Tourists can visit two nuclear jet airplane engines sitting in the middle of the Idaho desert.
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Reactor Accident Images
Reactor Accident DVD
The SL-1 Reactor Plant at the National Reactor Testing Laboratory before the explosion
A control rod embedded in the ceiling of the SL-1 structure
A broken control rod resting on the SL-1 reactor pressure vessel
A truck carrying the radioactive body of an operator killed in the SL-1 accident.
A lead casket containing the contaminated remains of an operator killed in the SL-1 accident
Workers decontaminating a fire truck at the SL-1 site
The SL-1 reactor being removed from the reactor building after the accident.
The SL-1 Reactor Accident site today
The world's first fatal atomic accident occurred on January 3, 1961 when a small, 3MW experimental
BWR called SL-1 (Stationary Low-Power Plant No. 1) in Idaho was destroyed
after a control rod was removed manually.
At 9:01pm, alarms sounded
at the fire stations and security headquarters of the U.S. National Reactor
Testing Station where the reactor was located. Investigation found two
operators dead (third died later), and detected high radiation levels in
A careful examination of
the remains of the core and the vessel concluded that the control rod was
manually withdrawn by about 50 centimeters (40 centimeters would have been
enough to make the reactor critical), largely increasing the reactivity.
The resulting power surge caused the reactor power to reach 20,000MW in
about .01 seconds, causing the plate-type fuel to melt. The molten fuel
interacted with the water in the vessel, producing an explosive formation
of steam that caused the water above the core to rise with such force that
when it hit the lid of the pressure vessel, the vessel itself rose 3 meters
in the air before dropping back down.
The SL-1 accident was the
first fatal nuclear accident in the United States. The men killed
in the incident were two Army Specialists, John Byrnes, age 25 and Richard
McKinley, age 22, and Richard Legg, a 25 year old Navy Electricians Mate.
Richard McKinley was interred in Arlington National Cemetery. John
Byrnes and Richard Legg were buried in their hometowns in New York and
|See the entire SL-1 Reactor
Accident documentary! Over 90 minutes of video on DVD!
These two films from the
1960s include actual footage of the recovery effort, views from both inside
and outside the reactor building, close up reactor images and rare views
inside the former NRTS facilities.
As quoted by Arlington
National Cemetary Records:
"3 January 1961: A reactor
explosion (attributed by a Nuclear Regulatory Commission source to sabotage)
at the National Reactor Testing Station in Idaho Falls, Idaho, killed one
navy technician and two army technicians, and released radioactivity "largely
confined" (words of John A. McCone, Director of the Atomic Energy Commission)
to the reactor building. The three men were killed as they moved fuel rods
in a "routine" preparation for the reactor start-up. One technician was
blown to the ceiling of the containment dome and impaled on a control rod.
His body remained there until it was taken down six days later. The men
were so heavily exposed to radiation that their hands had to be buried
separately with other radioactive waste, and their bodies were interred
in lead coffins."
From the Arlington National
MILITARY DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON
WASHINGTON 28, D.C.
In Reply Refer To
AMHRC 31 January 1961
SUBJECT: Internment of Radioactive
Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington 11, Virginia
1. Radioactive remains of
SP4 Richard L. McKinley were interred at Arlington National Cemetery on
25 January 1961.
2. It is desired that the
following remark be placed onthe permanent record, DA Form 2122, Record
"Victim of nuclear accident.
Body is contaminated with long-life radio-active isotopes. Under no circumstances
will the body be moved from this location without prior approval of the
Atomic Energy Commission in consultation with this headquarters."
FOR THE COMMANDER:
Leon S. Monroe, II
2d Lt. AGC
Assistant Adjutant General
National Engineering Laboratory