Meltdown Occurs in the First Breeder Reactor (Great Events from History II: Ecology and the Environment Series)
Article abstract: An accidental meltdown in the core of the Experimental Breeder Reactor occurred four years after it became the world’s first nuclear reactor to generate electricity.
Summary of Event
On November 29, 1955, an accidental meltdown of about one-half of the reactor core of the Experimental Breeder Reactor 1 (EBR-1) occurred at the National Reactor Testing Station at Arco, Idaho. The EBR-1 was completed by the Argonne National Laboratory in August, 1951, and became the first nuclear reactor to generate electricity when it produced more than one hundred watts of electrical power on December 20, 1951. Nine years earlier, on December 2, 1942, a team led by Enrico Fermi at the University of Chicago had achieved the first controlled nuclear fission chain reaction as part of the Allied effort to develop an atomic bomb during World War II. Nuclear fission was discovered by Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann in 1938 when they bombarded uranium with neutrons in their laboratory in Berlin, leaving traces of radioactive barium impurities. These results were sent to their former colleague Lise Meitner, who recognized the possibility that neutrons had split uranium atoms (which have 92 protons) into two nearly equal parts, yielding barium (56 protons), krypton (36 protons), and additional neutrons.
Early in 1939, Meitner and her nephew Otto Frisch published their calculations, which showed that the enormous...
(The entire section is 2256 words.)
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