The Manhattan Project--2016 A to Z Theme

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

X-10 Nuclear Reactor (#atozchallenge)


I have always fancied that the end of the world will be when some enormous boiler, heated to three thousand millions of atmospheric pressure, shall explode and blow up the globe. ... They [the Americans] are great boilermakers.
Five Weeks in a Balloon 
Official seal of Oak Ridge, Tennessee
Official seal of Oak Ridge, Tennessee (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

X-10 Nuclear Reactor

       In my post for the letter N I referred in passing to Oak Ridge, Tennessee which played a big role in the developing of the first atomic bombs during World War 2.   This project, known as The Manhattan Project because it was planned out in an office in Manhattan, expanded to a number of research and development centers throughout the United States.  This effort, which was one of America's most intensive projects ever, resulted in developing and producing atomic bombs within a time frame of less than three years.  

       In order to accommodate the R & D facilities and its employees and their families, the city of Oak Ridge was rapidly planned and built.  By the end of the war in 1945, the city had grown to become the fifth largest city in Tennessee.  After the war the city continued to serve as an important scientific center for the study and manufacture of nuclear materials.

       A key facility at the Oak Ridge Laboratories was referred to as the X-10 Pile, the first nuclear reactor designed for continuous production.  The X-10 Graphite Reactor produced the plutonium necessary for the atomic bomb.  This reactor is no longer in operation after being shut down in 1963 and designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1966.

        The three key nuclear facilities in Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Los Alamos, New Mexico; and Hanford,  Washington are now the three sites of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park.  Visitors to the park can visit museums and see the original reactors and other components of the laboratories.  For security reasons the X-10 reactor and other buildings at the Tennessee site can only be visited as part of a bus tour provided by Oak Ridge National Laboratories.

         Visiting all three sites would be an epic history vacation for anyone with a strong interest in atomic bomb development, but if you are near any one of these areas a visit to the one to which you are closest is highly recommended.  Oak Ridge is the most accessible to the greatest population area as it sits just a short drive from the most visited National Park in the United States--The Great Smokey Mountains.  The Laboratories are also a two hour drive from Nashville.

            A vacation to the Great Smokies with all of the tourist activities nearby will provide memorable adventure and entertainment for adults and as well as families with children.  There is literally something to please everyone.

        The history of the area ranges from the time when the indigenous peoples such as the Creeks and Cherokees inhabited the land, to the time of the early European settlers, to the Civil War Era and beyond.    The X-10 Reactor is just one more piece of the history that brought the United States into the Atomic Age.

         Have you visited any of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park sites?   Have you ever visited any nuclear power plant or other similar facility?    Do you see a positive future for nuclear energy?
     
   






43 comments:

  1. I never have visited any of these sites. The closest I've come is driving past a nuclear power plant in Illinois. Still, I've always been perplexed how they can actually produce things like plutonium. It's so crazy what science can do.

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    1. Jeffrey, and to think they started doing this stuff before any of us were born. Nuclear energy has always been a consideration in my lifetime.

      Lee

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  2. Hello Lee.
    Yes. South Africa has a nuclear research facility in the Magalliesburg area near Johannesburg. South Africa developed nuclear bombs at the facility but they were dismantled in 1991 just before the African National Congress took over the government of the country. There is also a nuclear power plant on the outskirts of Melkbostrand where I was living before moving to Johannesburg a couple of years ago.
    Do I see a future for atomic energy in the future of the world? I do know that while the rest of the world are moving away from this incredibly dangerous energy source, the African National Congress are intending to build a whole bunch of nuclear power plants. I personally don't think it's a good idea and feel we should be heading towards renewable energy. As to the future of the world I'm under the impression the human race is going to wipe themselves out unless we start taking into account the consequences of our polluting habits. It's time to change our ways and start looking after our planet.
    Thanks for the thought provoking post, Geoff.

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    1. Geoff, a perfectly clean and safe energy source would be the ideal, but when you think about what exactly the concept of "energy" entails the potential range of risks start becoming more evident no matter what the source is.

      Lee

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  3. We live about 10 miles from the Oyster Creek nuclear power station which is the nation's oldest nuclear power plant. It is scheduled to close in 2019 — 10 years earlier than planned.

