Nuclear Historical Timeline

1829

Jons Berzelius discovers a new element, thorium, in samples sent to him by the Reverend Hans Esmark. Thorium will later be found to be somewhat abundant in the Earth's crust.

1896

Henri Becquerel discovers that pitchblende, an ore containing uranium, causes a photographic plate to darken.

1897

J.J. Thomson discovers the first subatomic particle, the negatively-charged electron. This is the first indication that atoms have internal structure. He later proposes the “plum-pudding” model of the atom, with electrons dispersed in diffuse positive matter. This simplistic model explains why atoms can have no net charge even though they are composed of charged materials.

1898

Marie Curie and G.C.Schmidt independently discovered that thorium and its compounds are radioactive. M. Curie found higher than expected activity in some minerals containing uranium and thorium. Pierre and Marie Curie isolate polonium and radium from pitchblende. Both are later found to be products from the decay of uranium.

1902

November 17. Eugene Paul Wigner is born in Budapest, Hungary.

1905

Albert Einstein describes the equivalence of mass and energy through his equation E = mc2.

1909

Hans Geiger and Ernest Marsden, under the direction of Ernest Rutherford, bombard gold foil with alpha particles (ionized helium nuclei) and observe that while most pass right through to a detector on the other side, a small fraction of the alpha particles (1 in 8000) are totally deflected backward. The result was completely unpredicted, prompting Rutherford to later comment "It was almost as incredible as if you fired a fifteen-inch shell at a piece of tissue paper and it came back and hit you".

1911

Rutherford concludes that the “plum-pudding” model of the atom must be wrong, and that the gold-foil experiments indicate that the positive charge of the atom must be concentrated at the center. He concluded that the atom is mostly empty space, with most of the mass concentrated in a tiny nucleus and electrons being held in orbit around it by electrostatic attraction.

1913

Niels Bohr introduces his “planetary” model of the atom, with electrons “orbiting” the central positively-charged nucleus. The model, while overly simplistic, is an important step forward in the understanding of atomic structure.

1915

April 20. Alvin Weinberg is born in Chicago, Illinois.

1918

Rutherford proposes the existence of another subatomic particle, the positively-charged proton. He noticed that when alpha particles were shot into nitrogen gas, scintillation detectors showed the signatures of hydrogen nuclei. Rutherford determined that the only place this hydrogen could have come from was the nitrogen, and therefore nitrogen must contain hydrogen nuclei. He thus suggested that the hydrogen nucleus, which was known to have an atomic number of 1, was an elementary particle. The existence of the proton as a fundamental particle shows a basic problem with his atomic model—why is it stable? The positive charges should repel one another, and the nucleus should be torn apart by electrostatic repulsion.

1932

Walther Bothe and Herbert Becker in Germany, Irene and Frederic Joliot-Curie in France, and James Chadwick in the United Kingdom conduct a series of experiments which culminate in Chadwick's discovery of the other subatomic particle, the neutrally-charged neutron. Chadwick later earns the 1935 Nobel Prize for the discovery. Hans Bethe later refers to the discovery of the neutron as the historical beginning of nuclear physics since it paves the way for a true understanding of the nucleus and the forces that bind it. John Cockcroft and Ernest Watson produce new elements by bombarding elements with protons.

1933

September 12. In a flash of inspiration, Leo Szilard first imagines the concept of a "chain reaction" while waiting for traffic lights to change on a street in England. Knowing that beryllium can be made to emit two neutrons when struck by one, he tries to create a chain reaction using beryllium (a stable element) but fails. He is keen to find a material that emits more neutrons and energy after it is struck by a neutron. The next year he files for a patent on the concept.

1935

Hideki Yukawa of Japan publishes his theories on mesons, which he postulates are the particles that generate the “strong nuclear force” that binds the protons and neutrons of the nucleus together. The strong nuclear force is the basic mechanism that permits nuclear stability even in the face of electrostatic repulsion between the protons. Enrico Fermi discovers that many more nuclides can be created by bombarding elements with neutrons instead of protons.

1938

December. Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann discover that uranium bombarded with neutrons produces elements with roughly half the original mass of the uranium. Lise Meitner, a Jewish scientist who had fled Germany to Sweden, correctly identifies that the original uranium is being fissioned by the neutrons.

