Dr. Clifford Beck proposes the building of a joint North Carolina State College-Atomic Energy Commission 5 KW nuclear reactor of the uranium "water-boiler" type. To be used as the core of an instructional and research program in Nuclear Engineering, Dr. Beck reasons that Duke University, the University of North Carolina, several medical schools and a number of other institutions in the vicinity of Raleigh, North Carolina, would benefit from the proposed reactor program. Enclosing a tentative schematic design of the reactor, and identifying key faculty and research members associated with the project, Dr. Beck estimates that detailed design and construction can be accomplished in from eight to ten months and would be completed at a total cost of $150,000.
PROPOSAL OF A NUCLEAR REACTOR
NORTH CAROLINA STATE COLLEGE
Professor and Head, Physics Department
SCHOOL OF ENGINEERING
NORTH CAROLINA STATE COLLEGE
"water-boiler" type to be used as the core of an instructional
and research program in Nuclear Engineering. In addition to
State's Nuclear Engineering program, it is anticipated that
schools and a number of other institutions in the vicinity of
Facilities of State College relative to the proposed reactor
are briefly described, as well as the types of unclassified
A tentative schematic design of the reactor, with emphasis
on the physical security of the fissionable material and the safety
of operating personnel, is presented. It is estimated that detailed
design and construction can be accomplished in from eight to ten
months, at a total cost of $150,000.
would undertake to defray the major portion of this cost with
funds from sources other than the
Request is made of the
material, and for assistance and advice in design and construction
of the reactor.
In recognition of a growing demand for the instruction and training
of rising engineers and scientists in various aspects of atomic
peacetime and military applications of nuclear processes are developed,
philosophy, often expressed by leaders of the
energy development, the people of the country, industry, and the
The schools and colleges, especially the technical schools, have a
responsibility to their students and to the country as a whole to provide
opportunities for training in the new fields of technical development
Hence, the decision of State College to enter the field of instruction in
In order to provide training of maximum practicality and usefulness
in this field, it is proposed that a small nuclear reactor, of the
major cost of the program, except for the cost of the fissionable material,
which, it is hoped, the
Two chief uses of the nuclear reactor are anticipated:
The reactor will provide the heart around which the instructional
program for senior undergraduate and graduate level students in Nuclear
Engineering will be organized. All instructional and laboratory activities
will be related in a very practical and realistic way to the actual
class study the problems of shielding, or remote operation of control
rods, an observation of these components of a functioning unit will
Professors and instructors, many of whom have not had the
their instruction of students by opportunities to gain first-hand experience
with the reactor.
The initial design, construction and operation of the reactor and the
auxiliary instruments and facilities, and the changes in design and
In Nuclear Engineering, the nuclear reactor will constitute an ideal
core around which a major portion of research in the departments
part of Nuclear Engineering as well as numerous individual problems
involving use of the radiations from the reactor, will provide continuous
challenges to faculty and students.
The research fields which can be entered with the reactor are
is very large. A few types of research problems are listed:
It is recognized, of course, that adequate attack on many problems
in these fields can only be made with reactors providing much higher
levels of radiation. It is equally true, however, that there are many
problems in each of these categories which can be investigated with the
radiation available from the modest reactor proposed. Every effort
will be made to restrict the investigations and operation of the reactor
to unclassified problems. But despite the limitations to unclassified
problems and the relatively low radiation level available, the quantity
and potential importance, both academically and practically, of researches
available for investigation with the proposed reactor should not be under
The proposed reactor consists of a few essential parts and a small
number of auxiliary systems. A diagrammatic sketch is rendn in
The bulk of the reactor assembly will consist of a single massive
block of concrete, cylindrical in shape, 30 feet high and 25 or 30 feet in
diameter, (depending on results of detailed shielding calculations). A
vertical, coaxial cylindrical hole, 4 feet in diameter, will be left in the
center of the concrete cylinder; and in the base of the concrete cylinder,
an opening 15 or 20 feet in diameter and 8 feet high will also be left.
The reactor proper, its reflector, some shielding if space permits, the
control and safety rods, and other auxiliary systems will be mounted
The top of the cylindrical opening will be covered by slabs of concrete,
which can be added or removed by an overhead crane.
