Milestone-Proposal talk:First Industrial Scale Nuclear Reactor


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Advocate Review106:26, 21 September 2011

Advocate Review


I think that the significance section of this proposal needs to be worked on. Here is the current significance section: "First full scale production nuclear reactor that produced the Plutonium 239 for use in the first nuclear bomb test (Trinity) and subsequent military use (Fat Man) in the bombing of Nagasaki, Japan during WWII. Discovery of Xenon poisoning by Enrico Fermi." has a more complete description of the significance of this milestone which I have tweaked as follows:

"B Reactor, the world's first industrial-scale nuclear reactor, was built during World War II as part of the top-secret Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb. One of three plutonium production reactors built in total secrecy at Hanford during World War II, B Reactor produced plutonium for the Trinity test at Alamagordo, New Mexico, on July 16, 1945, and for the atomic bomb exploded on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. B reactor led to the discovery of xenon poisoning."

John Wheeler and Leona Marshall Libby are also credited with the discovery of xenon poisoning. I am not sure what the literature says here as far as crediting Enrico Fermi exclusively, but the oral history of the issue seems that all three should be credited.

You could also just say it was significant because it led to the discovery of xenon poisoning and not credit an individual since the milestone is about the B-reactor.

Also, the significance of this milestone in many ways was more than military. Maybe this should be discussed? This reactor wasn't used exclusively for military purposes and led to other discoveries I am sure.

It also seems that most of this citation has been taken verbatim from:

I believe it should be edited individually for this milestone by the proposers, especially as it will ultimately end up on the GHN website and we wouldn't want to have direct copying of other material on the site.

Another comment: The owner should be correctly spelled: "U.S. Deprtment of Energy" is wrong.

Lisetiffner19:58, 20 September 2011

The advocate's comments are well taken. The historical significance section as written is too broad and I agree needs to be more focused on the technological and social significance of the proposed milestone. While the social and to some extent the economic aspects involved with respect to the construction of the facility are addressed, no mention is made of the consequential contamination that occurred. The Wiki summary of the Hanford facility is in general, I think, more to the point. It also has a good summary of the technological innovations that were made to get the plant on line.

Since the sole purpose of the B.reactor was the manufacture of plutonium, how it might relate to subsequent reactors designed for power generation is not clear, although a subsequent N.reactor at the site was built for power generation. To what extent its design is an extension of the B.reactor would be of interest. B.reactor’s significance, in terms of the milestone, is solely that it was the first industrial nuclear plant built. Within that context, i.e., of getting a plant on-line, mentioning that the first instance of neutron (in this case Xenon) poisoning occurred with the startup of the B.reactor is all that is needed; however, if credit for recognizing its occurrence is to be included, then as cited in your reference, all three who were involved should be credited.

Mort Hans Regions 1-6 Coordinator

W2ots06:23, 21 September 2011