1939

August 2. Szilard drafts a letter for Albert Einstein to write to President Franklin Roosevelt of the United States, warning him of German research in fission reactions, the possibility of a chain reaction and the possibility of building a nuclear bomb.

1940

March. Two German emigres, Otto Frisch and Rudolf Peierls, in Birmingham. England, calculate that an atomic weapon only needed a few pounds of uranium-235 and might be practicable.

1941

October 9. Roosevelt authorizes the development of a new weapon based on atomic fission. December 7. The US Pacific Fleet is attacked at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, plunging the United States into World War II.

1942

December 2. A controlled nuclear fission reaction is created for the first time at the University of Chicago by a team lead by Enrico Fermi. Chicago Pile-1, as the reactor is called, is formed from solid spheres of natural (unenriched) uranium moderated in ultra-pure graphite. The reaction is sustained for 28 minutes. The reactor, although critical, produces almost no thermal energy, only about 1/4 of a watt.

1943

October. Construction begins on the first plutonium production reactor at the Hanford site, the B-reactor. The B-reactor was moderated by graphite, cooled by water, and had operating regimes where it had a positive temperature coefficient of reactivity. This fundamental danger was understood but the importance of the reactor was such that it was deemed secondary to the threats of war and the need for plutonium production for atomic bombs.

1944

September 26. The B-reactor goes critical for the first time and plutonium production begins at the Hanford site. September 28-29. The B-reactor, as the first nuclear reactor to operate at any significant power level (9 megawatts) is also the first to experience the "poisoning" effects of xenon-135, a gaseous product of fission with an enormous appetite for neutrons. The generation of Xe-135 causes the power level in the reactor to fall from 9 MW to 0.2 MW. The problem is "solved" thanks to the over-engineering of the reactor, which allows the operators to load more fuel in the reactor and compensate for the poisoning effect of the Xe-135. If not for the conservative design of the reactor, the "xenon" scare could have ended the production of plutonium for the war in the B-reactor. Xenon poisoning will be a basic problem in all solid-core reactors henceforth, limiting their abilities to operate at large scales and at high flux levels. Xenon poisoning will be found to be essentially absent from fluid-fuel reactors since the xenon, as a gas, comes out of solution during the pumping of the fluid fuel. December 17. D-reactor goes critical at Hanford, further increasing plutonium production capability. December 26. The first slugs of natural uranium irradiated in the B-reactor by neutrons are dissolved in the separation facility at Hanford to extract their plutonium. The short exposure duration has produced little plutonium-239 in the uranium, but additional exposure must be avoided to prevent the generation of other isotopes of plutonium (Pu-240, Pu-241) in the fuel. The enormous amounts of uranium that must be irradiated and processed to extract a very small amount of plutonium is a basic consequence of using solid-fuels and a thermal-spectrum reactor to generate weapons- grade plutonium. Plutonium production and plutonium extraction will ultimately result in the generation of millions of gallons of liquid high-level nuclear waste at Hanford. The generation of large amounts of liquid high-level waste as a result of reprocessing will also be a significant problem for the solid-core commercial descendants of the Hanford reactors.

1945

February 5. Plutonium produced and separated at Hanford is shipped to Los Alamos to build the "Gadget" bomb used in the Trinity test and the "Fat Man" bomb used over Nagasaki. February 25. F-reactor goes critical at Hanford, further increasing plutonium production capability. May 9. Nazi Germany surrenders to the Allied powers, marking the end of World War II in Europe. Many of the scientists on the Manhattan Project, assuming that their work is primarily directed against Hitler, are surprised to find out that the US intends to go forward with the development of the atomic weapons for use against Japan. July 16. An atomic bomb nicknamed "Gadget" is detonated at a site in the Jornada del Muerto (Journey of Death) desert of New Mexico in an event that is later called "Trinity." The bomb is based on weapons-grade plutonium produced at the reactors in Hanford, Washington. It has a yield of 20,000 tons of TNT, significantly in excess of predictions. The "implosion" type bomb is later used at Nagasaki and implosion-type devices later become the most common type of nuclear weapons. July 26. The United States, Great Britain, and China issue the Potsdam Declaration, demanding the immediate and unconditional surrender of Japan and the disarmament of their military. August 6. An atomic bomb, using highly-enriched uranium and code-named "Little Boy", is dropped on the Japanese port city of Hiroshima by the American B-29 bomber "Enola Gay." The bomb detonates at 1900 feet altitude and kills over 80,000 people immediately with 70,000 more injured. President Truman announces the existence of the atomic weapon program and warns Japan: "We are now prepared to obliterate rapidly and completely every productive enterprise the Japanese have... It was to spare the Japanese from utter destruction that the ultimatum of July 26 was issued at Potsdam. Their leaders promptly rejected that ultimatum. If they do not now accept our terms they may expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on earth." August 9. Another atomic bomb named "Fat Man", based on an implosion design and using weapons-grade plutonium, is dropped on the Japanese city of Nagasaki by the American bomber "Bock's Car." The bomb detonates at 1540 feet altitude and kills over 40,000 people. August 15. Japan unconditionally surrenders to the Allied powers, ending World War II.

