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Kodak Basement Lab Housed Small Nuclear Reactor

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the could-have-been-quite-the-kodak-moment dept.

Power 169

McGruber writes "The Rochester (NY) Democrat-Chronicle has the interesting story of the Eastman Kodak Co.'s Californium Neutron Flux Multiplier, which was housed in Building 82 of Kodak Park in Rochester, NY. The multiplier contained 3½ pounds of highly enriched (weapons-grade) uranium. Kodak used it to check chemicals and other materials for impurities, as well as for tests related to neutron radiography, an imaging technique. From the article: 'When Kodak decided six years ago to close down the device, still more scrutiny followed. Federal regulators made them submit detailed plans for removing the substance. When the highly enriched uranium was packaged into protective containers and spirited away in November 2007, armed guards were surely on hand. All of this — construction of a bunker with two-foot-thick concrete walls, decades of research and esoteric quality control work with a neutron beam, the safeguarding and ultimate removal of one of the more feared substances on earth — was done pretty much without anyone in the Rochester community having a clue.'"

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sigh... (5, Insightful)

Bugler412 (2610815) | more than 2 years ago | (#39999093)

"Cue the irrational fears and misunderstanding of these materials and processes while the coal fired power plant burns down the street" music

Re:sigh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39999123)

It's already closed down, so it's a little too late for NIMBY there.

Re:sigh... (5, Funny)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#39999851)

But you've deprived the NIMBYs from whining and shrieking. Had they known about the presence of this thing right in their back yard it would have provided meaning and purpose for their otherwise useless lives. But now, some unfeeling corporate giant has deprived them of this by removing that threat.

These faceless corporations, with no motivation other than profit (well, OK, its Kodak) have taken something that we hold precious away from us. Our right to bitch.

Re:sigh... (-1)

MrKaos (858439) | more than 2 years ago | (#40000369)

But you've deprived the NIMBYs from whining and shrieking. Had they known about the presence of this thing right in their back yard it would have provided meaning and purpose for their otherwise useless lives. But now, some unfeeling corporate giant has deprived them of this by removing that threat.

Whilst it's unlikely that anything would have happened Kodak went ahead and did what-ever it wanted to do regardless of any perceived or real threat to the local community for 30 years. That pretty much demonstrates disdain towards the community.

These faceless corporations, with no motivation other than profit (well, OK, its Kodak) have taken something that we hold precious away from us. Our right to bitch.

They also took away the right for the emergency services workers to be trained and know what they were dealing with in the event of a fire or other situation potentially involving weapons grade radioisotopes.

Re:sigh... (4, Interesting)

tinkerghost (944862) | more than 2 years ago | (#40000421)

They also took away the right for the emergency services workers to be trained and know what they were dealing with in the event of a fire or other situation potentially involving weapons grade radioisotopes.

Um, not really. I knew it was there. Just about anyone who went to college in the area knew it was there - if you were a hard science major. What they didn't do was advertise it. They got regulators to approve it & they put it in - no publicity & no big shouting matches over it.

Re:sigh... (4, Insightful)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#40000961)

They also took away the right for the emergency services workers to be trained and know what they were dealing with in the event of a fire or other situation potentially involving weapons grade radioisotopes.

Think so?

It's possible that emergency services knew what was on site and may even have procedures in place to deal with it. Its also possible that they didn't feel the need to involve every Joe Sixpack in the neighborhood in the details of where a couple of pounds of weapons grade fissile material was located.

Re:sigh... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40001285)

They also took away the right for the emergency services workers to be trained and know what they were dealing with in the event of a fire or other situation potentially involving weapons grade radioisotopes.

By what, not broadcasting about it on the news? Are you fucking serious? Just because a basement nerd doesn't know about a reactor doesn't mean emergency services won't. Newsflash: Emergency services do not rely on twitter or Fox News to get their information, they use neat little database thingies. If they thought of sending in armed guards, there's a good chance more than one public government agency was involved and that part of their responsibilities involved telling 911 about a nuclear reactor.

Re:sigh... (-1, Offtopic)

Jeremiah Cornellus (2639179) | more than 2 years ago | (#39999135)

Well, to begin, I'm just your average guy. But unlike your average guy, I once had everything anyone could ever want: a gorgeous wife, a beautiful two-story house, an adorable seven year old daughter, a stable job, and a nice salary. Basically, I was living the American dream. None of my needs or wants were left unfulfilled. The family always got along, and everything was perfect.

Until one day, that is. Following one of my routine doctor appointments, my doctor informed me that I had lung cancer and that I only had a few years to live at most. As you can imagine, I was shocked. Not just shocked; I could see all of my hopes and dreams being shattered right before my very eyes. Still, my doctor gave me hope by telling me that there was a chance, however slim, that Chemotherapy and various other things could help me. After speaking with my wife, I decided to receive the treatments.