For physical security of the fuel system, the reinforced concrete
slabs on top will be held in position by concealed bolts extending
concrete structure. These slabs cannot be removed until the bolts are
unscrewed from the room below.
The room left in the base of the structure, called the Vault Room,
can be entered through only one opening. This is protected by a heavy
vault door, and a massive concrete plug which can be moved aside on a
motor driven track. The fuel system is built into the concrete in such
fashion that any access whatever is prohibited except through the Vault
Room in the base of the concrete and the 4-foot opening at the top. The
latter may be entered only after bolts holding the reinforced slab are
released from below. Hence, as security against theft, the fissionable
material is protected on all sides either by reinforced concrete or a
massive vault door behind a huge concrete plug.
1. The fuel system.
A totally enclosed solution-containing system is visualized.
The solution will normally be stored, when not in use in a large,
flat, inverted conical-shaped vessel of stainless steel imbedded
in the concrete shielding. A pipe will extend upward from the
storage vessel, through a valve, to the spherical reactor.
the storage vessel, will provide the mechanism for forcing the
solution up into the reactor.
Figure One: Schematic Diagram of the Reactor
Shield is cylinder of concrete, 30 feet in diameter, 30 feet high, with
vertical 4 foot coaxial hole and hollowed out base. Reactor, Reflector, control
mechanism, and auxiliary systems are housed in the central coaxial
Reactor System; room used for solution processing, radiation exposure, and
Special experiments. Top covered by concrete slabs. Mobile (on wheels)
Concrete plugs in vault door, end of thermal column, and under reactor.
The reactor will be provided with a cooling coil and a
may be passed. From the reactor, a tube will extend up into an
overflow "bubble" trap and from this another tube will extend
forced into or out of the reactor.
A short pipe, projecting from the lowest point of the flat,
conical storage vessel into the Vault Room in the base of the
assembly, provided with valves and connection flanges for
vessels, etc., will be used for addition or removal of solution.
The fuel system will be made entirely of stainless steel,
with all-welded connections. All tubes or vessels of the system
will be embedded in channels in the concrete shielding, except the
one tube extending into the Vault Room in the base of the assembly.
Around the reactor, a reflector of 20 inches or so in
provided. A horizontal cylindrical passage through the
diameter, tangent to the surface of the reactor, through which
exposure samples may be passed, will be arranged. Horizontal
passage for samples to the re-entrant hole in the reactor will
also be provided, as well as vertical passages near the reactor
in which control and safety rods will move. The nature
of the reflector material will be decided later.
The massive concrete block of the reactor assembly will
provide 10 to 12 feet of concrete around the sides of the reactor.
Slabs may be placed on top to any desired thickness. Underneath
the reactor, if desired, layers of concrete totaling 4-5 feet, may
be moved horizontally by motor-drives to close the central
for the room below, For certain experiments, it may be desirable
to withdraw the concrete layers to provide unshielded radiation
to the room below. The walls of the Vault Room will be 5 feet
thick, and a slab of reinforced concrete will serve as the floor.
Various channels and passages through the concrete will be
so arranged as to leave ample external shielding, and will be
4. Thermal column.
Adjacent to one side of the reflector and extending
3 feet in diameter, for "thermalizing" neutrons. At the exterior
face of this column, a 3-foot beam of slow neutrons, about 10
10 7/cm2, will be available for experimental purposes. When not
in use, the column will be shielded by a 5-foot plug of concrete,
arranged to move in or out on a motor driven track.
5. Control and Safety Features.
Inasmuch as this reactor will be used on a university campus,
(even through at a somewhat remote point), extraordinary attention
will be given to safety and control mechanisms. Unusually thick
shielding will be provided. Several independent safety rods,
provided. Rapid addition of solution or rapid removal of control
rods, resulting in fast increases in reactivity, will be made
against by meters automatically set to release safety rods if
the fuel from the reflector-enclosed reactor to the unreflected,
geometrically safe storage vessel, in case pre-set neutron levels
are exceeded, is being incorporated in the design.
6. Cooling system.
A small copper tube, e.g., 1/2 inch, forming a water-carrying
system extending from outside the concrete shielding through welded
junctions into the reactor and out again, will constitute the cooling
system. If further calculations rend that disposal of the cooling
water will become a problem because of induced radioactivity, a
recirculating system, with a small specially designed pump, may
need to be included in the design.