1946

April 10. Alvin Weinberg and Forrest Murray write a paper called "High-Pressure Water as a Heat Transfer Medium in Nuclear Power Plants" proposing what would become the light-water reactor. Weinberg is later awarded a patent for the light-water reactor, which is the most common type of nuclear reactor in operation worldwide today. In the paper, Weinberg lists several drawbacks to the LWR concept-it is limited to rather low temperatures, the reactor must have a large, heavy pressure vessel, and that it poorly utilizes fissile resources. To mitigate this last disadvantage, he proposes that the reactor operate on a breeding cycle using thorium and uranium-233. This technique is not actually used until the thorium-U233 core is tested in Shippingport in 1977. July 1. The first nuclear weapons test of Operation Crossroads, and the first atomic bomb since wartime, is detonated at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands. The test is called "Able" and the bomb is called "Gilda". It is a plutonium-implosion bomb similar to the Trinity and Nagasaki bombs, and has a yield of 23 kilotons. The blast causes five of the 95 target vessels assembled in the lagoon at Bikini to sink. August 1. President Truman signs the Atomic Energy Act, forming the US Atomic Energy Commission, a civilian agency to succeed the Manhattan Project.

1947

April 3. Following an inspection of the US nuclear stockpile, the head of the AEC, David Lilienthal, reports to President Truman that the United States does not have a single operational nuclear weapon available. This shocking news is branded top-secret and is used to spur intense development of US nuclear weapons. July 22. The experimental NRX reactor begins operation in Chalk River, Ontario, Canada. The reactor is solid-fueled, using natural uranium moderated by heavy water (water in which the normal hydrogen has been replaced by deuterium). It is a predecessor to Canada’s CANDU nuclear reactor concept, which also uses natural uranium and heavy-water as a moderator and coolant.

1949

August 29. The first Soviet atomic test is detonated. The device is called "First Lightning" and the design is very similar to the first US plutonium bomb, using TNT/hexagon implosion lens design.

1951

July. Congress announces the construction of the first nuclear submarine. Ray Briant, Vince Calkins, and Ed Bettis of ORNL first propose a reactor based on uranium fluorides dissolved in fluorides of alkali metals and alkaline-earth metals. December. The Experimental Breeder Reactor-1, a liquid-metal-cooled, solid-core, fast-spectrum reactor is the first nuclear reactor in the United States to produce electricity, enough to power four light bulbs. The EBR-1 is heralded as the reactor of the future.

1953

December 8. In his “Atoms for Peace” speech before the United Nations, US president Eisenhower proposes to share US nuclear technology with other nations in exchange for their promise not to develop nuclear weapons.