All was not lost. I still had a perfect family that I could rely on and get emotional support from. I still had hope for the future. I'm a firm believer that you should make the best of things rather than wallow in depression. I had to press on: not just for my sake, but for the sake of my loved ones. But my strong resolve was soon shattered.

The family I thought I could count on betrayed me. My wife, whom I loved deeply, filed for a divorce. She said that she could not handle the emotional trauma of being with someone who had cancer. She apologized profusely, but no matter what I said, I could not change her mind. I screamed, I cried, and I begged her to rethink her decision, but it was all to no avail.

In my madness, I made all kinds of accusations. I said that she was cheating on me, that she never loved me, that she just married me for my money, and various other things. I soon learned, however, that a few of those were more than just baseless accusations. I began stalking her, going through all of her personal possessions, and trying uncover any secrets she may have been keeping. What I discovered horrified me: she had been cheating on me with another man for the past year. She must have been waiting for an opportune time to abandon me for this other man.

When confronted about her betrayal, she screamed at me, told me it was none of my business, told me that I was always a worthless husband, and told me that I was an abusive man. I soon discovered that there was absolutely nothing that I could do. My marriage was in shambles, and by this point, I was on the brink of suicide. The only thing keeping me going was my devotion to my precious daughter.

It wasn't long before I received news from my insurance company that they were getting rid of my coverage. They gave me multitudes of vague and bogus reasons, but anyone could figure out their true reason: they did not want to waste money on a dying man. Naturally, I planned to fight this with every fiber of my being, but I knew it would be a long, drawn out process.

In the span of a year, I went from a very happy man who had everything he wanted to a miserable shell of what I once was. I couldn't take it anymore. Despite the fact that I wanted to remain in this world for the sake of my daughter, I tried committing suicide four times. All four attempts failed. I needed something to take my misery, regret, and anger out on. First I began verbally abusing my daughter. It wasn't long before I began physically abusing her. Sometimes I did it with my bare hands, and other times I used various objects. Beating my daughter soon became my only pleasure. My life had spiraled out of control into a den of anguish, uncertainty, and madness.

That's when it happened: I found MyCleanPC [mycleanpc.com] . I downloaded it, scanned my computer, and had it fix all of my problems. MyCleanPC [mycleanpc.com] is outstanding! My computer is running faster than ever!

My wife's response? "MyCleanPC [mycleanpc.com] came through with flying colours where no one else could!"

My daughter was absolutely overjoyed. As soon as she heard and saw just how effective MyCleanPC [mycleanpc.com] was, she told everyone, "MyCleanPC [mycleanpc.com] totally cleaned up my dad's system and increased his speed!"

If you're having computer troubles, I highly recommend you download MyCleanPC [mycleanpc.com] and run a free scan. It's a high-quality piece of software that will solve all of your problems. MyCleanPC [mycleanpc.com] completely saved my life! Wow! Thanks MyCleanPC [mycleanpc.com] ! I love you MyCleanPC [mycleanpc.com] !

MyCleanPC: For a Cleaner, Safer PC. [mycleanpc.com]

Re:sigh... (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39999201)

Sadly, he died the next day.
But he died with a clean PC.

Re:sigh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39999473)

Sadly, he died the next day.
But he died with a clean PC.

Sure, if you don't count the cyberdefender infection.

Re:sigh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39999211)

+1, Funny is an understatement. Saving my mod points for this reason.

Re:sigh... (1)

Dishevel (1105119) | more than 2 years ago | (#39999331)

Highly entertaining.

Re:sigh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39999381)

What the FUCK is THIS?!

Re:sigh... (1)

flimflammer (956759) | more than 2 years ago | (#40001049)

I've seen this before but every time I get a good laugh out of it.

Re:sigh... (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 2 years ago | (#39999423)

Copper thieves stole the transformer windings from the "coal plant down the street from Kodak" 4 years ago.

That made the news as the oil protecting the windings to and help keep them cool was dumped into the local water supply.

Re:sigh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40000033)

...enjoy your chloracne and birth defects.

Re:sigh... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40000297)

They're from New York. This makes it very difficult to tell if a person has birth defects or is just a "regular" New Yorker.

Re:sigh... (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#40000413)

But it's about 6 hours from NYC. We ship all of the birth defects down there to blend in.

Re:sigh... (2)

peragrin (659227) | more than 2 years ago | (#40000651)

shh don't tell them the truth. I still can get away with saying I saw the WTC falling from Rochester.

(yes I have had that conversation several times)

Re:sigh... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40000191)

Kodak has a record of being rather cavalier with their chemistry. I won't pretend to understand nuclear materials handling, but Kodak would eventually stick it in the Genesee for the lulz. Its demise is progressing a bit too slowly for my taste.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastman_Kodak#Environmental_record

Re:sigh... (1)

dankasak (2393356) | more than 2 years ago | (#40000957)

Irrational fears? Are you an idiot, or a paid social media spammer?

