Cumberland Academy

“Hot laundry” Uranium, polonium and the poisoning of America

The information is available in a 3.14 MB 235 pg. pdf 2006080900743TUA beginning pages start doc. : Historic Contexts following my introduction. #WeThePeople have been conditioned to accept “How the west as won” as fact. Now we know the plan included Agenda21. Pollute the planet. Where does the debris from all of the research go? As the Cascabal (viper) hides in he dark the babel is used to cover its path. It rattles when threatened. How does all of the illegal, patent controlled matter get moved across borders?

Historic Contexts
This Appendix presents historic contexts derived from The Idaho National Engineering and
Environmental Laboratory, A Historical Context and Assessment, Narrative and Inventory (Arrowrock
2003). This historical information is used to assist with the evaluation of architectural properties from the
post-1942 period. Context I also provides a brief pre-1942 summary of the Euro American expansion into
the area now encompassed by INL.
Over the 60+-year history of INL, the Laboratory and the areas and facilities contained within its
borders have been subjected to numerous mission and status changes ranging from the Site’s initial role as
a naval ordnance test facility to that of a preeminent DOE national laboratory. As a result, the Lab and its
attendant areas and facilities have been renamed over the years to reflect missions and statuses at the time.
Within this appendix, the current Laboratory designation of “INL” is primarily used; however, to retain
the technical integrity of the historical framework in which INL areas and facilities are described, the area
and facility designations employed are those that were in use during the timeframe being described.
Footnotes from the original Arrowrock 2003 text are provided to illustrate the variety of sources used
to compile the following information and to provide pertinent background information.
The period of Euro American contact in Idaho is generally considered to begin in 1805 with the
Lewis and Clark Expedition. The first Euro Americans to have entered INL territory most likely were
French-Canadian trappers and other explorers, perhaps around 1820. U.S. Army Captain B.L.E.
Bonneville traversed the area in 1832-33 and referred to it as the “Plain of the Three Buttes.”6
and trappers in the vicinity of INL would have met Shoshone and Bannock peoples gathering plants or
Large numbers of emigrants followed the Oregon Trail through Idaho beginning in the 1840s. A
shortcut known as Goodale’s Cutoff was established in the early 1850s; its traces are still visible in the
southwestern corner of INL. Later this trail was used when cowboys drove great herds of cattle across the
Plain from Idaho, Washington, and Oregon to Wyoming. Sheep drives replaced cattle in the 1880s.7
Two stagecoach lines crossed the area near Twin Buttes, near the southern boundary of what became
INL. Transportation became more reliable through the area after freighters began serving miners in the
mountain camps north and west of INL. Homesteaders settled in the Big Lost River area in the late 1870s
and began the daunting task of farming arid lands. Cattlemen established ranches along the Little Lost
River and Birch Creek in the early 1880s.
The federal government became involved in the effort to irrigate arid lands when Congress passed the
Carey Act in 1894, followed by the Reclamation Act in 1902. These laws provided land and financing for
water storage and distribution projects. This federal action might be said to constitute its first “test” in
Washington Irving, Adventures of Captain Bonneville (Portland, Oregon: Binfords and Mort, no date, Klickitat Edition), p. 110.
See Miller, p. 2-19 for a map of historic trails crossing the INEEL. reshaping the landscape at INL. The Big Lost River Irrigation Project included two large tracts of land,
one in the south-central portion of the present INL. This experiment in settlement and irrigation ultimately
failed. The engineers miscalculated the available water and had a poor understanding of the soils and
porous basalt layers that underlay their reservoirs and canals. Settlers drifted away in the 1920s, having
failed to find “salvation from the application of science and engineering expertise” for their project,
leaving the land once more very sparsely populated, and having brought no large town to the INL
Considerable historical research has illuminated this context period and provided benchmark dates
that mark a more detailed chronology. Historic themes include early exploration and discovery, trapping
and trading, the Oregon Trail, mining, cattle and sheep drives, transportation, American Indian relations,
settlement, irrigation, and ranching.9
CONTEXT II: ORDNANCE TESTING, 1942-1949, 1968-1970
Sub-Theme: World War II
Naval Proving Ground/Central Facilities
Introduction: World War II Arrives in the Idaho Desert. Before World War II, the arid lands
between Arco and Idaho Falls were used primarily for grazing. Earlier in the century, local irrigation
companies had promised settlers water from the Big Lost River, but they failed to deliver it. Disappointed
homesteaders relinquished their lands. A few traces of human habitation and enterprise remained on the
landscape — the banks of abandoned canals, foundations of former homes and farm buildings, and a few
non-native plantings. A new demand for these isolated lands, most of them still in the public domain,
arose when the United States entered World War II.
