a bottle of champagne on containment and it would slide out into the marsh.

      The TMI accident was pure operator error. It is common knowledge that if the control room staff had just all left the control room and gone to lunch the automatic safety systems would have safely shut down the reactor.

      Chernobyl was caused by a complete loss of command and control, letting an electrical engineer, testing the electrical generator, manipulate the reactor.

      Although Japan has had previous bone-headed nuclear incidents, the tsunami disaster was purely caused by inadequate design engineering of the plant. The operations staff tried everything they could, but the plant was just never designed to survive such high water. They were doomed from the git-go.

      I could write more about the SONGS screw-up and the Navy nuc program and the US commercial nuclear industry, but I have to go to the grocery store before supper.

    3. Hell yes, we could both go on and on... but that's cause we are interesting people! Glad to get your insight on the reactors, and the info on the disasters.

    4. Jesse, just something I'd like to say. A lot of folks say the Three Mile Island plant was a failure of the idea of atomic power plants, and so too the media hype that went along with it. But as I see it as a success. No one died, and the reactor was shut down without a melt down. As for "bone head" mistakes, there's always going to be that possibility in almost everything we do. Very interesting post though, and I thank you.