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N Reactor Time Line

The N Reactor was the first American dual-process reactor providing both electrical energy and weapons grade plutonium for Cold War weaponry.

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N Reactor Time Line

  1. 1. N-Reactor Time Line 1956-2014
  2. 2. The N-Reactor Hanford’s 9th Process Reactor in use Dec. 31. 1963-1987 will be unlike the earlier models Columbia river, light water cooled, Uranium fueled Recirculated primary coolant water No Containment dome Higher temperature and pressure Similarities Differences
  3. 3. New Production Reactor Hank Kosmata arrived in Hanford in January 1954. Kosmata worked with “Reactor Design Analysis,” a team of physicists, mathematicians, and mechanical engineers. Kosmata and his team finalized the basis of what would become the “New Production Reactor,” or N Reactor.
  4. 4. June 29 , 1956 Bill introduced by Senator Henry M. Jackson allows Atomic Energy Commission to exchange power produced at Hanford with private utilities. The exchange would counter conservative charges the government was subsidizing electricity. Sen. Henry M. Jackson, D-WA
  5. 5. Jackson’s Proposal Killed in the House July 24, 1956 Dual use reactor for both Plutonium & power production. “Atomic Bank” to stockpile Plutonium. Accelerate civilian atomic power development Counter projected power shortages
  6. 6. The Opposition “I do not believe the AEC has anymore business to be engaged in the production of power on a major scale then the Civil Aviation Board has to be in the business of manufacturing airplanes.” Sen. Bourke B. Hickenlooper, R-IA Rep. James Van Zandt R-PA Sen. Hickenlooper
  7. 7. Washington Public Power Supply System A United States public power agency similar to Tennessee Valley Authority Formed by State law in 1957 to produce power at-cost for Northwest Utilities 1983 Second largest default in US history; $2.25 billion Re-named Energy Northwest in 1998
  8. 8. Economy Falters in the United States Bonneville Power Administration a federal agency based in the Pacific Northwest Created by Congress in 1937 Markets electricity provided by Dams on the Columbia River Distributing power from the New Process Reactor over government owned power lines In 1957 BPA’s growth was beginning an unexpected decline 0 5 10 15 20 1956 1957 Energy Sales Revenue
  9. 9. Sputnik Crisis
 sparks reconsideration USSR orbits first artificial Earth satellite. Launched October 4, 1957. Sputnik inaugurates the Space Race. Competition between the US and USSR spirals Sputnik-1 Replica
  10. 10. 1958 New Process Reactor Plutonium production only. Convertible to Power production at a future time with Congressional approval.
  11. 11. New Process Reactor Construction Begins $125 million for GE designed reactor $25 million features for later power conversion Includes Burns & Roe Steam Generators
  12. 12. John F. Kennedy elected Glenn T. Seaborg, advocate of nuclear power, appointed chair of the Atomic Energy Commission Democrats make a new attempt to authorize the use of built in power generation “convertibility” of New Process Reactor. JFK indicates support for NPR conversion in 1961
  13. 13. NPR Conversion Bill Reintroduced 1961 Coal industry and private Utilities oppose NPR power conversion Rep. Van Zandt Amendment to kill NPR passes July 1961 Rep. Van Zandt “instructs” House conferees killing the bill August 8, 1961
  14. 14. WPPSS to fund & own steam power at NPR Formal proposal from WPPSS to Seaborg for State funding of conversion Financed by $130 million in revenue bonds sold by the State Sells electricity to Bonneville Power Administration Sale of power to bring in $31-125 million depending on Pu production needs
  15. 15. WPPSS Bonds Basic Construction $95 million Interest on Bonds $10.5 million Reserves $9 million Other costs $13.5 million Total $128 million
  16. 16. Congress Weighs In House Appropriations Public Works subcommittee hearings April 1962. JCAE Hearings July 10, 11, 1962 Sen. Jackson adds a clause to offer half of NPR power to private power companies. Jackson says it’s the “only way to save Hanford.”