When Nazi Germany invaded Austria in 1938, the U.S. Congress authorized the U.S. Navy to expand
its ship and aircraft strength. The Navy built large air bases on the east and west coasts and on the islands
of Hawaii and Guam. The Navy also strengthened its support facilities, especially for the West Coast
bases, where these were minimally adequate. After Japan attacked the U.S. fleet and air bases at Pearl
Harbor, the pace quickened dramatically as the country went to war. The Navy searched everywhere for
new locations to accommodate further expansion. Because of wartime shortages of materials and
manpower, construction rules specified that new buildings should be basic and strictly functional, without
elaboration or unnecessary enhancements. Substitutes were to be sought for scarce materials.10
As the war in the Pacific intensified, so did the demand for military support of all kinds: training,
ordnance and ordnance testing, gun repair, and research related to safety. The coastal cities had supplied
all the facilities and labor that they could, so the Navy looked inland for suitable locations. Congress
appropriated funds, and Navy projects were established in several western states. The Sixth Supplemental
National Defense Appropriation Act of 1942 placed two facilities in Idaho. One was a large personnel-
Hugh Lovin, “Footnote to History: `The Reservoir Would Not Hold Water,'” Idaho Yesterdays (Spring 1980), p. 14. Lovin’s
remarks referred to the Blaine County Irrigation Project, which lies northeast of Howe in Butte County.
These themes are introduced in Miller, p. 2-18 to 2-21, and supported by an excellent bibliography.
10 United States, Building the Navy’s Bases in World War II: History of the Bureau of Yards and Docks and the Civil Engineer. Corps,
1940-1946, Vol. 1 (Government Printing Office: Washington, D.C., 1947), p. 1-13. Hereafter cited as “Building the Navy’s Bases training base, Farragut Naval Training Center, at Lake Pend Oreille in north Idaho. The other was the
Naval Ordnance Plant at Pocatello, established on April 1, 1942.11
The Pocatello Naval Ordnance Plant. The mission of the Pocatello plant was to manufacture, repair,
and assemble large-caliber naval guns, mounts, and related equipment required for the Navy’s Pacific
battleships. A key activity was the relining of major-caliber battleship guns sent to the plant after repeated
firings in battle had worn out the rifling in the guns.
The Pocatello site met all the selection criteria. It consisted of 211 acres located three miles north of
the town. It was inland and east of the coastal mountain ranges, so it was both isolated and secure. The
area contained a plentiful labor supply and space for expansion. The land was marginal for farming and,
therefore, less expensive than other potential sites. Ample water was available. Most important, the site
was situated near one of the largest Union Pacific railroad terminals in the United States. A
transcontinental highway also passed through Pocatello. The plant could easily take delivery of steel,
chemicals, ordnance, personnel, and battleship guns shipped from the West Coast.12
The plant, built by the Idaho-based Morrison-Knudsen Company, contained large and small gun
shops, ordnance storehouses, personnel quarters, machine and proof shops and accessory buildings. While
spacious, the Pocatello site lacked one necessary asset: a location nearby to proof-fire the relined guns
before declaring them ready to return to the coast and remounting on battleships. The Navy first
considered a site near Tabor, Idaho, about forty miles northwest of Pocatello but found the land too
uneven and access limited.
The Navy looked further north toward the Arco Desert and found an ideal site. The land was flat, arid,
and sparsely populated. A few acres were in private hands, but most of the land was in the public domain.
The Navy appropriated about 271 square miles, configured up to nine miles wide and thirty-six miles long
at its extreme dimensions. A branch of the Union Pacific Railroad passed near the southern edge of the
site on its way from Pocatello to the towns of Arco and Mackay. By building a short spur line, the rails
could carry the guns and other traffic between Pocatello and the proving ground — a distance of about
sixty-five miles. The Morrison-Knudsen Company built all the buildings at the site. J. A. Terteling
Company, another Idaho construction company, did subcontract work there and at the Pocatello plant.
The proving ground was finished by August 1943.13
The Arco Naval Proving Grounds: 1942-1949. The Arco Naval Proving Grounds facilities were
divided into two areas: the Proof Area and the Residential Area. The Proof Area was the business end of
the site, equipped to test-fire the guns relined or manufactured at the Pocatello plant, noting their accuracy
and consistency. Later during the war the spacious expanse of the desert was the scene of additional
missions — bombing target practice, research on the safe design of explosives storage cells, and
miscellaneous research on new forms of explosives.
