by Will Davis; second in a series.
In the previous installment, we observed that some of the earliest pool reactors incorporated their instrumentation right on the moving bridge which supported the reactor core. As reactors increased in size and power and as exposure was considered, control was moved off the bridge onto the floor and then often into a control room (as seen above) in later designs. These control rooms could either be at operating floor height with direct view of the reactor, or separate in another area of the facility.
Before the close of the 1950’s off-the-shelf items to assist in the rapid design and construction of pool and other small reactors had become available including fuel elements and, very importantly, instrumentation and control equipment.
As requirements for smaller reactors moved up from simple training requirements to include research and testing, the size and power of the required reactors grew – and with it, the size of the facilities. Eventually some very large facilities for the “simple” swimming pool reactor were designed and built.
One of the best-known early large installations was that known as the Ford Nuclear Reactor, built at Ann Arbor Michigan by the University of Michgan’s Michigan Memorial – Phoenix Project. The story of this reactor and its facilities is perhaps best told, briefly at least, by the first two paragraphs of the operating manual for the Ford Reactor itself, a copy of which this writer is fortunate to own. The story is thus:
“Operation of the Ford Nuclear Reactor constitutes one of the activities of the Michigan Memorial – Phoenix Project of the University of Michigan. The Phoenix Project is a University-administered interdepartmental activity dedicated to the peacetime utilization of nuclear energy. It is supported by gifts from University alumni and friends and from industry.
The reactor and the building housing it were constructed with a gift of one million dollars from the Ford Motor Company Fund, and contribution from this public-spirited organization to the Phoenix Project. Construction of the research reactor was licensed by the Atomic Energy Commission in February, 1955, construction began in the summer of the same year, and the dedication took place in October, 1956. The reactor fuel was furnished by AEC free of charge.”
Operation of the Ford Nuclear Reactor ended in the year 2003 with the fuel being removed in December of that year, and in 2004 the University of Michigan made the decision to permanently close the reactor and decommission it. This multi-year process (which lasted from 2006 to 2012) ended successfully with the termination of the facility’s license on April 14, 2015. (The Ford Nuclear Reactor had held AEC facility operating license R-28.)
Next installment: The construction of the Ford Nuclear Reactor facility in pictures!
Will Davis is a member of the Board of Directors for the N/S Savannah Association, Inc. He is a consultant to the Global America Business Institute, a contributing author for Fuel Cycle Week, and he writes his own popular blog Atomic Power Review. Davis is also a consultant and writer for the American Nuclear Society, and serves on the ANS Communications Committee and the Book Publishing Committee. He is a former U.S. Navy reactor operator and served on SSBN-641, USS Simon Bolivar. His popular Twitter account, @atomicnews is mostly devoted to nuclear energy.
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