  17. 17. NPR Power Authorized Opponents claim a “hidden subsidy.” Biggest lobbying blitz until the SST in the 1970s JFK signs AEC bill on September 26, 1962 President John F. Kennedy signs the bill authorizing NPR power conversion
  18. 18. Heat Transfer System by Burns & Roe Founded in New York City in 1932 Designs complex technical facilities Ralph C. Roe founder designed power plants Kenneth A. Roe, son enlisted in the Navy 1941 Kenneth A. Roe Ralph Coates Roe
  19. 19. Kenneth A. Roe 1916-1991 Kenneth A. Roe studied Naval architecture at Naval Postgraduate School Assigned to Philadelphia Navy Yard in WWII designing gun turrets - promoted to Lt. Commander Personal Assistant to Admiral Hyman G. Rickover “Father of the Nuclear Navy” President of Burns & Roe in 1963, CEO 1971
  20. 20. Burns & Roe Projects 1950s Semi-Automatic Ground Environmental (SAGE) air- warning network system 1953 “The Big Board” Air Force BOMARC Launching Shelters 1955 NASA Telstar Earth Station 1958 Prototype “Hard” Nike- Zeus Anti-Missile System Facilities 1958-61
  21. 21. Burns & Roe Projects ‘60s-80s Combined desalination and electric power plant Guantanamo Naval Base, Point Loma, Gitmo, Cuba 1964 Hydroballistic Facility U.S. Naval Ordnance Laboratory ca. 1966 High Energy Laser Systems Test Facility White Sands Missile Range, NM ca. 1980
  22. 22. Owen Hurd of WPPSS on Burns & Roe Burns & Roe is written into the contract for the New Process Reactor
  23. 23. Charles F. Luce of BPA on Burns & Roe Rep. Craig Hosner, R-CA Luce went on to head Con Edison in NYC
  24. 24. Designated Contractor
  25. 25. Doubts in Congress September 1962
  26. 26. Early Hanford Reactors are “single-pass” Graphite moderated design cooled by Columbia River water that is returned to the river after treatment
  27. 27. Single-pass story First Hanford reactor “B” made plutonium for Trinity test and Nagasaki Radioactive waste pollutes the Columbia River and Pacific Ocean. Weapons reactors are closed permanently by 1971.
  28. 28. Single-Pass Reactors Reactor Operational Image B 1944-1968 D 1944-1967 F 1945-1965 H 1949-1965 DR 1950-1964 C 1952-1969 KW 1955-1971 KE 1955-1971
  29. 29. N-Reactor 1963-1987 N-Reactor was a graphite/water-moderated nuclear reactor built during the Cold War and operated by the U.S. at the Hanford Site in Washington.
  30. 30. Graphite Moderated dual pass reactor The only Hanford reactor with a primary cooling system re-circulating pressurized water through the reactor and heat exchangers where a secondary system linked to the river generated steam to run electrical generating turbines. This reduced heat and radioactivity releases into the Columbia River over the first 8 reactors at Hanford. Graphite reactor similar to the ill fated Chernobyl reactor except a with design feature to cause power levels to automatically go down in case of a coolant loss. Called a “negative void” unlike the Soviet reactor where power actually increased out of control as the coolant boiled away during the accident.
  31. 31. Ninth Defense Reactor World’s Largest Operating Nuclear Power Plant in the 1960s Reactor Core 39’5” high, 33’ wide 1800 tons of high grade graphite 1,004 process channels for loading fuel Cooling provided by up to 1,500 gallons of treated river water per minute (a huge decrease from requirements of earlier Hanford reactors of up to 105,000 gallons per minute Demolition Exposes the Reactor to view in 2009
  32. 32. Why the N-Reactor? From a GE brochure circa 1963
  33. 33. What’s so special?
  34. 34. Credits
  35. 35. N-Reactor’s Proud Fathers Senator Henry M. Jackson and AEC Chairman Glenn T. Seaborg visit N-Reactor. Seaborg discovered Plutonium. Fourth from the left is Raymond L. Dickeman director of the N-Reactor in the 60s.