1954

The Atomic Energy Act is passed by Congress directing the federal government to promote the peaceful use of atomic energy, with the understanding that disposal of the highly radioactive waste produced would be the responsibility of the federal government. January 21. USS Nautilus is launched in Groton, Connecticut. June 27. The Obninsk Nuclear Power Plant, in Russia, becomes the world's first nuclear reactor for power generation, with a capacity of 5 megawatts (electric). September 30. USS Nautilus commissioned. November 3. The Aircraft Reactor Experiment, the first liquid-fluoride reactor, achieves criticality for the first time at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. It operates at a maximum temperature of 1600ø F and at a maximum power of 2.5 megawatts (thermal). It also conclusively demonstrates the remarkable chemical and nuclear stability of the molten-salt reactor concept. After 100 hours of operation it is shut down on November 11. November 10. Walker Cisler and Detroit Edison officials (Atomic Power Development Associates) meet with AEC officials in a classified meeting to discuss plans to build a liquid-metal fast-breeder reactor near Detroit, which would ultimately become the Fermi 1 reactor. Also present were Walter Zinn of Argonne National Lab and Hans Bethe, who acted as a consultant to Detroit Edison.

1955

January 17. In his annual budget message to Congress, President Eisenhower highlights the USAEC effort to build a liquid-metal fast breeder reactor, noting that $15 million has been appropriated to the effort. July 17. The experimental boiling water reactor BORAX III is used to power the first US town entirely by nuclear energy—Arco, Idaho—population 1000. November 29. The EBR-I reactor (the first reactor to produce electrical power in the US) suffers severe damage to its solid-fueled core during an accident caused by operator error.

1956

Skeptical of the benefit and practicality of the nuclear-powered aircraft, Alvin Weinberg asks the MSR researchers to evaluate the reactor for civilian use. Weinberg convinces Kenneth Davis, the head of the Division of Reactor Development of the Atomic Energy Commission, to provide ORNL with the initial $2 million to begin a civilian MSR program. The National Academy of Sciences recommends deep geologic disposal of the long-lived, highly radioactive wastes from nuclear reactors, suggesting that buried salt deposits and other rock types be investigated for permanent repositories. January. Cisler applies for a construction license to build what will be Fermi 1 with the AEC. June 6. In a confidential internal report, Rogers McCullough, the chairman of the AEC Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards concludes that insufficient information exists to issue a construction license to the Power Reactor Development Company to build Fermi 1. June 28. AEC Chairman Lewis Strauss, in testimony before the House Appropriations Committee, casually mentions that he will be attending the groundbreaking for the Fermi nuclear power plant. July 18. The AEC, in a long telegram to Michigan governor Soapy Williams, assured him that the "health and safety of the public would be protected" in issuing a construction permit for the Fermi reactor. August 4. The AEC issues a construction permit for what will become Fermi 1 to the Power Reactor Development Company. Congressman Chet Holifield is incensed and calls for a repeal of the license and for President Eisenhower to step in and rescind the construction permit on the grounds of inadequate public safety. August 8. With AEC Commissioner Lewis Strauss present, ground is broken for the Fermi 1 plant near Monroe, Michigan. August. The Calder Hall Unit-1 Nuclear Plant in the United Kingdom becomes the first nuclear power plant in that nation, with a capacity of 50 megawatts (electric). It is a solid-core reactor fueled by natural (unenriched) uranium. It is cooled by air and designed to produce nuclear energy as well as to generate plutonium for nuclear weapons. October 1. The first unit of the Calder Hall nuclear power stations in Unit One of the Zion Nuclear Power Station in Illinois enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 1040 megawatts. Construction had begun on 01 Dec 1968, criticality was achieved on 19 Jun 1973, and grid connection on 28 Jun 1973. October 1. Excavations for the foundations of the Fermi 1 reactor had begun. By the end of October, the contracts for the huge reactor vessel weighing 350 tons, and three stories high-had been signed.

1957

The Price-Anderson Act (an amendment to the Atomic Energy Act of 1954) limits the liability that utilities must pay in the event of a nuclear accident. This liability restriction is an important step in convincing commercial utilities to develop nuclear power. December 2. The Shippingport Nuclear Power Plant in Shippingport, Pennsylvania becomes the first commercial nuclear reactor in the world. It is essentially a scale-up of the pressurized water reactor used for the Nautilus, and is supported by the military as a precursor to a nuclear reactor for an aircraft carrier.

1958

May 14. The MSR program issues ORNL-2474, their quarterly progress report for the period ending January 31, 1958. July. USS Nautilus crosses under the north polar ice cap for the first time.

