Archive for August, 2014

How Portable Can a Power Reactor Be?

Monday, August 11th, 2014

This reprint of How Portable Can a Power Reactor Be? was written by my mentor John P. Tully, about whom I reminisced six years ago.  I had cherished this article, which was aimed at commercializing reactors for power generation in remote locations, such as mine mouths.  Although modular, the portability aspect makes this quite different than the current Small Modular Reactor (SMR) concept.

The design was derived from the ALCO SM-1 packaged reactor at Fort Belvoir, which I had a chance to visit in 1972 on an Army ROTC field trip.  The skid-mounted system was a full nuclear-steam-electric power plant designed for air transport to remote locations, including Camp Century under the Greenland ice cap, where John met his good friend Bob Ryan, who was a long-time professor of Health Physics and Radiation Safety at RPI.  The core lifetime was estimated at 12 months, but it’s not clear how re-fueling was to be accomplished.

The article reminded me of John’s acerbic sense of humor by his remark that “ALCO’s computer center … aided measurably in the selection of values.” [italics added]  John was always cautious about computer codes, and disdained the tendency toward unquestioned acceptance of computer output.