The buildings and structures in the fenced and guarded eighty-five-acre Proof Area included a bank of
ten gun emplacements, a concussion wall, control tower, an office building east of the control tower, the
tool room and oil storage tanks west of the control tower, a nearby restroom, five munitions magazines,
11 Building the Navy’s Bases, p. 16-44; 351.
12 Building the Navy’s Bases, p. 341; see also Julie B. Braun, Lockheed Idaho Technologies Company Internal Report, INEL Historic
Building Inventory Survey, Phase I (Idaho Falls: Sept. 1995), p. 29-30. Hereafter cited as “Braun, Inventory Phase 1.”
13 Information on M-K and Terteling companies from “Appendix B,” Interim Ordnance Cleanup Program Record Search Report for
the Interim Action to Clean Up Unexploded Ordnance Locations at the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory (Idaho Falls: Wyle
Laboratories, Scientific Services and Systems Group, Norco, California, for Scientech, Inc., January, 1993). Hereafter cited as
“Scientech Report.” Two electric substations, guardhouse, pumphouse, and two temporary buildings. Railroad trackage
supported the movement of guns and equipment around the area. Most of the structures were constructed
of reinforced concrete to withstand blast and vibration from proof testing and potential munitions
The concussion wall, 315 ft long, 15 1/2 ft high, and 8 ft thick, was reinforced with double rebar
placed in a close eight-inch grid. The railroad siding near the gun emplacements was equipped with a
250-ton gantry crane to remove guns arriving from Pocatello. A gun ready to be proofed was positioned
on one of the ten emplacements, loaded with a charge, and fired northward. Test operators located within
the building behind the concussion wall could observe the firing through narrow window slits.
Downrange, spotters were positioned at observation towers and in communication with the control tower.
Aided by rows of marked concrete monuments across the desert, they triangulated the location of impact
and recorded the performance of the gun.14
Munitions magazines, also located near railroad trackage, were constructed completely of reinforced
concrete. They either had earthen berms on the side walls or were built below ground with berms
covering the entire building except for the entrance.
The Residential Area supported the Navy, Marine, and civilian personnel who lived and worked at the
site — including Women Ordnance Workers, or “WOWs.” It contained civilian and officers’ houses,
associated garages, enlisted personnel barracks, (patrol) dog kennels, a warehouse, commissary, paint
house, water tower, deep wells, sanitary sewers, fences, and electrical distribution lines. In 1944 a
combination garage, fire station, and locomotive shed was added. On twice-weekly movie nights, the
residents moved the locomotive outside, set up a movie projector, and settled down on rows of benches to
enjoy the show.15
The Residential Area was divided into two complexes, separated by the railroad spur coming in from
the Union Pacific branch. The civilian complex was on the south side and consisted of single-family
dwellings. They were situated close to one another in an oval, with a circular roadway located on the
outer edge and driveways leading to each house. The homes were wood frame, probably of prefabricated
materials, and had lawns and fenced gardens.16
The officers’ houses and the Marine barracks were on the north side of the spur tracks. These
buildings were sided with brick veneer and had shutters around the windows. The lawns were landscaped
with substantial plantings of trees and shrubs. The base commander’s residence (later known as CF-607)
had its own matching garage. The barracks was of similar construction and housed approximately twenty
Marines. Among other duties, the Marines — and their dogs — patrolled the site perimeter. The kennels
were near the barracks.17
Within a very short time, the Navy had shaped the desert landscape to accommodate its mission. A
road system, water lines, sewer lines, electrical and telephone lines, and the railroad track united the
Residential and Proof areas. The Navy named the main roads Lincoln Boulevard, Farragut Avenue, and
Portland Avenue — names that continue in use today. The railroad siding and village was (and still is)
14 Margaret and Orville Larsen, interview with Susan M. Stacy, March 19, 1999. For a fuller account of life and operations at the
Naval Proving Ground, see Chapter 2, “The Naval Proving Ground,” in Stacy, Proving the Principle.
15 Stan Coloff, “The High and Dry Navy: World War II,” Philtron (October 1965), p. 3; Stacy, Proving the Principle, p. 11, 12.
Hereafter cited as “Coloff.”
16 A 1951 photograph shows most of these buildings: INEEL negative number 02974.
17 Coloff, p. 3. called Scoville after John H. Scoville, the officer in charge of construction at the Pocatello plant and the
proving ground.
Research and Testing Programs at Arco NPG: 1942-1949. Although a small facility, the Arco
NPG was one of only six specialized facilities conducting ordnance experiments during World War II.
