b'C H A P T E R 13T H E T R I U M P H O F P O L I T I C A L G RA V I TY O V E R N U C L EA R F L I G H Tthe control room was an elaborate The test results went out to the rest of GE and the Air Force were imaginingbunker, its walls and ceilings made of the ANPnetwork. The reactor had pro- wa-time scenarios: Suppose the bomberrthick reinforced concrete and covered duced more gamma radiation than penetrates enemy territory and drops itswith earth. Remote-control techniques expected. Oak Ridge, the scene of the payload of atomic bombs. Perhaps itconnected dials and switches to leads major shielding research, considered takes a hit. Crippled, trailing contami-for fuel, air, water, electricity, and mon- the implications: additional shield nated exhaust, it nears the United States.itoring devices. 11 weight would have to burden the air- What was the best route to Idaho? GEscraft unless ways could be found to chief HP, Carl Gamertsfelder, consid-The first Heat Transfer Reactor reduce it.Experimentation with the ered the implications.Experiment (HTRE-1), Heater One in HTRE-1 reactor, its fuel, and theinformal parlance, proved it could go engines continued. With this initial suc-critical on November 4, 1955, not yet cess, it was reasonable to plan the nextattached to an engine. The enriched phase of the Idaho program: an airplaneuranium fuel was clad with nickel- hangar, a runway, and most obviously,chromium. Water was the moderator an airplane. 14and coolant. The engineers made noattempt to restrict the size or weight ofthe assembly or to approximate a flightversion. The assembly was deliberatelylarge so that crews could easily installmonitoring devices and instrumenta-tion. 12On December 30, 1955, HTRE-1 sat on Right. TAN Hot Shop just after completion in 1955its dolly at the test pad. The locomotive and before operation began. Below. Jet engine beforedriver had taken cover. Inside the assembly with reactor.bunker, the scientists had checked and INEEL 55-73double-checked all systems. The enginebegan operating on chemical fuel.Operators gradually withdrew the con-trol rods, taking the reactor critical. Asthe temperature rose, an automatic sen-sor closed the chemical fuel valve. Thecontraption worked. For the first timein the world, the heat of fissioning ura-nium alone powered an airplane engine.The GE test team had proven the prin-ciple. They cheered each other, but-toned up, and went off to celebrate atthe nearest bar, which was ten milesaway at Mud Lake. 13Courtesy of General Electric Aircraft Engines Division1 2 1'