  36. 36. N-Reactor Tour Front face of N- Reactor Process Tubes Uranium slugs clad in Zirconium go into the reactor here N-Reactor Control Console Operators run the reactor from here Storage for irradiated fuel at the N-Reactor Fuel is held under 20’ of water before extraction of Plutonium
  37. 37. HTTP://WWW.HSS.ENERGY.GOV/HEALTHSAFETY/OHRE/ROADMAP/ROADMAP/PART3.HTML HS-2. Intentional Release of Iodine-131 at Hanford in 1963 In July 1963, Hanford Laboratory conducted a study that involved the release of 120 microcuries of iodine-131 (I131) into the environment. These releases were designed to characterize the dispersion of radiation to the environment. The purpose of the experiment was to enable scientists to study how the radioactive iodine spread in turn through the air, soil, and vegetation, and how it affected animals. Two volunteer human subjects (Hanford employees), were stationed in the expected path of the radiation cloud. These subjects intentionally inhaled I131 from the release and were subsequently measured for thyroidal uptake of I131. These experiments were performed under contract with the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. As Experiments Get Out of Hand with another intentional release of radioactive Iodine at Hanford
  38. 38. Kennedy Connection September 24, 1963 Visits Pinchot Institute at Grey Towers Part of a tour “dedicated to conservation but tinged with politics.” Pinchot National Forest overlooks Hanford President Kennedy with Mary Meyer Pinchot his lover
  39. 39. President John F. Kennedy 
 Breaks Ground for N-Reactor power conversion September 26, 1963 Radioactive wand signals start of construction
  40. 40. Underground piping for N-Reactor connecting Heat Exchangers with Power Turbines Dual Purpose power & plutonium
  41. 41. Heat Exchangers Leak 1963^ Five of the early commercial nuclear power stations were built with stainless steel steam generators. These include... the Hanford "N"- reactor... Sensitization of the stainless steel tubing during heat treatment of the carbon steel tube sheets led to stress corrosion cracking and leakage in the "N"-reactor... during the pre- operational hydraulic pressure tests. The steam generators... were re-tubed prior to startup, the "N"-reactor with Inconel-600. ^Steam Generators are heat exchangers designed for nuclear power plants
  42. 42. N-Reactor Steam Generators Combustion Engineering, Inc.
  43. 43. Anatomy of a Leak Leaks were discovered in heat exchangers including Unit A in cell 4, known as 4A. Studies released under the FOIA show extensive studies of the problem led by General Electric Corp..
  44. 44. Intergranular Corrosion at the heart of leaks Microscopic view of corrosion Typical areas effected by corrosion of stainless steel
  45. 45. Replacement! Estimated Replacement cost $1 million ($8 million today)
  46. 46. Re-tubing of steam generators in 1964 Payroll Files Signature Route to: Number T___cation Route Date and Date ' i; _ .... , ....... UNCI_SSIFIED HW-80559Z Preparation Performance • Scheduled Actual Scheduled Actual _Is _nth 98.5% 92.l% 4z.o%* 39.8% • z_stMouth 96.5_ 85.3% 56.5%_* 27.5% *Based. on NED Integrated Sequence Schedule - NRD Testing P_gram dated J'_. 31, 1964. , - • **Based on original target schedule. Steam Generatorsi The existing stainless steel tubing is now being removed from steam generator unit 4A. The north head of the secondary vessel has been cut from the unit to provide access to the interior. Replacement tubing panels of Inconel are scheduled to arrive on site about May 1, 1964. Repair of steam generator unit 4A is scheduled for completion about August 15, 196_. Subsequent to c_pletion of repair of ,.steam generator unit 4A_ testing and completion of construction of cell 4 equipment will require approximately six weeks. Cell _ is expected to be ready for operatlonal servlce by October i, 196_.
  47. 47. Steam Generator Guts Tubes are to be re-welded General design of a steam generator. Originally the tubes were made of corrosion prone stainless steel. Somehow the corrosion causing element chlorine was introduced into these tubes.
  48. 48. Atomic Energy Act 1954 Exempts government weapons plants from public scrutiny and environmental regulations which commercial plants are subject. If N-Reactor was subject to EPA & NRC regulations it would not be allowed to operate. Strontium 90 releases while better than previous Hanford reactors exceeded allowed levels for commercial reactors.
  49. 49. What is Plutonium? Plutonium-238 glowing from its own heat. Glenn T. Seaborg lead discoverer of plutonium 1940 Plutonium implosion bomb “Fat Man” mushroom cloud Nagasaki, Japan August 9, 1945 Basic design of a plutonium fueled fission bomb
  50. 50. Dichlorobenzene Why would 1,4 Dichlorobenzene commonly known as mothballs, a known corrosive to stainless steel be introduced to the Plutonium processing side of the reactor?