Good. (5, Insightful)

Cold hard reality (1536175) | more than 2 years ago | (#39999103)

This way they were actually able to get it done.

It's fucking KODAK, okay? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39999229)

Yeah, normally, I'd say "good point - it worked, success should be acknowledged, we don't need cowards shrieking about what might have happened."

However, we're talking about fucking KODAK here. Having those amoral bastards succeed is not a good thing - that's like saying you're glad Torquemada was so handy with the pliers.

Hey watcha doin? (4, Funny)

toygeek (473120) | more than 2 years ago | (#39999111)

"Moving nuclear materials. The usual."

Re:Hey watcha doin? (2)

imadork (226897) | more than 2 years ago | (#40001021)

Hey, where's Perry?

Well, except... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39999115)

The three-eyed Smith family, the seven-toed Johnsons, and the two-headed Garcias. No one else had a clue.

Re:Well, except... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39999463)

I'm ashamed to admit I giggled at the thought of a seven-toed johnson.

On mutation. . . (1)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 2 years ago | (#39999871)

Mutation is responsible for the development of life. It happens regardless of man-made sources of radiation. In general, mutation will not give you a third eye or second head in a single generation. That sort of mutation is extremely unlikely.

As for other sorts of birth defects which would be more likely to be expected from random mutations, those are going to happen whether we use nuclear power or not. Again, mutation is natural and has been happening for a billion years.

We can't reasonably say that mutation driven by a very slight increase in the background radiation, which would only happen in the unlikely, but possible, case of a nuclear accident, is any more or less harmful than mutations caused by the original background radiation. The number of additional mutations/birth defects caused by that very slight increase in background radiation would be almost impossible to detect statistically. Also, there's a chance that a mutation would be *beneficial* instead of harmful - improved senses, improved health, better metabolism, better athleticism, better aging, etc.

Reminds me about LA's nuclear reactor (5, Interesting)

GeneralSecretary (1959616) | more than 2 years ago | (#39999119)

Los Angeles used to have a little experimental reactor in UCLA. It was quite controversial once residents found out about it. http://uclafacultyassociation.blogspot.com/2011/04/ucla-history-nuclear-reactor.html [blogspot.com]

Re:Reminds me about LA's nuclear reactor (2)

6ULDV8 (226100) | more than 2 years ago | (#39999195)

which had the power of 100 toasters

Sounds like my first PC. Or a new superhero.

Re:Reminds me about LA's nuclear reactor (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39999273)

They should be more worried about their neighbours experimenting with homebrew fusion

Re:Reminds me about LA's nuclear reactor (5, Interesting)

flink (18449) | more than 2 years ago | (#39999279)

MIT still does: http://web.mit.edu/nrl/www/ [mit.edu]

Re:Reminds me about LA's nuclear reactor (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40000355)

Reed College in Portland has one, and still operates it. http://reactor.reed.edu/

Re:Reminds me about LA's nuclear reactor (4, Informative)

twotacocombo (1529393) | more than 2 years ago | (#39999329)

Los Angeles used to have another experimental reactor, until it melted down, fell over, then sank into the swamp: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Susana_Field_Laboratory#Sodium_reactor_experiment [wikipedia.org]

Re:Reminds me about LA's nuclear reactor (4, Funny)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39999757)

Huh... so that's why L.A. is full of freaks and mutants...

Re:Reminds me about LA's nuclear reactor (4, Informative)

muon-catalyzed (2483394) | more than 2 years ago | (#39999397)

Interestingly, in crazy Europe, they have nuclear reactors inside major cities too, and without much controversy or resistance. Most people there do not even know they live a few hundred meters from a potential nuclear ground zero:

http://www.helmholtz-berlin.de/zentrum/grossgeraete/ber2/index_en.html [helmholtz-berlin.de]
http://www.enygf.eu/technical-visits/training-reactor-vr1.html [enygf.eu]

What's more, these are testing facilities, a hocus pocus test sites.

Re:Reminds me about LA's nuclear reactor (4, Interesting)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 2 years ago | (#39999969)

There are three reactors in (or very near) Prague, all of them for undergrad and students and powernuke-technicians-in-training to play with. Some material experiments and other studies needing intense radiation are performed there, too. Nobody gives a damn. We should be actually quite proud of them, everything here is home-built. Damned Austrians with their silly alarmist shrieks, though.

