b'C H A P T E R 17S C I E N C E I N T H E D E S E R Texplosions. Safety engineers imagined the handling of NaK coolant, learned August 1964 saw the turbo-generatingwhat else could go wrongan acciden- from the 1955 meltdown what had equipment produce electricity, at first intal criticality on the way to the launch caused instability in the fuel, and final- small amounts, then up to 62.5pad, for example. Then they engineered ly proved that plutonium fuel, megawatts. The reactor supplied all theways to prevent such an occurrence, although it had a low melting point power needs of Argonne-West withsuch as shipping the fuel in small sepa- and deformed under stress, could be enough to spare for part of the demandrate packages. The tests proved that the managed in a breeder reactor as well elsewhere on the NRTS electrical grid. 23reactor would destroy itself, not contin- as uranium. In fact, the breeding ratioue to operate and build up a high inven- improved to 1.27. And the locally Argonne scientists were attempting atory of radioactive fission products if it made electromagnetic pump worked far more daring goal with EBR-II thanfell into the water. 21 through all four core loadings, trouble- merely producing electricity. The idea efre. 2 2 was to produce it efficiently. In additionReactor work, perhaps less photogenic to recycling its own fuel on the premis-than the destructive tests at TAN, was Now EBR-II was moving the breeder es, Argonne also envisioned fuel thatunderway at every other corner of the concept forward, scaling up twenty would burn up, i.e., fission, a highSite. The Army was trying to perfect times larger than EBR-I. After its first percentage of its uranium fuel before itits small mobile reactor, the ML-1, criticality in November 1963, it got so clogged up with fission productshoping to conduct a continuous 500- advanced to the next milestones. that it could no longer sustain a chainhour run in the reaction. Unlikespring of 1964. Atmost other reactorthe NRF, the Navy fuels, EBR-II fuelwas building the was made of pureS5G natural circula- metal, not oxides.tion reactor proto- The fuel elementstype and enlarg i n g were pin-shaped,the Expended Core thirteen and a halfF a c i l i t y. The SPERT inches long and of aand T R EAT insmaller diameterv es t i-gations continued to than an ordinaryunravel the myster- pencil. The standardies of fuel behavior fuel was mostly ura-under abnormal con- nium, enriched to 67d i ti opercent U-235, butns .alloyed with a few- At Argo n neWes t , other metals. A stan-the first-generation dard fuel subassem-breeder reactor was bly took 91 pins,giving way to the which weresecond, the EBR-II. Argonne National Laboratory-West 5814 arranged in a hexag-The venerable EBR-I ended its useful EBR-II turbine generator. onal pattern in the reactor. Aside fromlife in December 1963. It had run on its excellent heat-transfer properties andfour different fuel loadings since 1951. superior breeding qualities, the metalThe first had bred new fuel at a scant fuel made it feasible to melt, refine, andratio of 1.01, just barely replacing the fabricate new fuel elements just downfissioned fuel. The crew had mastered the hallliterally. 24165'