1959

January 23. The MSR program issues ORNL-2626, their quarterly progress report for the period ending October 31, 1958. February. The Fluid Fuels Reactor Task Force is convened by the AEC to assess which of the fluid-fuel reactor concepts should be continued. Each concept is a thorium breeder with a thermal neutron spectrum. The molten-salt reactor is chosen over the aqueous homogeneous reactor (water-based) and the liquid-metal reactor (lead and bismuth-based) for further development. The first sentence of the Summary of the Task Force Report (TID-8507) was, "The Molten Salt Reactor has the highest probability of achieving technical feasibility." March 17. The MSR program issues ORNL-2684, their quarterly progress report for the period ending January 31, 1959. June 26. The MSR program issues ORNL-2723, their quarterly progress report for the period ending April 30, 1959. October 8. The MSR program issues ORNL-2799, their quarterly progress report for the period ending July 31, 1959.

1960

January 1. 437 miners are casualties of a coal mine accident in Coalbrook, South Africa. In the early 1960s, the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) announces that a salt mine at Lyons, Kansas, will be developed as a high-level radioactive waste repository, only to reverse its decision after state geologists discover the site is riddled with abandoned oil and gas exploration boreholes. The focus of the Molten-Salt Reactor Program at ORNL gradually shifts from a high-conversion reactor to a breeder. The gain from thorium breeding is slight compared to a plutonium-fueled fast reactor, so special emphasis is put on rapid, online reprocessing of salts to minimize neutron losses to fission products. Such a capability is essentially impossible in a solid-core reactor. March 8. The MSR program issues ORNL-2890, their quarterly progress report for the period ending October 31, 1959. Spring. ORNL submits a proposal to the AEC to build a demonstration molten-salt reactor that reflects their latest design understanding. It would be graphite-moderated and use lithium and beryllium fluorides as the solvent. Summer. The ORNL proposal for the "Molten Salt Reactor Experiment" is accepted and design of the reactor begins. September 8. The MSR program issues ORNL-2973, their quarterly progress report for the periods ending January 31 and April 30, 1960. December 22. The MSR program issues ORNL-3014, their quarterly progress report for the period ending July 31, 1960.

1961

Dr. Mieczyslaw Taube of the Institute of Nuclear Research in Warsaw, Poland, publishes a paper examining the feasibility of using a molten-salt reactor based on chloride salts to achieve a fast neutron spectrum, possibly allowing a molten-salt reactor to operate on the uranium-plutonium breeding cycle so popular at the time. June 27. The MSR program issues ORNL-3122, their semiannual progress report for the period ending February 28, 1961. December. The MSR program issues ORNL-3215, their semiannual progress report for the period ending August 31, 1961.

1962

L.G. Alexander of ORNL also suggests (ANL-6792) a molten-salt reactor that uses chlorides instead of fluorides to achieve a fast neutron spectrum. March 20. President Kennedy sends a letter to Glenn Seaborg, chairman of the AEC, requesting a study be undertaken of the development of the US civilian nuclear power program, and suggests that the study be completed by September 1. Summer. The MSR program issues ORNL-3282, their semiannual progress report for the period ending February 28, 1962. September 16. The Indian Point-1 nuclear reactor begins operating at Buchanan, New York. Designed and built by Babcock and Wilcox for Consolidated Edison, it is a pressurized water reactor designed to produce 275 MW of electricity. Unlike other pressurized-water reactors, the Indian Point-1 reactor uses highly-enriched uranium as a fuel and thorium as a fertile material. This combination has a superior conversion ratio in a thermal neutron spectrum than low-enrichment uranium (more thorium is bred to uranium-233 than uranium-238 is bred to plutonium-239). The uranium-233 generated in the Indian Point reactor is later processed into a tetrafluoride and used to fuel the Molten-Salt Reactor Experiment. November 20. The US Atomic Energy Commission submits their report to President Kennedy. It calls on the government to support development of both thermal-spectrum breeder reactors based on thorium and fast-spectrum breeder reactors based on uranium and plutonium. It notes that the molten-salt reactor technology being developed at Oak Ridge appears to be the most efficient and logical manifestation of the thorium breeder reactor. December 4. The MSR program issues ORNL-3369, their semiannual progress report for the period ending August 31, 1962. They report that the design for the MSRE was essentially complete, and that the fabrication of components was 50% complete. They also report on a variety of materials and components testing. There was no design work on the MSBR reported.

