b'C H A P T E R 14I M A G I N I N G T H E W O R S Tfuels and cladding materials that could The reactor, the coolant pumps, and the new plutonium from the reactor. Thesurvive higher and higher temperatures heat exchanger all operated inside a spent fuel would have to cool for onlybefore they failed. For example, one tank filled with 86,000 gallons of liquid two weeksnot three or four monthsearly test series subjected EBR-II fuel sodium (not the alloy NaK). The sec- like MTR fuel. A pyrometallurgicto pulses of higher and higher tempera- ondary sodium loop transferred enough processmelting and refining thetures. Thermocouples welded onto the heat to a steam generator to produce the fuelwould separate the good metalcladding measured surface tempera- design level of 62.5 megawatts of elec- from the fission products. Instead oftures. At 970 degrees C., there was little tricity. To prevent accidents deriving being shipped elsewhere to be fabricat-damage. At 1,000 degrees, the cladding from sodium/water contact, the build- ed into new fuel elements, fabricationfailed and molten uranium was ejected ing contained no circulating water. 30 too would be done on-site, eliminatingforcefully enough to damage nearby transport costs. The radioactive wastefuel elements. The tests showed that the Next door to EBR-II, Argonne built the would amount to tiny volumes com-cladding close to the base would fail Fuel Cycle Facility (FCF), a special pared to the liquid wastes being storedfirst. The next test series did the melt- laboratory where scientists were imag- in the Chem Plant tanks. It would all bedowns in a stagnant pool of sodium and ining the best: a fully integrated power safe, reliable, clean, and in the end,then in an environment of flowing sodi- plant combining electrical generation cheaper than mining and hauling coalum. The design of fuel elements, then with a small factory right on the day after day and decade after decade.fuel assemblies, then entire reactor premises to make new fuel elementscores grew ever more sophisticated. 28 out of the unfissioned uranium and theThe research going into the design ofEBR-II required several support build-ings. The IDO opened up a new area forAr gonne at the NRTS. Still interested inreducing the travel time from the IdahoFalls airport, Ar gonne chose to buildEBR-II and Arg on n e- West as close tothe eastern boundary of the NRTS aspossible. After 1955, new facilities wentup regularly, including the A rgonne FastSource Reactor, a small low-power (onekilowatt) research reactor used forphysics studies and to improve instru-mentation and detection methods towardthe design of EBR-IIand all fast-neu-tron reactors elsewhere. 29 EBR-II went critical for the first time inNovember 1963. The reactor building ArgonneNational Laboratory-Westincluded a feature new at the NRTS: a Floor plan for the Fuel Cycle Facility. Spent fuel came from EBR-II next door for on-site disassembly andcontainment shell. The silver dome was recycling. The rectangular section was a hot cell with air atmosphere; the doughnut shaped section, argon gas.made of inch-thick steel; inside, entry Workers could move around the work stations to complete the sequence of tasks required to disassemble fuelinto the reactor room was via a set of elements, heat the fuel in a refining furnace, separate uranium from waste products, and reassemble new fuelairlock doors, a design borrowed from elements.the Navy, to keep the room air-tight.1 3 7'