One of the largest ammunition depots in the United States already existed at Hawthorne, Nevada, but no
testing was performed there. Each ordnance testing facility specialized in various types of ordnance. The
White Oak, Maryland, site tested underwater mines. At Stump Neck, Maryland, powder testing was the
emphasis. The Montauk, New York, site specialized in torpedoes. In 1943 (after the Pocatello plant was
constructed) a rocket ordnance test station was established in the Mojave Desert at Inyokern, California.
In 1944 the Shumaker, Arkansas, site began large-scale production of rockets.18
At Arco, the specialty, but not the only one, was the proof firing of the Navy’s 16-inch ship guns. In
addition, proof testing was done on lesser-caliber anti-aircraft guns, aiming them high into the air.
Between 1942 and 1945, the Arco NPG test fired 1,650 gun barrels, large and small.19
The Navy permitted certain U.S. Army activities at the site. Bomb groups and fighter squadrons
training at the Pocatello Army Air Base used two areas of the proving ground to practice day and night
high-altitude bombing techniques. B-24 Liberator bombers dropped 100-pound sand-filled bombs
equipped with black powder spotting charges. The pilots aimed at wooden pyramid targets.20
Other areas were used for safety-related detonation research. The Joint Army/Navy Ammunition
Storage Board authorized demolition tests to determine safe distances between high explosive munitions
magazines. The research questions concerned how best to store explosive shells and cartridges in transit
and at docks and depots. Army chemists built test storage cells and bunkers in the desert, packed them
with trinitrotoluene (TNT) to simulate an actual storage facility, and ignited nearby “accidental” charges.
The tests helped the scientists combine concrete barriers with air gaps in designs that would help protect
the contents of nearby ammo cells. A test conducted in 1945 exploded 250,000 pounds of TNT stored in
an igloo-type storage bunker, incidentally creating a crater fifteen feet deep and a noise heard all the way
to Salt Lake City.21
Smokeless powder tests were conducted in 1944 and 1945. The tests helped determine whether
confinement in a standard reinforced concrete magazine would cause the powder in them to explode,
rather than burn. One of the concrete bunkers located near the concussion wall stored the powder in
quantities of 500,000 pounds until it was tested.
The researchers tested new types of illuminated projectiles (also called “star shells”) and white
phosphorus projectiles to determine detonation characteristics. Mass detonation of projectiles took place
in 1945. The ammunition was shipped to the Arco site from the depot at Hawthorne, Nevada.
After World War II ended, explosives research continued at the proving grounds. Varying quantities
of conventional explosives were used on numerous structures and materials. The tests continue to advance
18 Building the Navy’s Bases, p. 339-340, 351-354.
19 Braun, Inventory Phase 1, p. 31-32; and Scientech Report, p. 2-6, 2-7.
20 One area was located five miles northwest of INL’s Radioactive Waste Management Complex; the other, centered on today’s
Highway 20 between East Butte and the site of Argonne West. See Scientech Report, Reference 96, p. 2-74, 6-7.
21 See Scientech Report, Table 2-1, p. 207. the safety standards for storing large quantities of explosive materials. The largest powder explosion of
the time took place at the site on August 29, 1945. Similar tests continued into 1946.22
By 1947, gun proofing activities at the site had significantly diminished. The proving ground
absorbed new functions. After the war, naval vessels were decommissioned, and various types of
equipment from the ships were sent inland for repair and storage. Pocatello received much of that
material, and some of the abundance — nets, floats, mooring rings, buoys — went for temporary storage
to the proving ground awaiting sandblasting and repainting. The NPG was designated a depot for
stockpiling surplus manganese for the U.S. Treasury.
The research that continued was no longer in connection with the gun plant in Pocatello and went
along at a slower pace than before. Some 1948 and 1949 research was classified, the details generally
unknown today. “Project Marsh” may have been an effort to develop countermeasures for guided
missiles. “Project Elsie” may have tested 16-inch shells made with depleted uranium.23
The Atomic Energy Commission Acquires the NPG, 1949. Congress created the Atomic Energy
Commission (AEC) in 1946 to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes under civilian authority.
After evaluating several locations, the AEC selected the Arco NPG in 1949 as the site for a nuclear
reactor testing station. The Navy reluctantly gave up the proving ground and its buildings to the AEC.24
The houses, warehouse, rail trackage, and the accompanying infrastructure of the Residential and
Proof areas became very useful to the AEC as it began to build the country’s first and only National
Reactor Testing Station (NRTS). This area became the nucleus of what later became known as the Central
Facilities Area (CFA). Houses became offices and ad hoc laboratories, storage areas continued to serve
construction contractors, and new buildings quickly enlarged the site.
