Nuclear Reactor Wall Chart Electronic Library

by Ulrich Decher

For those of us involved in the design of nuclear reactors in the 1970s and 1980s, it was fairly common to walk into somebody’s office and see a wall chart depicting the reactor that was being developed or serviced. These were foldout charts that were technically accurate. They were 3D renditions of the reactor, with cutouts showing the internals of the plant, and were made available by the magazine Nuclear Engineering International in the 1950s through the 1990s as inserts in the magazine. Now, several decades later, many of these charts were lost to the publisher due to the multitude of reorganizations and moves that have occurred.

Bradwell Nuclear Power Station

Ron Knief at Sandia National Laboratories had used many of these charts as educational tools during his career at the University of New Mexico (UNM) and Sandia. He realized that using the same charts over and over led to some degradation of the hard copies, and he also realized that many would be lost as time went on.  So, he started a project of trying to gather as many of these charts as he could to preserve them as educational tools and for posterity.

The result is an electronic library of wallcharts (currently all 105 published by Nuclear Engineering International). It is maintained by UNM’s Centennial Engineering Library.

Wylfa Power Station (click to enlarge)

The resolution of these electronic charts is quite good. I was able to zoom in at 200-percent magnification with not much evidence of pixels. This allowed reading the fine print on the charts without difficulty. The publisher of the magazine retains the rights to reproduce larger (higher resolution) laminated charts for a fee.

Gösgen Nuclear Power Plant

Ron had collected about two dozen charts and was able to gather the others courtesy of librarians and friends at Sandia, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, the magazine publisher, and Idaho National Laboratory. The latter provided about 60 of the charts that are now available electronically.

The hardcopy charts that Ron collected along the way—about 40 in all—are now in a separate archive at the UNM Library. He also has some charts from sources other than Nuclear Engineering International to be added to the collection after obtaining, he hopes, permission of the copyright owners. Readers who have materials to add to the electronic and/or hardcopy collections, please contact Ron Knief and help preserve both an interesting and an important part of nuclear industry history.



Ulrich Decher holds a PhD in nuclear engineering. He is a member of the ANS Public Information Committee and a contributor to the ANS Nuclear Cafe.

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