Re:Reminds me about LA's nuclear reactor (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39999419)

RPI still does. http://www.eng.rpi.edu/soe/index.php/undergraduate-academics/programs-overview/24-nuclear-engineering

24 nuclear universities in just the US (4, Informative)

ace37 (2302468) | more than 2 years ago | (#39999743)

Wikipedia lists 29 active and licensed civilian reactors; the majority of them belong to universities. Most were built in the 60's, most are General Atomics TRIGA reactors, and the power outputs range from 1 W to 10 MW. Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_nuclear_reactors [wikipedia.org]

A few other civilian groups are licensed to have nuclear material, and of course other sectors and nations have lots of the stuff. It's really pretty common.

Re:Reminds me about LA's nuclear reactor (2)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 2 years ago | (#39999751)

MANY universities have reactors on campus. Where do you think we get Nuclear Engineers? I live a couple of miles from the UW-Madison reactor. It's been running for 40 years without issue. http://reactor.engr.wisc.edu/

Re:Reminds me about LA's nuclear reactor (4, Interesting)

dbc (135354) | more than 2 years ago | (#40000035)

Yup. IIRC, the commonly used unit 30 years ago or so was the UTR-10 -- "University Teaching Reactor 10". Pretty much any engineering school with a nuclear engineering program back then had one of those hiding some place that was.... umm.... not well advertised. I haven't kept up, but I suspect the same unit or maybe a slightly updated design is still common. It wasn't weapons grade Uranium, though, but certainly fissionable because the whole point was learning to operate a power generation reactor as would be found at an electric utility or on a US Navy vessel.

I wouldn't have known about it at all except that my roommate's girlfriend was a NucE student who trained on it. It's existence wasn't widely known. More students could navigate the steam tunnels than knew how to find the reactor.

Re:Reminds me about LA's nuclear reactor (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39999793)

Los Angeles used to have a little experimental reactor in UCLA. It was quite controversial once residents found out about it.

http://uclafacultyassociation.blogspot.com/2011/04/ucla-history-nuclear-reactor.html [blogspot.com]

Weird UCI still has one... Wonder why they shut down UCLA's but not UCI
http://www.chem.uci.edu/~gemiller/reactor.html

Re:Reminds me about LA's nuclear reactor (1)

Dark$ide (732508) | more than 2 years ago | (#39999847)

QMC (University of :London) used to have a small nuclear reactor in Stratford E15. That's right where the London 2012 Olympic Park has been built. We had a visit there in 1981. They used to heat up a bit of water from the local stream and pour warm water back (kept the frogs happy). We asked "What happens if it melts down?" and the nuclear physicist who was showing us round said, "It's OK, not many folks live nearby.".

The reactor closed in 1982 and was de-commissioned shortly after that.So Usain Bolt won't be nuclear powered when he runs the 100m.

Re:Reminds me about LA's nuclear reactor (1)

WrecklessSandwich (1000139) | more than 2 years ago | (#40000021)

WPI did until somewhat recently. Last I heard the removal process was well under way.It was quite old (circa late 1940's) and only could output something like a kilowatt. Never heard of any local protests or anything -- I had some classes in the same building. The funny part about it was all of the warning signs posted mentioning a warning siren that indicated that you should evacuate... there's a whole bunch of machine shops in that building. More than once I walked into the building and thought to myself, "holy shit, is that the reactor alarm?" only to quickly realize that I was hearing machine tools at work.

Penn State has oldest reactor (4, Informative)

tkrotchko (124118) | more than 2 years ago | (#40000075)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pennsylvania_State_University_Radiation_Science_%26_Engineering_Center [wikipedia.org]

They used to give tours to science undergraduates. It was a big swimming pool and you could see the Cherenkov radiation as you watched from the top of the pool.

Very interesting!

Re:Penn State has oldest reactor (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40001245)

> It was a big swimming pool

Which accounts for the performance of the swim team after they grew flippers...

Re:Reminds me about LA's nuclear reactor (1)

dsgrntlxmply (610492) | more than 2 years ago | (#40000161)

It would be surprising if any engineering or physics student at UCLA did not know about the reactor in Boelter Hall. I saw it on a tour once, though I cannot recall if this was a public tour, or one for students in a specific introductory course for physics majors.

The amount and degree of enrichment (reportedly 93%) of the uranium fuel might not have been widely known.

UC Irvine still has one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40001015)

in Orange County, maybe 40 miles SE of UCLA.

http://www.chem.uci.edu/~gemiller/reactor.html

The UCI Nuclear Reactor is operated by the Department of Chemistry for use in radiochemistry applications. The reactor is a 250 kilowatt steady-state power Mark I TRIGA reactor built by General Atomics. Pulsing is possible to about 1000 megawatts if needed. TRIGA reactors are water and zirconium hydride moderated to be especially safe for training and research purposes. Fuel is uranium enriched to 20% in U-235. The reactor first became critical in November 1969. The facility specializes in neutron activation analysis (NAA) using thermal and epi-thermal neutrons. Past work has included measurements on the JFK assassination bullet lead(1), mercury levels in ancient specimens of swordfish, and tuna(2), sculptures in the Getty Museum in Los Angeles(3), ancient bones(4), samples of mosaics(5), and tracing manganese pollutants (6,8). Work is also been done to test systems and detectors for homeland security screening applications (7,9). The facility has provided short-lived radioactive isotopes on occasion for tracer studies in industry and medicine.