  51. 51. Chlorine (Cl) The graphite used as a neutron moderating material in the plutonium producing reactors in the 100 area of the Hanford Site was treated with chlorine gas at high temperatures to remove the impurity boron (which is a good neutron absorber). A small amount of chlorine remained in the graphite that was charged to the nuclear reactors. When a fissile nuclide such as an atom of uranium-235 fissions, it generally splits asymmetrically into two large fragments – fission products with mass numbers in the range of about 90 and 140 – and two or three neutrons. (The mass number is the sum of the number of protons and neutrons in the nucleus of the atom.) These neutrons can cause additional fissions (producing a chain reaction), escape from the reactor, or irradiate nearby materials. The chlorine-35 remaining in the graphite moderator absorbed neutrons to become chlorine-36. Thus, chlorine-36 is present in the graphite moderator of these shutdown reactors and in certain wastes associated with previous reactor operations as well as in wastes from ongoing decommissioning activities, including spent graphite. -Argonne National Laboratory, Human Health Fact Sheet, August 2005 Atomic number 17 Atomic weight 35 Naturally occurring isotope Cl-36
  52. 52. Inconel Nickel-Iron Alloy An alternative to standard (Type 304) stainless steel was available. The alloy is called Inconel produced in 1963 by Inco
  53. 53. Chloride Stress Corrosion Cracking 1959 study shows that Inconel resists “chloride stress corrosion cracking” in boiling secondary coolant. In similar situations Type 304 stainless steel quickly failed.
  54. 54. Top Secret Secrecy Shielded the process Steve had security clearance worked on the N Reactor. Unreported reactor experiments caused scrams. Engineers working on the steam generators lacked security clearance. Steve Buckingham, 91 leads tours at the T-Plant
  55. 55. Barrier between the cleared and uncleared Security clearance needed to run plutonium producing defense reactor Workers building the steam generation plant don’t have crucial information on reactor operations Fundamental flaw was the l e g a l s e p a r a t i o n o f classified and unclassified areas of the reactor. Model of the N reactor, the thick security wall separating the classified reactor from the unclassified heat exchanger side of the plant.
  56. 56. Outage “without major adverse impact” September 3, 1963
  57. 57. “a streamlined technique” GM Dickeman chairs the “N-Reactor Startup Council” to arrive at “proper decisions” that “key target points are achieved with adequate safety.”
  58. 58. A critical decision 1963 In December 1963 they started loading fuel in the tubes. Reactor was still subcritical. How much fuel would it take to reach criticality? There was a pool among the workers. How many tubes fueled to achieve criticality? Ray Dickeman saw the physicists were diddling around. It was a major milestone to go critical in 1963 and he was fed up with “screwing around.” Threw in a huge batch of uranium on the evening of December 31, pulled the rods and it went critical.
  60. 60. N-Reactor 65 Billion Kilowatt-hours to WPPS 65 Billion Kilowatt-hours generated over design lifetime of 25 years First WPPS reactor. Innovative designs improved on previous WWII era reactors. Reduced heat and radionuclide releases into the environment Successfully produced electricity as well as plutonium Reddy Kilowatt pre- conservation era
  61. 61. N-Reactor Fuel & Waste Stream
  62. 62. Purex Plant Made Pu from 1956 to 1972; 1983 to 1988. Purex processed 75% of Pu at Hanford Still highly contaminated Longer than three football fields, 64 feet above ground and 40 feet below ground
  63. 63. Plutonium Uranium Extraction Purex facility extracted plutonium from 1952-1988 Pu made in the N- Reactor 1963-1987
  64. 64. N-Reactor Gamma Radiation “Substantially” higher danger to workers.