The gun emplacements and concussion wall outlived their function. These assets were not reused, but
left in place.
Sub-Theme: Vietnam War
Navy Proving Ground/Central Facilities
Vietnam War Ordnance Testing. The Vietnam War revitalized several mothballed ordnance facilities
across the United States. The Pocatello Naval Ordnance Plant resumed its work relining 16-inch guns for
the USS New Jersey — a battleship sent for special duty in Vietnam. The guns were reworked to extend
their range. The Navy used the ship to clear (from off-shore) 200-yard-diameter landing zones in
Vietnam’s heavily canopied jungles.25
In 1968 a new Naval Ordnance Test Facility (NOTF) was constructed at the NRTS. Because nuclear
reactors and their associated buildings and structures now occupied the old bombing and gun ranges, the
original swath of desert north of CFA could not be used. Guns would have to point south. The Navy built
a new gun emplacement northeast of EBR-I, along with a new access road, railroad spur, firing pit, pivot
point, concussion wall, and equipment shelter. It moved the NPG gantry crane from its original location
22 Scientech Report, p. 59-71.
23 Scientech Report, p. 72-73.
24 Richard Hewlett and Frances Duncan, Atomic Shield, 1947-1952: Volume II of a History of the United States Atomic Energy
Commission (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1969), p. 210.
25 Norman Friedman, The Naval Institute Guide to World Naval Weapons Systems, 1991/92 (Annapolis, Maryland: United States
Naval Institute, 1991), p. 457. to NOTF, where it once more unloaded heavy guns for proof testing. The target was the northern flank of
Big Southern Butte.26
Proof-firing at the NRTS ceased in 1970, before the end of the war. The Indian Head Ordnance
Station in Maryland expanded and took over this role for the USS New Jersey and other major battleships.
Most NOTF structures have since been removed from the site except for one gun emplacement and
parts of the concussion wall. These are now ruins. The gantry crane returned to its original location at the
Central Facilities Area. Impact craters from NOTF gun proofing are still visible on Southern Butte’s
north-facing flank.27
Extant NPG Buildings. Several Arco NPG buildings and structures are extant. The Proof Area retains
railroad trackage, parts of the bank of gun emplacements, the concussion wall and the operations building
directly behind it, at least one ammo storage bunker, a pumphouse, and the gantry crane.
In the Residential Area, the civilian houses were removed to make way for new requirements of the
CFA as the NRTS grew and expanded. Several examples of the redbrick Navy personnel housing remain,
including the Marine barracks, officers’ quarters, the commanding officer’s house, and a garage. Lincoln,
Farragut, and Portland roads continue in use.
Significance of the NPG and Recommendations. As one of six specialized ordnance facilities that
conducted research and experiments during World War II, the NPG was a fairly rare military feature on
the Home Front. Victory in the Pacific theater relied partly on the performance of battleship guns. The
NPG was the terminus of an elaborate logistical system that began with the guns on ships like USS
Missouri and USS Wisconsin. After repeated combat firing wore out the rifling, the guns were shipped to
the coast, sent by rail overland to Pocatello, relined, sent to the proving ground, test-fired, and scored for
accuracy. The guns then returned to action the way they had come and entered battle once more. Aside
from being a tribute to the logistical excellence of the U.S. military, the NPG’s association with the great
battleships of the war and with military research are important national historic themes.
The NPG is one of very few sites in Idaho that might interpret for future generations what the state
contributed to American victory in the Pacific during World War II. Likewise, it retains a few remnants of
a unique “village” of civilians and military personnel arranged for domestic life amidst the firing of
battleship guns, bombing practice, and the detonation of vast stores of TNT.
The NPG also provided the core setting for the present-day INL. Infrastructure such as roads and rail
sidings influenced the location of later facilities. Beyond the proofing and residential centers, the NPG
had altered the desert landscape. Explosives tests and gun firings had produced impact craters and left a
variety of ruins on the desert floor — piles of shattered concrete and twisted metal, bomb shells and even
unexploded projectiles. The latter was sometimes observed being “initiated by desert heat,” a hazardous
legacy that remained unattended until many decades later.28
26 Stacy, Proving the Principle, p. 17.
27 Braun, Inventory Phase 1, 37; INEEL photos 68-1808, 68-2408, 68-2412, and 68-2866 at the INEEL Photo Archive; Brandon
Loomis, “Blast Site—INEL Officials ‘Cleaning Up’ Land Mines,” Idaho Falls Post Register, from clipping file with no date.
