Very little damage

When we look back at early American reactor development, we wonder why the Atomic Energy Commission set up a huge reactor testing station in remote Idaho. Surely that’s overkill? Well, here’s Walter Zinn’s trusty lieutenant reporting in early 1954 about unloading fuel rods (a 5-week job) from the triumphant EBR-I breeder in Idaho:

Lichtenberger memo March 1954

The rod cutting business was continually plagued by breakdowns of equipment either manipulators or the cutting machinery. The only real difficulty outside this was in a few fires, some of which happened during the cutting time and some of which happened after operations were completed on the night shift. It was necessary to have the hot lab under continuous surveillance either by someone on duty or by a fire alarm. If these fires were immediately attended to, they caused very little damage. The hot lab is now being decontaminated and put in order for other work.

Lichtenberger, Harold V. 1954. Lichtenberger to Zinn, Mar. 22, 1954. “Reading File, March 22, 1954,” Box 62, Laboratory Director’s Reading File, 1949-1957, RG 326. NARA-GL, Chicago, Illinois.