  65. 65. Strike Caused by Radiation Dose Hanford Atomic Metals Trade Council HAMTC represents 15 unions at Hanford. Strike begins September 17, 1967 ends 15 weeks later in December 9. Strike cost workers $500,000 in lost wages. N-reactor employes began returning to work today, ending a 103-day-old strike over radiation. A union spokesman said nine of 300 union members voted against the agreement yesterday. It clarifies and formalizes the company's procedures for uniform application in all DUN- managed facilities under which 300 millirems per seven-day period and three rems of gamma-radiation exposure per year are the basic administrative checkpoints... An Atomic Energy Commission spokesman said today the settlement does not affect the commission's position that established AEC radiation-exposure limits are not negotiable. Those limits are 3 rems per quarter and a maximum of 5 rems per year. He said AEC does not tell its contractors what administrative policies and practices to follow in setting guidelines but does not permit them to exceed the AEC limits. The exposure guidelines followed by Hanford contractors traditionally have been well below the maximum normal operating limits set by the AEC, he said. N-reactor employes began returning to work on the graveyard and day shifts today. -Tri-Cities Herald December 1967 Monthly report Tri-Cities Herald
  66. 66. Radioactive Effluent Springs Predicted 1964 July 30, 1964 Columbia River N-Reactor ->
  67. 67. Zig-Zag Trench N Reactor located close to the Columbia River. The zig- zag trench was a liquid disposal trench. Waste was released to the trench where it seemed into the groundwater and river. The soil and groundwater between the trench and the river is heavily contaminated.
  68. 68. DOUBLE SHELL TANKS Construction of one of 28 double shell radioactive waste tanks in 1969 149 single shell tanks from WWII 53 million gallons radioactive waste. 1/3 leaking waste
  69. 69. 40 Years Waste Legacy 177 waste tanks 149 single shell 28 double shell 56 million gallons waste 349 million curies of radiation
  70. 70. Diversification January 1964: President Lyndon B. Johnson announces the AEC will shut down three Hanford reactors and the AEC announced a program of “segmentation” and “diversification” at Hanford. The work at Hanford will be segmented among multiple contractors and required to invest in the Tri-City economy.
  71. 71. Plutonium production peaks and declines Various companies that have managed Hanford operations in the past and today
  72. 72. Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing of nuclear fuel began in 1966, creating 600,000 gallons of high-level liquid waste stored in carbon steel tanks. Careless maintenance and poor design decisions led to increasing contamination during the six-year operation. A filter blowout in 1968 deposited cesium off site to the northwest. West Valley Demonstration Project
 NY State & DOE Joint Clean Up 60% of the waste sent was from N Reactor
 toxic effluents remain onsite High Level Waste Tanks West Valley West Valley, NY Radioactive Cesium plume moving off site towards groundwater N Reactor Waste “subsidizes” Private industry Spent fuel from the N-Reactor delivered to Nuclear Fuel Services for recovery of plutonium, 1966. Highly toxic waste from the vitrification process at West Valley.
  73. 73. 534 kg Pu
 N-Reactor 635 kg AEC Pu 895 kg Utilities NFS Erwin, TN 95 kg Pu Bonus Reactor 6 kg Pu Indian Point 1
 104 kg Pu Big Rock Point
 7 kg Pu Dresden 1 285 kg Pu Yankee Power 436 kg Pu 1530 kg Pu Nuclear Fuel Services West Valley, NY N-Reactor waste is a government subsidy to NFS Hanford Breeder reactor Idaho Zero Power Reactor Program Reprocessed Pu Nuclear Fuel Services, Inc. and the State of New York waste reprocessing facility for N Reactor plutonium 1966-1971
  74. 74. Liquid Metal Breeders Breeders make more Pu than they use. A popular idea in the 1940s and 50s when Uranium was scarce. 1958 Dounreay Experimental Reactor north coast of Scotland. Major questions about the possible mishaps beach reactor core contained an unprecedented concentration of fissile material. U.S. breeder program ended by Pres. Jimmy Carter, then restarted by Pres. Ronald Reagan, killed by Congress in 1983. Weapons proliferation dangers cited in cancellation Liquid Sodium Cooled Reactor at Dounreay, Scotland
  75. 75. Fast Flux Test Facility Breeder Reactor design tests carried out 1980-1992 Construction started 1970, completed 1978, goes critical 1980. Closed in the late 80s for lack of private industry support Used to make tritium for fusion research & isotopes Currently in “cold-standby” for possible future use. Environmentalists and anti-nuclear activists are worried it maybe used for weapons production. Liquid Sodium Cooled Reactor
  76. 76. N-reactor produced little weapons grade Pu until the 1980s After 1971 N-Reactor was the only Pu production reactor operating at Hanford. President Richard Nixon threatened to shut down the N-Reactor. Senator Henry Jackson intervenes to keep the N-Reactor operating. President Jimmy Carter ends breeder reactor program. In 1983 President Ronald Reagan restarts breeder reactor program. U.S. Congress approves weapons grade plutonium production restart.
