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Title: Supplying the nuclear arsenal: American production reactors, 1942--1992

Abstract

Although the history of commercial-power nuclear reactors is well known, the story of the government reactors that produce weapons-grade plutonium and tritium has been shrouded in secrecy. In the first detailed look at the origin and development of these production reactors, the authors describe a fifty-year government effort no less complex, expensive, and technologically demanding than the Polaris or Apollo programs--yet one about which most Americans know virtually nothing. The book describes the evolution of the early reactors, the atomic weapons establishment that surrounded them, and the sometimes bitter struggles between business and political constituencies for their share of 'nuclear pork.' They show how, since the 1980s, aging production reactors have increased the risk of radioactive contamination of the atmosphere and water table. And they describe how the Department of Energy mounted a massive effort to find the right design for a new generation of reactors, only to abandon that effort with the end of the Cold War. Today, all American production reactors remain closed. Due to short half-life, the nation's supply of tritium, crucial to modern weapons, is rapidly dwindling. As countries like Iraq and North Korea threaten to join the nuclear club, the authors contend, the United Statesmore » needs to revitalize tritium production capacity in order to maintain a viable nuclear deterrent. Meanwhile, as slowly decaying artifacts of the Cold War, the closed production reactors at Hanford, Washington, and Savannah River, South Carolina, loom ominously over the landscape.« less

Authors:
;
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, Baltimore, MD (United States)
OSTI Identifier:
6344857
Report Number(s):
JHUP-0173/XAB
ISBN: 0-8018-5207-2
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
29 ENERGY PLANNING, POLICY AND ECONOMY; 21 SPECIFIC NUCLEAR REACTORS AND ASSOCIATED PLANTS; 45 MILITARY TECHNOLOGY, WEAPONRY, AND NATIONAL DEFENSE; DESIGN; HANFORD RESERVATION; HISTORICAL ASPECTS; NUCLEAR WEAPONS; PRODUCTION REACTORS; PROLIFERATION; RADIOACTIVE MATERIALS; SAVANNAH RIVER PLANT; TRITIUM; USA; BETA DECAY RADIOISOTOPES; BETA-MINUS DECAY RADIOISOTOPES; DEVELOPED COUNTRIES; HYDROGEN ISOTOPES; ISOTOPES; LIGHT NUCLEI; MATERIALS; NATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS; NORTH AMERICA; NUCLEI; ODD-EVEN NUCLEI; RADIOISOTOPES; REACTORS; US AEC; US DOE; US ERDA; US ORGANIZATIONS; WEAPONS; YEARS LIVING RADIOISOTOPES; 290600* - Energy Planning & Policy- Nuclear Energy; 220600 - Nuclear Reactor Technology- Research, Test & Experimental Reactors; 450200 - Military Technology, Weaponry, & National Defense- Nuclear Explosions & Explosives

Citation Formats

Carlisle, R P, and Zenzen, J M. Supplying the nuclear arsenal: American production reactors, 1942--1992. United States: N. p., 1996. Web.
Carlisle, R P, & Zenzen, J M. Supplying the nuclear arsenal: American production reactors, 1942--1992. United States.
Carlisle, R P, and Zenzen, J M. Mon . "Supplying the nuclear arsenal: American production reactors, 1942--1992". United States.
@article{osti_6344857,
title = {Supplying the nuclear arsenal: American production reactors, 1942--1992},
author = {Carlisle, R P and Zenzen, J M},
abstractNote = {Although the history of commercial-power nuclear reactors is well known, the story of the government reactors that produce weapons-grade plutonium and tritium has been shrouded in secrecy. In the first detailed look at the origin and development of these production reactors, the authors describe a fifty-year government effort no less complex, expensive, and technologically demanding than the Polaris or Apollo programs--yet one about which most Americans know virtually nothing. The book describes the evolution of the early reactors, the atomic weapons establishment that surrounded them, and the sometimes bitter struggles between business and political constituencies for their share of 'nuclear pork.' They show how, since the 1980s, aging production reactors have increased the risk of radioactive contamination of the atmosphere and water table. And they describe how the Department of Energy mounted a massive effort to find the right design for a new generation of reactors, only to abandon that effort with the end of the Cold War. Today, all American production reactors remain closed. Due to short half-life, the nation's supply of tritium, crucial to modern weapons, is rapidly dwindling. As countries like Iraq and North Korea threaten to join the nuclear club, the authors contend, the United States needs to revitalize tritium production capacity in order to maintain a viable nuclear deterrent. Meanwhile, as slowly decaying artifacts of the Cold War, the closed production reactors at Hanford, Washington, and Savannah River, South Carolina, loom ominously over the landscape.},
doi = {},
url = {https://www.osti.gov/biblio/6344857}, journal = {},
number = ,
volume = ,
place = {United States},
year = {1996},
month = {1}
}

Technical Report:
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