Re:Reminds me about LA's nuclear reactor (1)

BorelHendrake (1496471) | more than 2 years ago | (#40001023)

UC Davis has a 2 MW reactor...

Just out of curiosity... (2)

mykepredko (40154) | more than 2 years ago | (#39999177)

Looking at the picture of the device in TFA, doesn't it look like there are shadows of people on the wall around it?

Now, if I was a conspiracy theorist....

myke

Re:Just out of curiosity... (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#39999257)

Come to think of it, most of my old photos from that era are pretty overexposed .....

Re:Just out of curiosity... (1)

Lisias (447563) | more than 2 years ago | (#39999631)

Come to think of it, most of my old photos from that era are pretty overexposed .....

With plutonium radiation? =P

(this is a joke!)

Makes you wonder.... (1)

bwohlgemuth (182897) | more than 2 years ago | (#39999185)

Who else had one of these for easy, "on-demand" neutron generation. Bell Labs? IBM?

Re:Makes you wonder.... (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39999797)

What, you mean you don't?

Re:Makes you wonder.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40001031)

I think I still have my dads out in back of the shop. It was always a little touchy and I'm sure it doesn't work any more. Can't get the parts to fix it, can't just throw it out, so it just sits... 8-(

Surprising... (4, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#39999223)

I'm not so surprised that some rather alarmingly powerful beam sources would be operated quietly by people with atypical sensor needs. I am a bit surprised that 3.5 lbs of highly enriched Uranium would be available to serve as a beam source.

Not telling the neighbors about a scary-sounding piece of industrial/scientific apparatus is one thing, having enough nuclear material to interest a proliferation wonk in your basement, on the other hand, seems like it would raise eyebrows...

Re:Surprising... (5, Funny)

bhcompy (1877290) | more than 2 years ago | (#39999293)

I'm not so surprised that some rather alarmingly powerful beam sources would be operated quietly by people with atypical sensor needs. I am a bit surprised that 3.5 lbs of highly enriched Uranium would be available to serve as a beam source.

I'm sure that in 1985 enriched uranium is available in every corner drugstore, but in 1955 it's a little hard to come by.

Re:Surprising... (2)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#39999513)

Well, 3.5 pounds might be a bit of a problem. Costco only stocks it in the 50 lb containers.

Don't drop it on your way out to the parking lot.

Re:Surprising... (2, Interesting)

Isaac-1 (233099) | more than 2 years ago | (#39999295)

Considering the amount of DOD sensor work they did I am not surprised at all.

Re:Surprising... (5, Informative)

Zcar (756484) | more than 2 years ago | (#39999667)

3.5 lbs? Get another 30 times as much and you'll be close to a critical mass (bare sphere, 85% enriched). 3.5 lbs isn't that dangerous or, by itself, all that interesting from a nuclear weapons proliferation standpoint.

Fission occurred, but it needed to be pumped by an external neutron source and a runaway chain reaction was pretty much impossible. We're only talking about a ~6 cm sphere of it.

Re:Surprising... (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 2 years ago | (#39999923)

It's still probably enough to easily go supercritical and kill you if you compress it sufficiently. It certainly doesn't require a factor of 30; the demon core was only 14 pounds, and killed two people in separate incidents.

Re:Surprising... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40000125)

Uranium is not Plutonium. So... no.

Re:Surprising... (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 2 years ago | (#40000563)

Fair enough. So instead of dying, you'd probably just get really, really sick and die of cancer a few years later. The point was that critical mass is only meaningful when no pressure is applied, and that much smaller amounts can become dangerous under the right circumstances.

To put it in context, 3 pounds of Uranium is still more than the portion of the Uranium that actually contributed to the explosive yield of Little Boy (Glasstone and Dolan, Effects, pp. 12–13, as cited by Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] ). There's a lot of energy there that could theoretically be released under the right circumstances.

Re:Surprising... (1)

bwohlgemuth (182897) | more than 2 years ago | (#40001407)

If you mean "The actual amount of uranium that underwent fission", then you are correct. However I don't know of a device that can reach 100% efficiency in prompt fission event. I think you'd probably have more fun with the Americium in the core than the HEU (I think the critical mass for Americium is under 6kg). That's a lot of smoke detectors....

Re:Surprising... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39999953)

[...] having enough nuclear material to interest a proliferation wonk in your basement, on the other hand, seems like it would raise eyebrows...