  77. 77. WPPS “whoops” Defaults 1971-1982 Five nuclear plants financed by sale of power only one built. Overestimated demand for power. Poor management, cost overruns. $2.25 Billion bond default.
  78. 78. Columbia Generating Station only operating reactor WPPS OWNED POWER PLANT AT HANFORD ENGINEER BURNS & ROE 1984 CRITICAL Generates 12% of WPPS current capacity
  79. 79. Satsop Nuclear Plant office park WPPS project $960 billion over budget Never fueled Abandoned nuclear plant cooling towers
  80. 80. Hanford’s “Green” Legacy Karen Dorn Steele reporter for Spokane Spokesman- Review files FOIA. 1986 DOE releases 19,000 page of classified documents 440,000 Cu Yds of transuranic waste 537,000 Curies released 1944-1955 alone Hanford holds 678,000 tons of waste Radioactive iodine purposely released into the environment in 1949
  81. 81. N-Reactor Basin N Basin where nuclear fuel was stored. The focus of a major cleanup 1995-1998 1963 1995
  82. 82. Trench Mouth! Normal operation included bleed off and leakage. Leaks routed ti 1301-N crib/trench disposal facility. 1325-N facilities facility came into service in 1983. Significant quantity of primary coolant was discharged to the fuel storage basin during fuel element change out. The fuel storage basin shielding water was ultimately discharged to the 1301-N facility. Effluent contains significant quantities of strontium-90. PNNL-13127.PDF
  83. 83. N Reactor Effluent trenched
  84. 84. Strontium-90 Plumes of strontium-90 underneath waste retention ponds in the area surrounding the N- Reactor. Red is the highest concentration. The plume has not changed much despite in many years despite operation of a pump-and-treat system from 1995 until March 2006. Along this the area the Columbia has many times the safe drinking water standards of Sr-90. 1301-N Crib N-Reactor N-Reactor 1325-N Crib
  85. 85. Culture Clash Jerry Erickson N Reactor Engineer Norm Buske sampling Columbia River water Erickson says Buske’s sampling is a “stunt” wasting taxpayer money.
  86. 86. Radioactive Mulberries Norm Buske Greenpeace environmentalist Collects Mulberries from along the N Springs August 1990 Sends strontium 90 laden jam to the head of the DOE & the Governor of Washington
  87. 87. Groundwater Clean up Pump and treat technology used to remove strontium 90 from the N springs’ 363.2 million liters of ground water and removed Only a small amount of strontium-90 is recovered. Permeable Reactive Barrier trapping and immobilizing contaminants. Contaminated groundwater is pumped out of the aquifer through extraction wells treated to remove some of the Sr-90 and then re-injected. This method has not been particularly successful.
  88. 88. N-Reactor Demolition N Reactor was cocooned in 2012. Emil Leitz, startup engineer for the plant, who was present at the ceremony, noted that the N Reactor had generated more than 65 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity between 1963 and 1987.
  89. 89. N Reactor Soil Clean Up DOE and Bechtel begin a soil clean up project at N Reactor. Involves removing 150,000 tons of contaminated soil Radioactivity at N Reactor is 50x other soil cleanup sites.
  90. 90. Particles on the Wall Exhibit exploring the nuclear age against the backdrop of Hanford Dianne Dickeman, daughter of R.L. Dickeman visual artist Nancy Dickeman daughter of R.L. Dickeman Poet The Wind’s Sail by Nancy Dickeman In the new world combustion is a secret set to burst from its radioactive shell, its afterlife, cloud billowing into the wind’s sail slips to the ground as if tempting who will follow who will embrace invention all the way to the ends of the earth? Along the desert, in the crescent formed where the hills lay flush to sea level and river bed, cooling towers notch the skyline, the land stained with wild flowers and sagebrush. Down river a camp fire blossoms orange into twilight, the smoke lingers past nightfall, past the embers’ quenching. Dianne Dickeman Columbia River Near Hanford, Late Afternoon 2009 Oil on canvas

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  • jnayerhardin

    Jun. 26, 2015
  • claudeangeli

    May. 18, 2016

The N Reactor was the first American dual-process reactor providing both electrical energy and weapons grade plutonium for Cold War weaponry.


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