Airbrushed from history

Our modern LWR reactors descend in direct lineage from Admiral Rickover’s submarine reactors. Few people realize that much of the original engineering and research work sprang from Walter Zinn’s Argonne laboratory. That is no accident. Rickover loathed the scientists and Westinghouse, the industrial powerhouse who took the design to world prominence, had a strong interest in cementing its credentials up front.

By the end of 1954, Argonne had been shoved aside and Louis Roddis, one of Rickover’s men, and John Simpson, an up-and-coming Westinghouse engineer, presented a paper on the nuclear sub reactor to the annual meeting of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers. These are the only three mentions of Argonne’s role in the entire 25 pages of the paper!

‘‘…the AEC established the [STR] as a formal project. [Argonne] was assigned the research and conceptual design aspect, making use of some of the former “Daniels Power Pile” group who were transferred from Oak Ridge. … In order to start the STR project, it was necessary to make certain arbitrary assumptions and then see what type of power plant would result. The U.S. Navy indicated the speed that they desired and the basic diameter of the submarine hull. … After a series of design studies, compatible parameters were determined. The project continued at [Argonne]. Later, at the Westinghouse Atomic Power Division more accurate equipment designs were obtained… Timetable of Submarine Thermal Reactor Project: Formal project established at [Argonne], April, 1948.

Roddis, L. H., Jr., & John W. Simpson. 1954. The nuclear propulsion plant of the USS Nautilus SSN-571: Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, Nov. 10-13, 1954.
Roddis & Simpson 1954 paper