The first red flag: the proliferation wonk in your basement.

Research rector in Finland (3, Informative)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 2 years ago | (#39999285)

The department of physics at our university (Aalto university, Finland) has their own nuclear reactor. [wikipedia.org] This brings the total number of nuclear reactors in Finland to five.

Re:Research rector in Finland (2)

burne (686114) | more than 2 years ago | (#39999507)

The TU in Delft, the Netherlands has a nice toy [tudelft.nl] for students as well. At 2 MW(th) and with an imminent upgrade to 3 MW(th) it's not a small one either.

Reporting Error (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39999377)

armed guards were surely on hand

This is how you discern a conservative:they speculate about things they have no knowledge of, forming conclusions based only on what they believe "ought to be" and then use that speculation as the basis for their beliefs. There's nothing in the article to suggest that armed guards were present for the removal of the enriched uranium, only the reporter's speculation.

Re:Reporting Error (4, Insightful)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39999817)

armed guards were surely on hand

This is how you discern a conservative: they speculate about things they have no knowledge of, forming conclusions based only on what they believe "ought to be" and then use that speculation as the basis for their beliefs.

This is how you discern a hypocritical asshole: someone who does exactly the thing they're bitching about someone else doing, but without noticing it.

Re:Reporting Error (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40000759)

FTFA:

He mentioned a recent instance when spent fuel from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s research reactor moved through Cambridge. A colleague told Bunn the shipment was accompanied by two armored vehicles and a helicopter, all carrying armed guards.

Seems reasonable to assume that's standard procedure.

Kodak and reconnaissance (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39999459)

Kodak supplied recon assistance to the U.S. during flyovers of the U.S.S.R with (at the time) manned planes. It's probably not so suprising that industries help out the military even though they sell regular products at the civilian supermarket.

I had a clue (2, Informative)

Steve1952 (651150) | more than 2 years ago | (#39999517)

I was in Rochester as a small boy in the 1950's, and knew about the reactor from about the age of 4 or so. As I recall, some of the cooling water drained into a small duck pond (surrounded about the fence). I was told that there was some small amount of radioactivity, although no one much was concerned at the time. At any rate, the main thing that got through my 4 year old mind was that for some reason it was not a good idea to try to climb the fence or get near the ducks. At any rate, it was generally known, and not a secret.

Re:I had a clue (4, Funny)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#39999575)

Even at 4, you were smart enough not to mess with the 400 pound, 8 foot high ducks.

Re:I had a clue (2)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 2 years ago | (#39999943)

Not hard to avoid, even if it's a moonless night.

I'd be more worried about the duck specials at the Wegmans.

Re:I had a clue (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40000943)

That's quite a clue you had as a 4 year old in the 50's, considering the reactor was first installed in 1974, according to TFA.

Perhaps you're thinking of the Kopper Kettle. I had some soup there once that definitely had a few unstable isotopes.

reactors on ebay? (2)

k6mfw (1182893) | more than 2 years ago | (#39999551)

I was wondering if anyone selling reactors on ebay (not legal but so is selling human kidneys, which someone always post), I did find a Lionel at only $269.95 (C-9 Factory New - Brand New), http://www.ebay.com/itm/LIONEL-24294-NUCLEAR-REACTOR-/160558274893 [ebay.com]

But if you can't buy it, then gotta make it as this "fusioneer" as described in "Extreme DIY: Building a homemade nuclear reactor in NYC" http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10385853 [bbc.co.uk] (though I have doubts as the experts at Lawrence Livermore been talking for 50 years they should have in 10 years able to demonstrate electric power production from a fusion reactor.) But I guess having a fusion reactor working or not in the basement would be pretty cool.

Re:reactors on ebay? (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 2 years ago | (#39999973)

Creating fusion is not hard. Philo T. Farnsworth (the TV guy) did it eighty years ago. Creating self-sustained fusion that produces more power than it consumes is hard.

Big picture (0)

should_be_linear (779431) | more than 2 years ago | (#39999559)

So, Iran with its 70+ million population, is sanctioned for building reactor, while in USA individual private companies. Makes sense in global media idiocracy we live in!

Re:Big picture (4, Insightful)

mpoulton (689851) | more than 2 years ago | (#39999811)

So, Iran with its 70+ million population, is sanctioned for building reactor, while in USA individual private companies. Makes sense in global media idiocracy we live in!

Right. Because a tiny research reactor in a federally licensed facility in the US with tight control over its small load of enriched uranium, and which does not breed more weapons-grade material, is EXACTLY THE SAME as a program of large reactors in an unstable nation that's actively trying to develop nuclear weapons. Yeah, that sounds like a problem with the media to me.