7. Fuel required: Power level.
1 kilogram of enriched U-235, more or less depending on the
operation of a water boiler. The proposed reactor is intended for
operation at a maximum power level of about 5 KW. This should
be easily amenable to control and operation, and should provide
adequate radiation levels for its anticipated use. A reactor of
this size should yield an internal flux of about 10
11 , and a flux
of 10 7 thermal neutrons per cm2 per sec. at the face of the graphite
column (MDDC - 72).
The fission of 1 gram of U-235 should provide 1000 Kilowatt
days of power. With the reactor operating at 5 KW output, 1 gram
of U-235 should provide 200 days of continuous operation. The
reactor, on the average, probably will not operate at maximum
level more than five out of each twenty-four hours. Therefore,
fission of one gram should require several years.
This would mean that addition of fuel or re-processing of fuel
for removal of fission products should have to be done very
rarely. When this does become necessary, provisions are
there re-processed or exchanged for a new supply.
8. Instrumentation, Control panel.
It is intended that a clear area 15 to 30 feet wide be
accessibility and flexibility in use of auxiliary equipment. The
operating-control panel will be located to one side of the reactor,
and so arranged that all necessary instruments for operation
and control will be within easy reach of one operator. The
the control mechanism. Manipulation of auxiliary experimental
equipment, etc., will be the responsibility of other persons, and
controls, meters, etc., associated with experiments will be
The key instruments on the control panel will be equipped with
indicating meters, either audible or visual or both, and with
automatic recording mechanisms for providing permanent
the reactor, a small demonstration classroom for 50 or so
9. A Building for the Reactor.
There is on the State College campus a building excellently
adaptable as the reactor site. (Fig. 2). This building, 52 feet
wide, 102 feet long and 55 feet high, was constructed during the
war by the
investigation, but was not used for this purpose. The 20 feet
nearest the front of the building is arranged with four floors of
offices, work rooms, and laboratories. The remaining portion
of the interior at street level is in the form of a single huge
(52' x 82') work area, with no partitions, at 10 feet above
the basement level on the other side.
Figure Three: Interior of
Figure 2 rends a portion of the furnace area inside the
building. The steel-beam roof supports (not visible) are 45
feet above the floor. Provisions are incorporated for an
through an opening in the floor, a portion of the basement may
At the rear center of the building a large stack, originally
intended for furnace exhaust, is located. (Figs. [
stack, extending some 40 feet above the roof of the building,
would provide an excellent means for dispersal into the
The Bureau of Mines Building is located on one edge of the
engineering and agricultural quadrangle of the campus. The
Across the street on the east side of the building lies the site on
which is now being erected the new
In preliminary conferences, there have developed promising
indications that the
of their building for the reactor site. Bureau officials have, in
fact, expressed an interest in arranging a program of joint
which might involve use of the reactor as a tool. Both the
site are being explored further.
the reactor, cannot provide adequate space for the sample
analysis laboratories, which should accompany the reactor. Some
of these, of course, could be located in the building, but more
space, in an added wing or in a separate, adjacent building should
benefits of the proposed reactor.
Broad technical curricula in three major divisions and
several smaller divisions of
offered the 5000 students. The major divisions are:
the last 4 years has experienced remarkable expansion and
chemical, civil, electrical, ceramic, metallurgical and
Engineering and Reactor programs, are particularly strong.
The Physics Department, until recently, has had a staff of
some 18 - 20, engaged primarily in service instruction of students
in other fields on undergraduate levels, with little attention being
given to advanced instruction and research. The department is
now committed to a policy of expansion at advanced levels and to
an emphasis on research, with the double objective of (1)
fields and (2) offering a curriculum leading to Ph.D. training in
Engineering Physics and Nuclear Engineering. A number of men
with advanced training will be added to the staff as rapidly as
they can be procured.
The Chemistry Department, under a new department head, is
in sound condition, with staff and curriculum adequate for
The Research Engineering Department of the
somewhat unstandardized field of relationship between a state's
technical college and the industries of the state, The department
devotes its attention solely to research and development projects,
most of which are directly involved in industrial or
by college subsidy and partly by the industries interested in the
research projects. Very close coordination and liaison is
joint usage of equipment is encouraged.
