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 TMoving closer to its flight objective, We had three-quarters of the free radioactive. Fuel elements occasionallyGE built a completely new experiment. worlds supply of mercury here at the ruptured or melted, discharging fissionHTRE-3 operated between September Site at one time. We had so much, thatproducts. Some tests imitated accidents1959 and December 1960. The engines when the program was over, we had toby deliberately blocking the flow of airand the reactor were arranged horizon- release it slowly back on the market soto fuel elements, which also causedtally, more typical of an aircraft, and that it wouldnt cause an economic releases. The HPs collaborated with thehad a flight-type shield. The reactor upheaval. It wasnt radioactive becauseU.S. Weather Bureau and defined thevessel was double-walled, with a gap of the mercury wasnt in the annulus whenmeteorological conditions under whichabout seven inches between the two the reactor was running, so it wasnt each test could run. The Air Forcewalls. When the reactor was running, irradiated. chafed under this regimen and regarded17operators filled the space between the John Horan, Dr. Beards successor, astwo walls (the annulus) with water, The HTRE-3 experiments eventually far too conservative. Horan recalled:which acted as a moderator and a ran two turbojet engines at a time atshield. Richard Meservey, an instru- 2,000 degrees F. In December 1960, thementation engineer, recalled how the experiments hit another milestone whenoperators managed to conduct numer- the reactor started the engines withoutous tests in fairly rapid order. the help of any chemical fuel at all. 18As soon as a test was finished, they All GE tests involved IDOs Health anddrained the water from the annulus andSafety personnel because the exhaustpumped the space full of mercury. releases affected territory beyond theMercury is a high-density material, andGE fence. Each time the jets operated,it made a great shield. It allowed the argon and other constituents of the airworkers to climb back up on the assempassing-through the reactor becamebly sooner to change out the instrumen - INEEL13245tation or make other adjustments. Themercury reduced their exposure. Theydidnt have to wait for the short-livedisotopes to decay away. As soon as theywere finished changing the instruments,they would drain out the mercury andpump water back in. Then theyd haulthe reactor back down the track to thecoupling station and run another test. Above right. Shielded locomotive with turntable inbackground. Snow plow in front. Right. Looking eastpast the railroad turntable toward doors of ANPAssembly and Maintenance Building. INEEL 121391 2 3'