It's the centrifuge, not the reactor (2)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 2 years ago | (#39999929)

So far as I know, nobody cares about the electric plant. It's the *enrichment* plant that everyone is concerned about. With their own centrifuge, there's nothing to stop them from enriching uranium to weapons-grade (80%+) material.

If you go back and read the news more carefully, I think you'll find all the sanctions discussion revolves around the centrifuge.

Re:Big picture (2)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 2 years ago | (#40000501)

I suspect if the Fearless Leader of Kodak went on international TV and made a speech about how they were going to wipe "Fuji off the map" to eliminate their problems, someone might have wondered if they really needed that nuclear device. As it is, Iran is likely to get a lot closer to being able to eliminate their Israeli problem once and for all and settle the Palestinian issue - unless of course Israel decides that the survival of their population trumps getting brownie points in the international debating society.

My guess is Iran will get closer and then take a major hit from Israel. The US will do nothing except claim (still) that the sanctions are working.

Building 82 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39999561)

What I heard from an ex-kodak employee is that everyone that worked there knew something unexplained was going on in building 82, but were basically told to "ignore it and don't talk about it". He said it was thought that they were working on an inter-dimensional portal of some kind for the DOE (weapons-grade uranium is not needed for their stated purpose). You might want to look up the Philadelphia Experiment for more info. With Kodak bankrupt, it became necessary to move the equipment to a new location. Now it is probably in a non-descript warehouse in an industrial area outside a large city near a research university. If people knew about it they would be up in arms demanding that it get moved, but its location is not revealed due to "national security" reasons.

Most unusual part of the story - weapons grade? (1)

kamelkev (114875) | more than 2 years ago | (#39999589)

I don't know much about nuclear engineering, or the subject as a whole, so maybe somebody can jump in here and clarify.

My understanding is that "weapons grade" only refers to a degree of purity, and not to actual intent... but I still have to wonder why they chose to have a "weapons grade" reactor to begin with. What benefits are there to having this as opposed to say standard Uranium reactors?

The University of Maryland (where I graduated) has a research reactor that became higher in profile after the 9/11 attacks. Around 2005 or so ABC ran a story about it, but it was never a big secret that UMD had one. I believe MIT and other technical schools also have such reactors. In general I think they run on just regular uranium instead of the highly enriched "weapons grade".

It's kind of crazy to think that we've got Iran spending so much of their state resources trying to manufacture enriched uranium meanwhile we've got Kodak sitting on 3.5lbs of the stuff in a basement in NY doing rando-tests with it.

Re:Most unusual part of the story - weapons grade? (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39999865)

My understanding is that "weapons grade" only refers to a degree of purity, and not to actual intent...

Nice catch; technically all fissible material is "weapons grade," in the sense that it can be used to irradiate folks who would rather not be irradiated.

Re:Most unusual part of the story - weapons grade? (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40000237)

My understanding is that "weapons grade" only refers to a degree of purity, and not to actual intent... but I still have to wonder why they chose to have a "weapons grade" reactor to begin with. What benefits are there to having this as opposed to say standard Uranium reactors?

It's a neutron source, not a power-generating reactor. It used a smidgeon (tenth of a gram or so) of Cf-252 to spit out some initial neutrons, said neutrons being used to kick off a small (non-self-sustaining) chain reaction in the U-235. The U-235 reaction multiplies the Cf-252 flux by a few orders of magnitude and is the source of the overwhelming majority of the neutron flux. In order to keep such a source compact (and in order to not have to deal with the complications afforded by exposing tons of U-238 to a neutron flux), you probably need to use HEU for such a device.

Once you've got it up and running, you can then use the neutrons to activate other materials and observe the spectra of whatever your neutron-activated target material emits, which probably enables you to know with a very high degree of accuracy, what your target material was made of. Once you're done with it, pull out the Californium and the whole thing shuts itself down.

It's kind of crazy to think that we've got Iran spending so much of their state resources trying to manufacture enriched uranium meanwhile we've got Kodak sitting on 3.5lbs of the stuff in a basement in NY doing rando-tests with it.

Kodak didn't make the HEU, the DoE made the HEU. Kodak was licensed to use it, under very strict controls. It wasn't "hidden in a basement lab", it was buried in a basement for both radiological and security reasons, and it wasn't "forgotten about", its existence just wasn't widely publicized. The DoE knew where it was all the time. It just didn't want to publicize it, for obvious reasons.

Re:Most unusual part of the story - weapons grade? (1)

bwohlgemuth (182897) | more than 2 years ago | (#40001457)

And of course U-238 "can" obviously capture neutron to transmute into Pu-239. Imagine the joy with that.

Re:Most unusual part of the story - weapons grade? (1)

f3rret (1776822) | more than 2 years ago | (#40000447)

My understanding is that "weapons grade" only refers to a degree of purity, and not to actual intent...