2. Coordination between departments.
One item worthy of particular mention is the usual extent
of coordination and mutual assistance between individual
goals of instruction and research. Whether or not the proposed
reactor is built, for example, a considerable portion of
by the student from courses in the chemical, electrical,
research program to be instituted by the Physics Department
will have mutual interest for other departments and a number
of projects will be joint undertakings with other departments.
The combined interest, and the availability of equipment and
personnel from all departments concerned constitutes a
the prospects of success for the program. The reactor program,
in turn, would be expected to increase the coordination and
3. Interests in radioactivity.
Numerous shipments of radioactive isotopes have been
under consideration, but are being hampered by the lack of
trained personnel. There is a large and growing demand for
training facilities in radioactive tracer technology. It is
whether the proposed reactor program is approved at once or
Approval of the reactor proposal would lend enhanced
laboratory location to crystallize in accord with requirements
which will exist when reactor operation begins, and would
the area a variety of materials and facilities not now available.
A major expansion in physical facilities at
in progress. Altogether, some 18 or 20 million dollars have
been allocated for new buildings. A number of departments will
have entirely new quarters, and others will have considerably
enlarged space. A large new building intended to house
will be completed about April, 1950. This will be followed by a
Plans for adequate equipment for the new buildings (e.g.,
electron microscope, x-ray machines, etc.) are included in the
A considerable list could be given of persons on the
available for assistance and participation in the reactor design,
construction, operation and research.
had extensive experience in electron microscopy,
fuse research. He has made significant contributions
to calculations and design study of the proposed reactor,
and will play an important role in the use of the reactor.
design of electronic apparatus. His assistance in
the subsequent nuclear research program should be
of experiments involving use of isotopes from
Tracer Techniques of the
Studies, and participated in research problems
in research projects involving the reactor.
contributions in research on various chemical
(spring and summer, 1950) at
to radioactive materials. Upon his return he will continue
his researches on chemical engineering problems, with
the use of active ingredients as tools in the investigation.
for his researches in plant pathology. He spent one and
one half years as chief of the Biology Branch of the
and still continues as a consultant to this division. He is
also serving as chairman of the subcommittee on Waste
Disposal and Decontamination in the
In the fall of 1949 he returned to full time work as
research with the
before joining the mechanical engineering department of
diffusion, and plans to use radioactive atoms in this study.
His use of the reactor is expected to be considerable.
engineering department, is keenly interested in the
is an unusually productive research scientist, with a
on problems of fluid flow, distillation, heat transfer and
production of plastics.
continuing his researches, with the use of radiation and
radioactive materials as tools in securing information
which otherwise would not be accessible.
There are numerous other members of the college staff who
would participate significantly in the research program involving
the reactor. The above named constitute a fair sampling from
various departments of
here to list the various individuals at other institutions who
would make effective use of the reactor in their research
interest in the success of the effort to obtain a reactor at
chairman of the Physics Department of the
Physics Department of
of North Carolina
In the final analysis, however, it is recognized that
personnel (and the fissionable material) must be entrusted to
and behavior of nuclear reactors. Final approval of the design
and the safety of the reactor, of course, will be given by the
subsequent operation for consultation and advice. But for
men who have had first-hand experience in reactor behavior.
The experienced persons who will be available to the
Physics Department of State College.
wide general contacts with the various reactors on the
commission, and in addition has had specific experience
in two fields directly related to the proposed reactor
program: (1) for 3 years he was chairman of the Special
Hazards Committee of the K-25 Plant, with primary
(2) For 3 years,
responsible director of a uranium criticality research
team which brought to a chain-reacting condition more
individual assemblies of uranium than any other known
Alamos in 1946 being trained in this work, and from that
time to September 1949 was continuously engaged in
studies of critical accumulations of uranium under a
variety of conditions.
He is now an active consultant on criticality
a Responsible Reviewer for the Commission, involved
in information declassification activities.