1963

April 10. The nuclear submarine USS Thresher is lost at sea with all hands (128). Summer. The MSR program issues ORNL-3419, their semiannual progress report for the period ending January 31, 1963. They report that the fabrication of components was 85% complete, but that the core graphite would be delayed into 1963. They also report on a variety of materials and components testing. There was no design work on the MSBR reported. August 23. The Enrico Fermi Fast Breeder Reactor achieves criticality for the first time. The reactor is a 60 MWe, sodium-cooled, fast-spectrum reactor designed to breed more plutonium-239 than it consumes. It is initially fueled with highly-enriched uranium but it is anticipated that future LMFBRs will be fueled with plutonium bred in these reactors. November 9. 447 miners are killed by an explosion at a coal mine in Omuta, Japan. December 10. Eugene Wigner is awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics "for his contributions to the theory of the atomic nucleus and the elementary particles, particularly through the discovery and application of fundamental symmetry principles." December. The MSR program issues ORNL-3529, their semiannual progress report for the period ending July 31, 1963. They report that final fabrication of the reactor vessel was waiting on the delivery of graphite, but all other components were completed and assembled. They also report on a variety of materials and components testing. There is some preliminary investigations into core and blanket salt formulations for a molten-salt fast-spectrum reactor design, involving the use of chlorides in the core and fluorides in the blanket. There was no design work on the MSBR reported.

1964

July. The MSR program issues ORNL-3626, their semiannual progress report for the period ending January 31, 1964. They report that the graphite structures in the reactor core had been assembled and that the design, procurement, and construction of the MSRE project was 90% complete. They also report on a variety of materials and components testing. Further investigation of chloride salt combinations for fast-spectrum reactors are reported. There was no design work on the MSBR reported. October 24. Salt is loaded into the tanks of the Molten-Salt Reactor Experiment (MSRE) for the first time. November. The MSR program issues ORNL-3708, their semiannual progress report for the period ending July 31, 1964. This report was organized differently than its predecessors, and begins by putting the entire MSRE effort in context with the larger AEC breeder reactor program, including a vigorous defense of the value of the thorium reactor effort. "Realization of a system that makes full use of the potential energy in thorium to produce cheap electricity is the primary mission of reactor development at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory." It then goes on to defend the proposition that such a system must be at least a breakeven-breeder, and that no high-conversion ratio reactor can hope to attain these goals. They estimate the performance of a two-fluid breeder reactor and show some conceptual sketches (some of the first) of core layout and unit cell design. Following this introduction they undertake a detailed explanation of each of the systems of the MSRE. It is clear that this report was meant to be read by a much larger audience in the nuclear community than the other reports.

1965

January 12. Fuel salt, consisting of 20% enriched uranium tetrafluoride in a combination of lithium and beryllium fluoride, is first circulated through the core of the Molten-Salt Reactor Experiment (MSRE). The reactor contains no thorium fluoride but includes some zirconium fluoride to "mop-up" any oxygen that might make its way into the core. January 25. In his annual budget message to Congress, President Johnson notes the USAEC effort to build "high-gain breeder reactors which produce significantly more fuel than they consume." There is no mention of thorium or thermal breeders. May 28. 375 miners are killed by a fire at a coal mine in Dhanbad, India. June 1. The MSRE achieves criticality for the first time. June. The MSR program issues ORNL-3812, their semiannual progress report for the period ending February 28, 1965. They report that the MSRE facility has been active since the previous September and that fuel and coolant salt are circulating successfully. They also report on a variety of materials and components testing. There was no design work on the MSBR reported. July 4-5. The MSRE fuel system is drained and flushed. Radiation levels are soon low enough to permit maintenance and installation work to begin immediately in all areas in preparation for high-power operation. December. The MSR program issues ORNL-3872, their semiannual progress report for the period ending August 31, 1965. They report that the MSRE has been successfully brought to criticality, but that power generation had been held to only a few kilowatts. They also report on a variety of materials and components testing. Of particular interest are their investigations into LiF-BeF2-ThF4 mixtures for the blanket regions of future fluoride breeder reactors. There was no design work on the MSBR reported.

