b'C H A P T E R 12R EA CT O R S B E G ET R EA CT O R SBeing at the leading edge of a new We had a problem at the MTR canal. The AEC Division of Reactorindustry was impressive enough, but Apparently the cladding on one of the Development funded a special labora -the sheer search for knowledge was the fuel elements stored there had failed. tory and a staff for it. This programreason Phillips people went to work The fuel was leaching radionuclides was very broad and permitted theoreti -every dayand stayed all night if a into the canal water, but we had no waycal and experimental studies of the fis -result or reactor startup was expected at of determining which element was the sion products as well as the neutronmidnight or two a.m. For such devo- bad one. We needed what we didnt deficient isotopes produced by bom -tees, there was a bunkhouse at Central, have, which was instruments that werebarding samples in the MTR. Thisand if those beds were full, it was well sensitive enough to detect a mixture ofaccess to the worlds highest continu -known that womens restrooms con- minute quantities of radioactive ele - ous source of neutrons was just tootained cots. 7 ments and tell us what they were. We tempting to resist. But background radi -found a way to solve this problem, andation from weapons tests was a con -The pioneering work at the stant annoyance. The solutionMTR influenced reactor design of that problem was found toall over the free world. Thbe lying on the ground ateSylvania Electric Products Central Facilities Area.Company was typical of theMTR s many commercial cus- We found some thick steel plate tomers. Sylvania wished to that the Navy had left behindmanufacture fuel elements. from its proving ground days.Using two different techniques, That stuff was an absolutethe company made eighteen treasure. It was pre-war steelfuel elements using natural ura- manufactured before any bombnium. The MTR subjected them tests and completely free ofto prolonged high-flux expo- man-made radiation. With thatsureand the scientists we built a special room inobserved how both types gradu- which background radiationally increased in diameter and was reduced to an absolutedecreased in length. Findings minimum.9such as these helped Sylvaniadesign fuel assemblies that In that special room, physicistallowed for swelling, which Russell Heath led a team ofotherwise would choke off the scientists who learned to dis-rn tflow of coolant. 8 INEEL60-873 criminate among the diffee Health physicists scrounged the lining of an old e n e rgy levels in the radiationIf the AEC or home lab scientists at Navy gun barrel and invented a whole body counter. being emitted by the several isotopes inOak Ridge and Argonne had thought Employees were examined regularly. the MTR canal water. They alsothat the Idaho desert would be a passive learned the half-life for each and wereslate on which experiments would be able then to determine when the dam-built, run, and shut down, the Phillips aged fuel element had been placed ingroup soon corrected this notion. in doing so initiated a program to studythe storage canal. Thus, they were ableOpportunities had to be created, prob- the decay schemes of the radioactiveto retrieve it.lems had to be solved. Innovation was isotopes which put nuclear spec -the only answer, and it brought growth, troscopy on a firm basis.as Deslonde deBoisblanc recalled.1 0 9'