Friday, September 1, 2017

The Trip Post 7

  We traveled to ARCO Id to see the EBR-1 at the INL complex.  No, it is not the pic above, that is far more complex and magical. 

  It was very busy at the tourist site and security was controlling cars, one out and then one in. I suggested we skip it since we could both describe it in our sleep and it would be crowded with people. He wanted a pic of a particular pipe and a number from a pump. So we parked after someone left and went out of the hot sun and into a cool building.

  No idea what this machine is, but it takes a big tractor to pull it.

  Cute terrified volunteer's second day at work. I felt sad for her as she had no clue what the building was or how it worked and the tour guides had not shown up yet.

  This is the 8 cylinder BUDA diesel engine and generator that powered the complex 24x7. They were off the grid as it is called now. 

  This Wisconson powered genset was the backup power. The green tank was dry compressed air. used to operate air powered servos and for cooling air in reflector.

  Being in Idaho, heat for the building was needed so this is the oil fired boiler. As you can see we started in the utility room, as no one else was there and the place was way too crowded with tourists. 

  This reactor used weapons grade U-235 for fuel in a fast neutron reaction. All the fuel was in pencil size rods( 0.35 inch) that lived in the center hex. one of the rods was a neutron source, since bomb grade U-235 is not radioactive. All the holes around it had larger rods made of depleted U-238 which was the breeder blanket. Outside of the pressure vessel was a foot thick cup made of U-238 blocks that could be raised for more reflectivity and power or lowered to stop the reactor. It used a hydraulic ram and was powered by a self-contained system. 
SCRAM actuator

 The SCRAM system was a 6-inch ring hanging from the ceiling in the control room. It was on an aircraft quality cable that ran through pipes to the basement and connected to the hydraulic pressure quick release valve. Simple and reliable. A electric SCRAM button was on control panel and would release power to two normally open electric relay hydraulic pressure release valves.  

Fuel rod storage vault

 Fast neutrons from the high flux area in the center would mutate some of the U-238 into U-240 or Np 239 which then beta decayed down to Pu 239 which could be used as fuel in any reactor or to make a bomb.

  This is a good drawing of the reactor and it's cooling system. NaK was the liquid metal used to transfer heat generated by the reactor. It went through a heat exchanger to a 2nd NaK loop which in turn went to a superheater then boiler and the economizer to make steam to drive a small turbine genset. Why two loops? The first loop was in direct contact with the fuel rods and held a small quantity just in case it became contaminated.

 It is a totally safe and valid way to produce never ending power, but the USA had gone with a Westinghouse slow neutron boiling water design. France saw the value of this reactor and has safely used them for decades. Typical of USA to build better mouse trap and then ignore it. 

  Just another diesel pic, engines are interesting to me. 

  So there always has to be something I get myself into. In museums, there is always a professor know it all. I like following them just to hear their wacky ideas.

I told myself I would not even answer a simple question if asked on this fine day. 
  I needed to sit for a bit and went to the class room to chill out. There were a few people in there, but I found a chair. After too short of time a man came in with about five people in tow. He was explaining the site to them completely wrong. It was like he did not even read the tour guide the girl was handing out when you came in. I mean total BS.

  After a few minutes of that crap, I stood up and asked if anyone wanted to know how the site really worked. I heard a yes and went full steam ahead explaining the whole process and then saw the man's angry face and much to my surprise, I said 'excuse me I have problems other people do not have and just forget everything I said.' Then I quickly walked out and went into the basement.  

NAK receiving tank

 A while later a woman approached me and thanked me for explaining the reactor.  

Dave got the pic he wanted, this is the steam condenser and feed water pumps
  After this, it was a quick visit to ARCO ( first town to get nuclear power ) and Atomic City to see the race track and other odd things. It was a quick drive back to SLC, good food, and a nice nights sleep. We both flew back to our normal lives that morning, so this is the last trip post. Yet another great adventure with nephew Dave.


  1. Really cool photos! Need to check out this place! Thanks for the share, keep up the posts!

    1. Thank You for leaving a nice comment Henry. Happy it could inspire you to visit the EBR-1 Liquid metal cooled fast neutron breeder reactor. This is a landmark for a top achievement in safe nuclear electric power.

  2. I need one of those diesel generators for the farm. Except I couldn't afford to fuel it. :^)

  3. Hey it is a supercharged low RPM engine with a 500KW generator, I bet it would sip diesel like a fine wine on your farm.