1966

January 24. The MSRE begins operation in the megawatt power range. January 24. In his annual budget message to Congress, President Johnson notes the USAEC is "intensifying its long-term program to develop fast breeder nuclear power reactors which, by producing more fuel than they consume, would greatly expand usable energy resources." He does not indicate any USAEC commitment to thorium or thermal breeder reactors. May 23. After about a year of experimentation, the MSRE reaches its full power rating of 8 thermal megawatts. June. The MSR program issues ORNL-3936, their semiannual progress report for the period ending February 28, 1966. They report that the MSRE had been brought to a thermal power of 1 MW, but that oil from the motor had gotten into the reactor and blocked the off-gas system, leading to a shutdown. Other materials and component testing were reported. An MSBR reference design was reported, using a two-fluid reactor coupled to a supercritical steam turbine system referenced after the TVA Bull Run plant. The reactor is intended to produce 1000-MWe of power at a 45% conversion efficiency, with a breeding factor of 1.049, and a total plant cost estimated at $113.6 million. July 17. The hub on one of the main blowers used to cool the MSRE breaks up, reducing the airflow and causing pieces of hub and blades to fly into the radiator. The coolant system was immediately drained and cooled down to inspect the radiator. August. The MSR program issues ORNL-3996, entitled "Design Studies of 1000-MWe Molten-Salt Breeder Reactors." ORNL-3996 is a much more detailed description of the two-fluid fluoride reactor design effort, including subsystems, capital costs, and trade studies between options. October 5. The Enrico Fermi Fast Breeder Reactor suffers extensive core damage and melting when a piece of metal comes loose in its core and blocks the flow of sodium coolant to some of the fuel rods. Starved of coolant, the solid rods begin to melt and slump. No radiation escapes the containment but the core is heavily damaged and the reactor is shut down for nearly four years. The incident was the basis for a controversial book by John Fuller entitled "We Almost Lost Detroit." Such an accident is impossible in the design of a molten-salt reactor since any flow blockage in the core would lead to a decrease in temperature (since the fluid is the fuel, rather than the coolant) rather than an increase.

1967

January 14. The MSRE completes a 30-day run. January. The MSR program issues ORNL-4037, their semiannual progress report for the period ending August 31, 1966. They report that the MSRE had achieved its maximum thermal power of 7.2 MW, which was less than its design value of 10 MW due to heat-transfer limitations in its air-cooled heat exchanger. These in turn were caused by miscalculations in specific heat values in the salt mixture. Other materials and component testing were reported. The MSBR reference design was altered, replacing the 1000-MWe single-unit design with four modular 250-MWe units in order to increase reliability. Direct-cooling of the reactor by lead was examined as an alternate concept, along with the merits of removing protactinium from the blanket. March 9. President Johnson amends his 1968 budget request by cutting $15 million for the USAEC and terminating work on the heavy-water-moderated, organically-cooled reactor (HWOCR). He notes that the fast breeder continues to remain the top priority of the USAEC. April 28. The MSRE completes a 3-month run. July. The MSR program issues ORNL-4119, their semiannual progress report for the period ending February 28, 1967. December. The MSR program issues ORNL-4191, their semiannual progress report for the period ending August 31, 1967.

1968

January 1. Unit One of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in California enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 1070 megawatts. Construction had begun on 01 May 1964, criticality was achieved on 14 Jun 1967, and grid connection on 16 Jul 1967. March 20. The MSRE completes a 6-month run. March 26. The MSRE ends its nuclear operation on uranium-235. Efforts begin to prepare the reactor to operate on uranium-233, which had never been used before. May 22. The nuclear submarine USS Scorpion is lost at sea with all hands (128). August. The MSR program issues ORNL-4254, their semiannual progress report for the period ending February 29, 1968. August 23-29. The enriched uranium fuel is removed from the core salt of the MSRE by fluorination to gaseous uranium hexafluoride. This demonstrates, in actual operation, the simple technique of fluorination to remove fuel from the salt of the reactor. The enriched uranium, once separated from the intensely radioactive fission products, is safe enough to handle without protection. October 2. The MSRE achieves criticality for the first time on uranium-233, becoming the first (and only) nuclear reactor to operate on uranium-235, uranium-233, and plutonium-239, demonstrating the remarkable flexibility of the molten-salt reactor concept. August 26. The Democratic Party platform for 1968 is released and states "we will push forward with research and development to assure a balanced program for the supply of energy for electric power, both public and private. This effort should go hand in hand with development of "breeder" reactors and large-scale nuclear desalting plants that can provide pure water economically from the sea for domestic use and agricultural and industrial development in arid regions, and with broadened medical and biological applications of atomic energy."

