b'P ROVING THE P RINCIPLEdifferent specialties. As the purporteddirty peons at the low end of the sci-entific pecking order, engineers hadthousands of opportunities to be bril-liant at the NRTS.The Bechtel Company announced itwould finish erecting the EBR build-ings in February of 1951. Zinn, recalledchemist Kirby Witham, had chosen theEBR site to be near the anticipatedjunction of the new road and the oldroad from Blackfoot, cutting travel timeas short as possible. 7[Zinn] didnt want to travel pastCentral. The [IDO] had several sitesINEEL 13185 available, mostly along the Big LostEBR-I building at photo right, with supporting inevitably handed an engineer a major River north of Central. Zinn picked aReactor Test Facility to left. November 1954. challenge. For example, what specific place where we wouldnt have localkind of pump should circulate the traffic passing us all the time. He want -NaK? The liquid would flow at very ed to be regarded strictly as a landaway to keep the fuel from melting. It high temperatures. Traditional mechani- renter. It would cause less friction.8coln t be a material such as water or cal pumps would not hold up. The EBRu d graphite that stole neutrons or slowed used them, but Argonne engineers Un o tu naely, the highway departmentfr t them down. Rather, a liquid metal was eventually invented an electromagnetic changed the highway route, leaving Zinnchosen, a eutectic alloy of sodium pump as well. This pump had no mov- a little more isolated than he had intend-(chemical symbol: Na) and potassium ing parts, was completely sealed, and edand obliging him to explain for(K) called NaK (pronounced nack). was made entirely of metal. 6 years why the EBR was left hangingout there away from everybody.9NaK was liquid at room temperature. It But that wasnt all. Eventually the NaKcould easily pass between the fuel rods would absorb enough neutrons to The designers of the MTR, the secondand collect the heat effi c i en l become radioactive. What if a pipe did r e a c t o r, were content with their sitety, and itd i d n t absorb many neutrons. But itbreak or the NaK had to be replaced? five miles north of Central despite thewa sn t perfect. NaK tended to burn How could people do the work without longer ride from town. It was as flat as when it came into contact with air. T heexposing themselves to danger? What a floorno rolling hills or low ridgespipes containing the NaKand the kind of container should store the old here. They had thought that some ofpumps moving itwould have to work NaK?their experiments might involve theperfectly for a long time. In case the projection of a neutron beam from thepipes did fail, the atmosphere into which Every feature of the reactor had a cas- reactor across distances of up to athe NaK leaked should not contain air. 5 cade of consequences, each of which quarter mile. The ground needed to behad to be confronted and solved. In the flat in at least one direction from theAnd on it went. Physicists chose each end, each reactor was the creation not reactor building. 10 feature of the reactor for a reason based only of a presumed brilliant physicist,in physics, whereupon each feature but of a team of engineers with many4 8'