This is true, a more general term would be 'highly enriched', meaning uranium which 80% or more pure Uranium-235.

Re:Most unusual part of the story - weapons grade? (1)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 2 years ago | (#40000601)

A. it isn't a reactor and does not sustain a chain reaction. It is a neutron source only. It does take a bunch of material to produce a strong, continuous neutron beam.

B. Yes, "weapons grade" is just the ratio of U328 vs. U235.

C. A common nuclear reactor that produces heat has nearly zero neutron emissions outside of the reactor vessel. Even open-core reactors where water was used as a moderator did not have strong neutron emissions. The neutrons are kept in the fissionable material (pile, rods, etc.) to keep the reaction going and excess neutrons escaping from the fissile material would just be a safety hazard.

If you are going to make a number of big, primitive bombs you need hundreds of pounds of enriched uranium. These wouldn't fit on a missle but would be something you put in the hold of a cargo ship. Yes, the US has thermonuclear warheads that weigh around 1,000 lbs or less but most of them were more in the range of 10,000 lbs - five tons. The devices dropped on Japan were 8900 lbs and 10,300 lbs to put things in perspective. Putting that kind of payload on a missile isn't a small effort but it is trivial to put in a cargo ship. And setting one off in a harbor creates a lot more damage from the water being vaporized as well so this is a huge benefit for the folks responsible for the bomb.

Of course, it is an obvious ploy and I can't imagine Israel allowing a clearly-marked Iranian ship into a Tel Aviv's harbor. Of course, nobody would ever put the wrong flag on a cargo ship, so we don't have to worry about that, right?

General Atomics in San Diego (2)

sdguero (1112795) | more than 2 years ago | (#39999661)

I just found out, after making a wrong turn and then doing a little research, that General Atomics plays with experimental nuclear and fusion reactor prototypes just a few miles down the road from our office building. I think it's really freakin' cool but I sure there would be a big hubballoo if more San Diegans knew about it.

Re:General Atomics in San Diego (4, Informative)

bware (148533) | more than 2 years ago | (#40000007)

General Atomics plays with experimental nuclear and fusion reactor prototypes just a few miles down the road from our office building. I think it's really freakin' cool but I sure there would be a big hubballoo if more San Diegans knew about it.

It's called General Atomics, for chrissakes. I mean, it's not as though they're disguising it.

Really? So this is a huge story? (1)

bobbied (2522392) | more than 2 years ago | (#39999725)

Who really cares? This reactor was extremely small and designed to be a neutron source. These kind of things exist in LOTS of places. I knew of two research reactors on campus when I was in college. One was being jack hammered apart and the other was being used for research (the first one's replacement). One time I got to look down into the reactor pool when it was critical, cool blue glow and all.

These things are NOT dangerous beyond their obvious use as a source of material for a dirty bomb so as long as they have enough security, they can build one in my back yard...

Just curious... (3, Interesting)

Reasonable Facsimile (2478544) | more than 2 years ago | (#39999795)

How many as-yet undetected meth labs pose more danger?

So What? (1)

echusarcana (832151) | more than 2 years ago | (#39999903)

There are small research reactors all over the place. Your local university might have one. Lots of developing countries have them. They are generally conservatively designed so that overpower is physically impossible, using something like the doppler effect on reactivity to place an upper limit on power. Big deal.

Poor commanders at Kodak (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40000077)

If they had a reactor, how did they lose out to other imaging comapies? They could have gone to them and said "Back offf - it would be a shame if anything happened to your company - like get nuked"

Meh (1)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 2 years ago | (#40000223)

They probably got it on the United Nuclear [unitednuclear.com] web site. I'm sure there's a section under "Radioactive Isotopes" where you can get weapons grade uranium. Or maybe you actually have to call them for that...

Spallation Neutron Source (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40000265)

We in Oak Ridge, TN have a lovely high flux, controllable neutron source called the SNS. It uses a small pumping source, a 1 GeV proton beam linac with a peak pulse output of ~10amps aimed at a vat of liquid mercury. It's used for materials research using neutron diffraction crystallography. No Fissile materials needed, but does have ~75 MegaWatt substation as a power source

Re:Spallation Neutron Source (1)

Hartree (191324) | more than 2 years ago | (#40001467)

It was just a tiny bit more expensive than this one, too.

You clearly have never been to Rochester (2)

gelfling (6534) | more than 2 years ago | (#40000441)

Back in its heyday you could smell Rochester on the approach by car from all the caustic chemicals Kodak used in the mass production process. If they're worried about a neutron generator used for metallurgical testing then they should be wearing a gasmask from simply living IN Rochester.

This just in.... (1)

gatkinso (15975) | more than 2 years ago | (#40000985)

...large nuclear reactor floating in the sky.

Glow so bright that staring at it may cause blindness. Can cause skin burns. Yellow.

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