    Interesting fact: "As the nation’s oldest nuclear power plant, the Oyster Creek Generating Station, sucks in 1.4 billion gallons of water a day from the Forked River to cool its reactor, then pumps the water back out into neighboring Oyster Creek at higher temperatures, NJ.com reported. Come late winter and early spring, the creek becomes — literally and figuratively — the state’s hottest fishing hole.
    Species including striped bass, bluefish and flounder that largely migrate to warmer waters or go dormant in winter instead remain in the warm waters of the creek and keep biting through the hardest freezes."
    There are always people fishing off the bridge. I'm not sure how I feel about eating fish from that river.
    Perhaps it's because I'm not informed enough about nuclear power that I'm leery.
    Or perhaps it's because of this:
    "The Ocean County Health Department (OCHD) will be at the Lacey Township Community Hall located at Route 9 and Lacey Road on Friday, October 3, 2014, from 3 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. distributing Potassium Iodide (KI) tablets to persons who live within a 10-mile radius of the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station."
    " Potassium iodide, if taken within the appropriate time and at the appropriate dosage, blocks the thyroid gland's uptake of radioactive iodine and thus reduces the risk of thyroid cancers and other diseases that might otherwise be caused by thyroid uptake of radioactive iodine that could be dispersed in a severe reactor accident."
    Yeah, it's that.

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    1. Lynda, it's a scary thing for sure.

      Lee

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  4. I've not been up-close to a Nuclear Power Station but I have seen (on TV) the devastation it causes when it all goes wrong. Thought provoking post, Arlee.

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    1. Nicola, Chernobyl in Russia was a devastating event that wiped out a city.

      Lee

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  5. I didn't realize they were national parks now.

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    1. Alex, I didn't realize this either, then ironically yesterday morning before I went to finish my post I ran across a newspaper article about the "One Park, Three Sites" and that settled my direction for the post.

      Lee

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  6. I would stay far away from Hanford if I were you. There's too much waste stored there. I wouldn't take the chance. I've been against nuclear power since I was in high school in the 80s. They are finally shutting down the Pilgrim reactor in Plymouth in a couple of years. But there's a huge one out near Fall River. Too dangerous. Look what happened at Chernobyl and at Fukishima after the quake. Even Three Mile Island in PA.

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    1. JoJo, I've been to the Hanford area a number of times but never stayed long. I still think nuclear energy has a great potential. After all our greatest source of energy, the sun, is one great big nuclear reactor.

      Lee

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  7. I would definitely love a visit to the Smokey Mountains but I don't know that I'd go and visit the nuclear site. That stuff is scary...

    Michele at Angels Bark

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    1. Michele, I've been to Oak Ridge many times and it's just a regular town with a good Atomic Energy Museum and other historic sites. I've never heard of anyone in that area who has suffered any weird affects from the nuclear stuff. You should definitely visit East Tennessee if you've never been there and those who have been there usually return.

      Lee

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  8. Until a way is found to take care of/store the dangerous waste nuclear power plants generate, I don't see how they can be considered *safe.* And when we see the effects from Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima I wonder how anyone can think it's a viable option.

    Do you know there are people trying to figure out a way to warn generations into the future to stay away from the dump sites? They're trying to figure out a mythology, with symbols that will be carried thousands! of years into the future. Is that crazy or what?

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    1. Bish, the waste issue is the biggest argument against nuclear energy, but then it's an argument against many forms of energy generation. I've heard about that warning for the future generations. We need to find a way to neutralize the waste and perhaps find a way to use it in some way that makes it safe. I think there is probably an answer, but we need to find it before proceeding much farther with using nuclear.

      Lee

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  9. The idea of nuclear power still makes me nervous, especially when you look at the places where things went wrong. But I don't think it is going away.

    I haven't visited any of the sites, but my parents do live in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

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    1. Tamara, we need energy and we need to find the safest methods to use. There have been arguments against all forms.

      Blue Ridge mountains are close to the East Tennessee area. The Blue Ridge Parkway is a beautiful route that leads down the the Smokey Mountains.

      Lee

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  10. >>..."designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1966."

    Okay, so taxes pay for the upkeep or other funding? Sorry, couldn't help asking.