28 Scientech Report, Reference 92. In 1992 INL contracted with Wyle Laboratories of Norco, California, to clear the desert of explosive
debris and scrap metal. Since then, over 1,500 explosive ordnance items have been destroyed and 120,000
pounds of scrap metal cleaned up.29
For its many thematic associations, the World War II “Ordnance Testing” context is assessed as
historically significant. A HABS/HAER-level document ought to gather together archival resources such
as historic photographs, plans, oral histories, military correspondence, and research reports. Material
published as Chapter 2 in Proving the Principle is an additional source of interpretation and context that
could supplement the HABS/HAER report and be reprinted for public distribution.
Historic preservation planning at INL should preserve the Proof Area in place, aiming to protect it
from further decay or destruction. Plans for the Residential Area should continue to reuse and preserve
the NPG-era buildings.
The role of ordnance testing at NOTF for the Vietnam War was considerably less important to the
prosecution of that war than the previous testing during World War II. Likewise, the impact of this
activity on the course of Idaho history was relatively minor. The equipment shelter is not extant. Unless
the remaining ruins have retrospective value in interpreting World War II activities, they are not assessed
as historically or exceptionally significant in the Vietnam War era of “Ordnance Testing.”
Preliminary Review of Nuclear Reactors
The work of “nuclear reactor testing” is best begun with a short introduction to nuclear reactors and
related subjects mentioned frequently in this report. Nuclear reactors have several features in common:
core, reflector, control elements (i.e., rods), coolants,
Core. The core is that part of the reactor consisting of the fuel and control elements, a coolant, and the
vessel containing these. The design is such to sustain a chain reaction. Neutrons are less likely to split
another atom if they travel at their natural rate of speed, which is in the range of millions of miles per
hour. To slow them down, the fissionable fuel, such as uranium, is surrounded by a substance that slows,
or moderates, the neutrons. Some materials do this well, but others absorb the neutrons, taking them out
of play as promoters of the chain reaction.
Reflector. Surrounding the core (of many reactors) is a reflector. One of the challenges in reactor design
is to prevent the neutrons from escaping the core and becoming useless to the chain reaction. A single
fission event of a uranium atom will produce, on average, about 2.5 neutrons. Each of these are capable of
fissioning another atom. If the neutrons escape from the core, they will not be available to continue
splitting the uranium atoms. Reflectors bounce the neutrons back into the core of the reactor.
Control Elements. One objective of reactor design is to control the chain reaction at the will of the
operator — to control the rate at which neutrons are produced within the core and thus the rate at which
the chain reaction proceeds. Control elements are made of materials that absorb neutrons and slow down
the reactivity of the fuel. The elements often are in the shape of rods. Operators move one or more control
rods into the midst of the fuel where they absorb the neutrons in just the quantity required by the operator
to reduce reactivity or shut down completely.
29 Scientech Report, see also Loomis, cited in Note 18 above. Heat and Coolants. The supreme reason for requiring perfect control over a chain reaction arises from the
fact that every fission of an atom produces a unit of heat. The fissions can occur so fast and in such
quantity that the heat can melt the fuel, the moderator, and the container vessel surrounding it. Reactor
designers, therefore, must arrange for some reliable method of carrying off the heat. In the case of
reactors intended to generate electricity, the heat is the useful part of the reaction. The coolant carries
away the core heat and transfers it to a secondary coolant, which then provides the motive force (i.e.,
steam) to power the turbines of the generation machinery. In many reactors, the coolant can serve a dual
function as a moderator.
Reactor “concepts.” Reactors can be configured in many possible arrangements and use a variety of
materials in any part of its architecture. For example, the coolant can be water, a liquid metal, or gas. A
reactor performs differently — and the engineering is very different — depending on the type of coolant
(or fuel, or moderator, etc). The literature of nuclear reactors refers to a particular combination of nuclear
features as a “concept.” Each combination performs quite unlike the other choices, so each “concept”
must be studied to discover its characteristics, its advantages for any given purpose, and its disadvantages.
“Excursions” and “Transients.” As scientists began their post-war research into reactor concepts, they
needed to find out just what the safe operating limits of reactors were. For example, how much heat could
build up before a fuel element or its cladding would melt? Many of the safety tests conducted at NRTS
dealt with “excursions” and “transients,” names used to refer to extreme power levels and heat build-up.
For various reasons (such as imperfectly manufactured fuel elements, the behavior of the coolant, failed
cladding materials, or some other anomaly) the power level in a reactor can rise sharply and
unexpectedly. This can produce dangerous quantities of heat. Much of the early testing and research at
INL sought to discover the safe operating limits of reactors and the materials of which they were made. It
also was important to study how the design of reactor components could eliminate or reduce the
occurrence of such episodes, how to predict reactor behavior under various conditions, and how to use
instrumentation and safety systems to prevent accidents.
