A physicist is horrified to discover a reactor running at full power with no limits
A friend of mine worked at the Oak Ridge National Laboratories during the nineteen fifties, sixties, and
seventies as a physicist. He told me stories of his work at ORNL and his
adventures in WW II and Naval Intelligence during
his service in the Naval Reserve. During this period, he used the
graphite pile reactor to preform experiments by irradiating samples of
materials in the reactor. They used a toy train to haul the irradiated
samples into and out of the reactor, which is on
display at the site dedicated to the reactor.
Around Christmas one year, he needed some
samples irradiated so went to the reactor operators and requested all
the power that they could give him. He loaded the train up and sent it
into the reactor. The amount of power that the
reactor produced impressed him. It was the most steady, powerful, and
even that he had seen it produce.
At this time, when you felt a cold coming
on, you could go to the medical unit and get a shot of codeine mixed
with ethyl alcohol to relieve your symptoms. A great many people took
advantage of this service. This was the same period
that doctors would prescribe amphetamines to help the busy businessman
to get through the day.
My friend went to the reactor operators
to compliment them for their good work. He found them passed out with a
bottle of the alcohol/codeine mixture nearby. To his horror, he found
that they had inserted all of the reaction rods
fully and withdrawn fully all of the control rods, which meant the
reactor was running at maximum power with no limits.
He immediately pulled all of the reaction
rods and inserted all of the control rods to shut down the reactor,
searched the reactor operators to find the lock down keys, which he
used. He then went to security to turn in the reactor
keys and report what had happened. The reactor operators were replaced
the next day.
Radcliffe Cutshaw is a
creative private consultant in the areas of RF design and RF
development and wireless. He is also involved with writing.