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    1. Dixie, I'm not sure about the funding, but Oak Ridge Laboratories is still a large operating facility which is funded through the Department of Energy. I would imagine there is also a great deal of income generated by the Labs, but it's actually something I've never thought of. There is a fee for the museum which the tours are a part of and they do have a gift shop and concessions that probably add to the income. But since the National Park is involved I'm sure part of the funding is through the Park service, but I have not idea how all monies are dispersed or what the costs are. This would be an interesting question to explore. Since this is a site of interest to many people and a historical site as well I guess tax funding might be appropriate--probably a better investment than a lot of things the government spends money on.

      Lee

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  11. It would be interesting to visit these places and learn more about the history of this "boiler" device. Jules Verne's quote was spot on, and now we've got competition just about everywhere. The race to creating that explosion is heating up.

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    1. C.Lee, hopefully no country will blow up the world, but the threat of nuclear destruction always hangs over us.

      Lee

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  12. A very serious topic and one not ro be ignored.
    I do hope all will be well for all concerned living and visitng close by.
    Yvonne.

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    1. Yvonne, I don't think there is too much to worry about in the areas around the Manhattan Project Parks.

      Lee

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  13. I read a great book about Oak Ridge. I would love to visit but probably won't get there or much of anyplace else. Oh, well. At least I have good books and good blogs to take me where I want to go. I once saw Three Mile Island in the distance while on a trip. Am I worried about energy produced by nuclear power? Not really. I'm more likely to get lost in Jacksonville and wander in circles till I die than killed in a Chernobyl-type accident.

    Love,
    Janie

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. Janie, there are plenty of things that can kill us. No point in worrying--if it's going to happen it's going to happen.

      Lee

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  14. J here, of the #atozchallenge Arlee Bird's A to Z Ambassador Team. With love from #azchat - the last for the year.
    My blog's giveaway is still going.
    http://jlennidornerblog.what-are-they.com
    Very interesting. No, I haven't been there.
    Have been past the Limerick Generating Station in Pottstown, PA many times. Never in it, just past it.

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    1. J, thanks for all you've done during this year's Challenge. You've been a tremendous asset to us all.

      I'm not sure if any nuclear plants offer tours, but it would be an interesting experience. I took a tour of one that was near Pembroke, Ontario in Canada, but it was an insider tour that someone who worked there arranged for me. It was a fascinating experience.

      Lee

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  15. You make me want to travel~ I miss the open road and the sense of adventure!

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    1. Ella, I've been stirring myself up for my upcoming road trip as well. Maybe I'll even visit Manhattan this time when I'm in New Jersey.

      Lee

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  16. anything can used to kill, even a kitchen knife, its all up to us
    http://www.obliqview.blogspot.in

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    1. I B, exactly! This is what I've always said.

      Lee

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  17. Here in South Africa we have a few nuclear plants, one near Cape Town which is functioning. We're all concerned about buying MORE nuclear reactors when renewable energy is up and running already. And of course there's always the concern about Chernobyl or Fukushima happening again ...

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    1. Susan S, the least dangerous renewable sources of energy should always be considered first, but we need to keep options open and find ways to make what is potentially dangerous safe if this is a practical way to go.

      Lee

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  18. I've never been inside a nuclear power plant, but I have been close to the plant at Dungeness on the Kent coast in England...protesting against Nuclear Power in the early 80s. Even now I feel strongly that the renewable options are safer and now more viable, i.e: solar roadways

    https://rolandclarke.com/2016/04/28/x-for-xenagogue-atozchallenge/

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    1. Roland, solar has a lot of diverse potential. More research and practical application needs to be done.

      Lee

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  19. I'm positive that they could mean bad news, with negative health implications.

    I've never been to a nuclear facility, at least not that I remember. I did grow up in the state that has been the dumping ground for this country - South Carolina. :)

    Have a blessed day!

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    1. Suzanne, we should proceed with caution, but never totally turn our backs on possibilities.

      Lee

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    2. True. I just can't get the picture out of my mind that I saw when I was a little girl of the aftermath of a nuclear disaster. Some things marketed as progress are not at all the best for us.

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  20. I have never visited any of these and don't feel the want to. I think there is something beneficial...if handled correctly

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    1. Birgit, I visited a nuclear facility near Pembroke, Ontario in 1981. It was quite an experience!

      Lee

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  21. Hi Arlee! Just finished my first A to Z Challenge. It was exhausting, but great fun. Stop by if you're interested at www.greenlifebluewater.wordpress.com

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    1. Pamela, I visited your site but did not see any way to comment.

      Lee

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