College in the summer of 1950. He has had three years of
direct experience in performing critical experiments on
uranium compounds, in theoretical calculations, and in
responsibility for the Special Hazards program at the
experience of 6 years at
of theoretical and experimental research on ionization and
behavior of ions, mass-spectrographs, and cyclotron
At least one additional man with considerable experience in
criticality work, of at least Master's degree training, will be
Additional men in the vicinity of
background experience in theoretical and experimental association
with reactor problems, who have expressed a willingness to render
assistance with the reactor as needed are,
theoretical physicist, with experience at
who engaged in critical experiments at
These three are from
Tentative thought has been given to the possibility of
operation of the reactor and research program.
1. Physical Security of Fissionable Material.
By using a totally closed fuel system, with all-welded
of reinforced concrete, with the only access to the system being
a massive vault door covered with a large plug of concrete, it
is hoped that a large portion of the security requirements of the
Commission can be met. Necessary alteration or
out in consultation with
2. Safety of Personnel
Research in the physics department of almost any modern
university involves use of high voltage, x-rays, highly
are encountered in every increasing numbers. To these, which
have become somewhat familiar, one must now add the
be avoided by adequate safety training, insistence on approved
technique, and where possible, built-in, fool-proof automatic
safety features in the equipment itself.
Unusual attention will be given to safety features in the
the design, to the extent that even possible accidents involving
uncontrolled increases in radiation, will not result in serious
exposure of personnel. In addition thereto, incorporating safety
consciousness in the basic techniques will be stressed as part
of the general training of all participants in nuclear engineering.
3. Classified Information.
It is intended that the operation and uses of the reactor be
kept entirely in the field of unclassified research. Part of the
design of the machine, certain features of its operation, and
fall into classified categories. It is proposed, therefore, that
the staff directly concerned with the design and operation of
the machine,. and such others as later appears desirable, be
cleared by the
boundaries of classified information, and those areas of
of interest be encountered in reactor operation or use, such
decisions according to Commission policy on information
which may be released to the public, and he will continue to
serve in this capacity under consultant contract. Up-to-date
information, therefore, will be available at all time on
4. Safe Operation.
reactor should never exceed safe operating limits at any time.
On the project, numerous reactors have operated in safety for
several years. Two factors are essential: (1) sound design
of the equipment and (2) operation by dependable, experienced,
personnel. Before final approval of the reactor design or
initial operation, both the
be satisfied that both these requirements are adequately met.
If approval is given by the
the reactor to be constructed, it is believed that
will be able to supply the necessary financial support. It is
requested, however, that provision be made in the contract
for such instrumentation relating to the reactor as may be
made available to
to contribute a share of the cost of such projects as may be
specifically performed for the benefit of the Commission. It
is suggested that the Commission underwrite the cost of any
guard system considered necessary for the physical security
of the fissionable material, beyond that normally provided by
the College watchman system and the built-in safeguards of
If the overall idea, that a low-power nuclear reactor along the lines
described above can be built and operated on a university campus as a
tool for instruction and research in Nuclear Engineering, is compatible
with the policy of the
given the proposal to design and build such a reactor at
estimation of costs can be conjectured. The minimum time requirements
are listed below. Somewhat longer time schedules may actually be
April 1950 - Submission of initial proposal to the Commission,
followed by conferences, discussions, etc.
May 1950 - Approval by the Commission; establishment of
lines of contact between the
June - August
1950 - Theoretical calculations, crystallization of
blueprints. Close contact and coordination with
September 1950 - Construction and assembly of the reactor;
to January 1951 "dry" runs.
January 1951 - Delivery of Fissionable material from
February 1, 1951 - Initial operation of the Reactor.
The cost involved in constructing and equipping the reactor are
difficult to estimate. The numbers quoted below are believed to be of
the correct order of magnitude,
|1. Alteration of building, installation of overhead crane,|
excavation for reactor foundation, partitions, etc.
|2. Reactor construction; 700 cu. yds. concrete @ $30.,|
including foundation, forms for holes and channels
|3. Vault door and motor-driven carriages for concrete|
|4. Fuel solution system, control rods, fitting the |
|5. Instrumentation, control panel. detectors, |
level indicators, (some of this may be available as
|6. Contingencies; travel, consultant fees, supervision||25,000|
(Auxiliary counting rooms, tracer laboratories, sample
preparation and purification facilities, etc., are not included).