Sub-Theme: Reactor Testing, Experimentation, and Development
Central Facilities
CFA Site Transitions from the Navy to the AEC: 1950-1954. The AEC “inventors” of the reactor
testing station decided that the reactor experiments would take place at locations assigned to the sponsor
and selected according to safety and other criteria administered by AEC management. The AEC would
then supply support services — such as security, laundry, warehousing, dosimeter and health services, fire
prevention and suppression, transportation to and from Idaho Falls — to all sponsors from a centralized
The NPG complex became that location, equipping the AEC with ready-made buildings, roads, rail
spur, yards, security perimeters, electricity, and water from which to launch the rest of the enterprise.
While the transfer of ownership from the Navy to the AEC was still in process, the AEC began
evaluating the water supply, building a well for the first reactor experiment, and improving the existing
Navy roads and trails. Soon the foundation for EBR-I was under construction. The AEC added new rail
spurs and expanded the Scoville electric substation to serve potential reactor sites.
When it came to construction standards and policies, AEC policies were similar to those that
governed the armed forces. Shaped by similar congressional mandates and budgets, the AEC required
functional and standardized design, ease of construction, safety practices, and careful programmatic and fiscal accounting. Adapting NPG buildings for new uses rather than dismantling them was one way to
save funds.30
Thus NPG dwellings and other buildings were the first home to for the testing station’s many central
functions. Some of the houses became construction contractor offices. Site engineers made use of the
established military grid used by the Navy to define its territory and adapted it to the new requirements of
the testing station.
The redbrick officer’s residences, garages, and Marine barracks became offices, lunchrooms and
security control centers (CF-606, -632, and -607 respectively). The Navy bunkhouse (CF-613) continued
to be used as a bunkhouse. One residence (CF-603) was converted into a dispensary. Despite the changes
in use, engineers worked carefully to blend new additions and changes with the old.31
Buildings in the Proof Area also were recycled for NRTS missions. In the 1950s site engineers
remodeled and joined together several extant buildings near the concussion wall and control tower. These
structures were originally assigned individual numbers, such as the oil shed (646) and office (684). A
portion of this remodel was a new instrument laboratory, numbered CF-633, and a new locomotive shed
(no longer extant, built in 1951.) By 1987 all of the buildings attached to the old battery wall had been
renumbered as CF-633, and the old 646 and 684 numbers were reassigned to other storage buildings at the
CFA. The control tower was logically converted into a fire lookout. The old NPG boiler room (CF-650),
located near the battery wall, required few renovations and continued in use until the 1990s.
Over the years the Navy munitions bunkers were used to store hazardous materials. Their heavy-duty
concrete construction and berms provided the same protection from chemical explosions as from
munitions explosions. One of the bunkers became the Dosimetry Calibrations Laboratory (CF-638) in
1969, providing appropriate shielding from background radiation. The NPG locomotive shed and fire
station, located south of the old Marine barracks (CF-606), were converted into craft shops (CF-654, no
longer extant).
The NRTS landlords often pointed proudly to their adaptation and reuse of existing buildings for
central services as a mark of their cost-saving efforts. They avoided duplication of basic services and
preserved resources better directed to the far more costly requirements for nuclear reactor experiments.32
Building contractors patterned new NRTS buildings after established military and industrial designs.
Such designs were unembellished and functional, based on engineered building plans with virtually no
architectural influences. “Industrial Vernacular” a term later coined by industrial archaeologists and
architectural historians, describes this type of architecture.33 Some of the more permanent structures, such
as offices and early reactor buildings did reflect a few International-Style characteristics of the 1950s, and
later Contemporary architecture. Most, however, were plain, box-like structures with flat roofs and
concrete walls or corrugated metal siding. These building materials were easily available and relatively
30 United States Department of Energy, National Register of Historic Places Multiple-Property Documentation Form, Historic,
Archaeological and Traditional Cultural Properties of the Hanford Site, Washington (Richland, Washington: U.S. DOE,
February 1997), p. 6.10; see also “Engineering Aspects of the National Reactor Testing Station” (U.S. Atomic Energy
Commission, Idaho Operations Office, October 1951), p. 13. Hereafter cited as “Engineering Aspects.”
31 Architectural drawings, Medical Dispensary Remodel (CF-603), on file at EROB, INEEL, Idaho Falls, Idaho. See also Julie B.
Braun, LITCO Internal Report, INEL Historic Building Inventory Survey, Phase I (Idaho Falls: INEL, September 1995).
