ANS Nuclear Cafe Friday Matinee – SNAP-10A in Space!


With talk of the Coronavirus permeating every outlet and venue it might be good to take, at least shortly, a simple side trip for the purpose of distraction.  And that side trip today is a look at an official AEC film documenting “The First Nuclear Reactor In Space: SNAP 10A.”

This 1965 film, running just under 15 minutes, gives a description of the specific mission of the SNAP 10A launched into space but also manages to cover the history of the SNAP 10A reactor system. We also get a rare bonus appearance by the legendary Glenn Seaborg, Chairman of the US Atomic Energy Commission.

Enjoy the movie, and stay safe, everyone!

About Will Davis

Will Davis is the Communications Director for the N/S Savannah Association, Inc. where he also serves as historian, newsletter editor and member of the board of directors. Davis has recently been engaged by the Global America Business Institute as a consultant. He is also a consultant to, and writer for, the American Nuclear Society; an active ANS member, he is serving on the ANS Communications Committee 2013–2016. In addition, he is a contributing author for Fuel Cycle Week, and writes his own popular blog Atomic Power Review. Davis is a former US Navy reactor operator, qualified on S8G and S5W plants.

2 thoughts on “ANS Nuclear Cafe Friday Matinee – SNAP-10A in Space!

  1. Howard Shaffer

    Will, Love the Cafe. This may be of interest.

    Chernobyl 34th Anniversary – Valley News Forum Letter 4/26/2020
    Chernobyl, 34 years later
    Thirty-four years ago on April 26, 1986, a terrible accident occurred at the Chernobyl No. 4 nuclear power plant in Ukraine.
    The plant is now safely encased in a Quonset hut-shaped enclosure. It was constructed a distance away from the plant to limit radiation exposure to the builders, and moved into place a few years ago. It is the largest moveable structure ever built. It was paid for by the international community, intended to last for 100 years. It is over the original temporary enclosure, put up in hurry after the accident. The enclosure has remote controlled cranes inside for eventual decommissioning of the damaged plant, after 100 years of decreasing radiation by natural decay.
    After the accident the attached Nos. 1, 2 and 3 power plants operated for many years, because the radioactive contamination released was blown up into the air and did not prevent their operation. The land and forest around the plants was contaminated enough to prevent access to some of the area for a number of years, until radioactive decay decreased the radiation to safe levels. Some of the area is now a tourist attraction. Recently, forest fires in some of the area near the plants spread some of the remaining radioactive contamination, as might be expected.
    The explosive accident was caused by a military design feature known as a “battleshort” switch that blocks automatic safety shutdowns. Battleshort switches do not belong in civilian nuclear power plants and did not exist in civilian plants anywhere outside the former Soviet Union. The question of why this feature was in Soviet civilian nuclear power plants has never been answered.
    The HBO movie on Chernobyl showed these switches being used. If the battleshort switches had not been used, the reactor would have automatically shut down when the operators approached a dangerous condition, and there would have been no accident.
    The writer is a retired nuclear engineer and a member of the American Nuclear Society.

  2. raphael daniels

    I enjoyed the SNAP 10A film and remember when SNAP 27 was launched and was destroyed resulting in Pu-238 world wide fallout from orbit which provided useful information for future launches.

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