32 “Engineering Aspects,” p. 13. See also Braun, p. 46.
33 United States Department of Energy, National Register of Historic Places Multiple-Property Documentation Form – Historic,
Archaeological and Traditional Cultural Properties of the Hanford Site, Washington (Richland, Washington: U.S. DOE,
February 1997), p. 6.9, 6.19, 6.25. inexpensive. Good gravel for concrete existed on-site, and the AEC moved a batch plant from one site to
another as needed. The railroad provided easy transport of Portland cement, prefabricated metal siding,
and framing to each site.34
New buildings at the CFA illustrated the site’s new nuclear testing mission. Since employees were no
longer living on-site (except during the earliest construction phase), none of the new buildings were
houses. The domestic-scaled brick Minimal Traditional officers’ quarters became a thing of the past. The
emphasis was science, engineering, and industry, all of which called for purely functional and impersonal
The CFA warehouse (CF-601) and fire station (CF-666), built by AEC contractors in 1950 and 1951,
set the pattern for the vernacular industrial design that became the norm at the NRTS. The warehouse was
a concrete masonry or “pumice block” structure, with a built-up flat roof and concrete slab floor. The
AEC’s Division of Engineering and Construction designed the building, and regional contractors C. B.
Lauch and Associates built it. The fire station, designed and constructed by the same group, used similar
materials. A 1951 AEC Engineering Division report took pride in the low cost of these buildings, while
meeting AEC design requirements at the same time.35 The cafeteria and bus station, the two buildings
constructed specifically for site employees, followed the same functional and impersonal lines. Both were
built of concrete block and exhibited no stylistic adornments.
Several smaller CFA support buildings were constructed of material other than concrete. In 1951
most of the pumphouses, storage buildings, generator buildings, and small repair shops were prefabricated
structures of corrugated iron cladding on a steel frame. A few were constructed with wood or asbestos
shingle siding, and only one of brick after 1950. The fire station generator building (CF-679) had brick
masonry walls, a concrete foundation, and a flat, corrugated-iron-sheet roof. The prefabricated metal
building became the norm for most subsequent support facilities on the NRTS. These buildings easily
could be constructed, dismantled, or moved and recycled for another use. An example was the lead
storage building (CF-687), which was moved from the Idaho Chemical Processing Plant to the CFA in
1952. These structures were — and still are — representative of vernacular industrial architecture. Their
use emphasizes the change in approach from the Navy to the AEC. Instead of building for permanence,
the AEC preferred to erect prefabricated, temporary buildings. In later decades, rapidly changing
technology and concerns about radioactive contamination at the nation’s nuclear sites increased the AEC’s
interest in temporary structures.
CFA New Construction Slows Down: 1955-1970. In the 1960s, few buildings were constructed at
the CFA. Most of them were storage buildings. Some reflected the changing concerns and issues of the
nuclear industry (and its critics), particularly related to the handling of nuclear waste. One of the first
radioactive-waste handling facilities at the NRTS was the “Hot” Laundry Facility (CF-669). Built in 1950,
the facility handled all contaminated protective clothing for the entire station. Initially, such low-level
waste was regarded in the same light as conventional chemical, or even domestic, waste.
The design of the Laundry Facility reflected this thinking. Radioactively contaminated clothes were
washed, and the wastewater was carried by a separate sewer line to a trickling-filter sewage plant. The
waste entered the same septic tank as other CFA effluent and went to an open drain field. This process
had evidently been tested at Los Alamos in 1952 and was considered an effective way to handle low-level
waste. Eventually, the hot laundry building, sludge lines, and drain field became thoroughly
contaminated. The facility was decontaminated and decommissioned in 1981, when its boiler exploded. A new hot laundry facility (CF-617) took its place, with its sewage lines going directly to a separate septic
tank. The old hot laundry was dismantled in 1992.36
34 Stacy, Proving the Principle, p. 38-40.
35 “Engineering Aspects,” p. 13. 36 For early national perspective, see A.D. Mackintosh (Superintendent of New Facilities Design and Construction at Oak Ridge
National Laboratory), “Architectural Problems in Atomic Labs,” Architectural Forum (January 1952), p. 159. For CFA laundries,
see the Idaho Operations Office, Engineering and Construction Division report by A. L. Biladeau, “Radioactive Waste Removal
in A Trickling Filter Sewage Plant,” May 1953. See also the EG&G Idaho internal technical report by R.D. Browning, “TAN,
TRA, and CFA Sewage Treatment Plant Study” (Operational and Capital Projects Engineering, January 198

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