1969

January 28. The MSRE reaches full power for the first time on uranium-233 fuel. February. The MSR program issues ORNL-4344, their semiannual progress report for the period ending August 31, 1968. July 20. Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin walk on the Moon. August. The MSR program issues ORNL-4396, their semiannual progress report for the period ending February 28, 1969. September. Six capsules of plutonium are added to the MSRE to evaluate its performance on plutonium fuel in addition to uranium-233. November 25. The MSRE is taken to criticality for its final run (run 20) to analyze tritium production. December 1. Unit One of the Nine Mile Point Nuclear Station in New York enters commercial service. It is a General Electric boiling-water reactor with a capacity of 621 megawatts. Construction had begun on 12 Apr 1965, criticality was achieved on 05 Sep 1969, and grid connection on 09 Nov 1969. December 1. Unit One of the Oyster Creek Generating Station in New Jersey enters commercial service. It is a General Electric boiling-water reactor with a capacity of 615 megawatts. Construction had begun on 15 Dec 1964, criticality was achieved on 03 May 1969, and grid connection on 23 Sep 1969. December 12. Due to budget constraints, a planned run in January was cancelled and the MSRE is shut down for the last time. This was done by dropping the load, allowing the coolant salt to come up to temperature, then draining the fuel. The MSRE had achieved 17,655 hours of critical operation, equivalent to 13,172 hours at full power, over five years of operation. Approximately 2/3 of this operation was on uranium-235 fuel and 1/3 was on uranium-233 fuel. December 18. The fuel and flush salts of the MSRE begin to freeze in their drain tanks, the first time that any salt had frozen in the fuel system since the first loading of liquid salt into the fuel drain tanks on November 28, 1964.

1970

January 1. The MSRE operating staff is disbanded. Several engineers remain at the site, completing the analysis of the MSRE experience and writing summary reports. February. The MSR program issues ORNL-4449, their semiannual progress report for the period ending August 31, 1969. June 9. Unit Two of the Dresden Nuclear Power Plant in Illinois enters commercial service. It is a General Electric boiling-water reactor with a capacity of 867 megawatts. Construction had begun on 10 Jan 1966, criticality was achieved on 07 Jan 1970, and grid connection on 13 Apr 1970. July 1. Unit One of the Ginna Nuclear Power Plant in New York enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 581 megawatts. Construction had begun on 25 Apr 1966, criticality was achieved on 08 Nov 1969, and grid connection on 02 Dec 1969. August. The MSR program issues ORNL-4528, entitled "Two-Fluid Molten-Salt Breeder Reactor Design Study." ORNL-4528 is a description of the two-fluid fluoride reactor design as it stood when design efforts ceased on the two-fluid design in early 1968. August. The MSR program issues ORNL-4548, their semiannual progress report for the period ending February 28, 1970. December 21. Unit One of the Point Beach Nuclear Plant in Wisconsin enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 510 megawatts. Construction had begun on 19 Jul 1967, criticality was achieved on 02 Nov 1970, and grid connection on 06 Nov 1970.

1971

January. The MSR program issues ORNL-4622, their semiannual progress report for the period ending August 31, 1970. March 7. Unit Two of the Robinson Nuclear Station in South Carolina enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 710 megawatts. Construction had begun on 13 Apr 1967, criticality was achieved on 20 Sep 1970, and grid connection on 26 Sep 1970. June 4. In the first-ever special message to Congress on Energy, President Richard M. Nixon commits to a successful demonstration of the liquid-metal fast-breeder reactor by 1980, stating that "our best hope today for meeting the nation's growing demand for economical clean energy lies with the fast breeder reactor." Nixon also requests an additional $27 million for fiscal year 1972 for the LMFBR effort. Later that day, in a private call to Rep. Craig Hosmer of California, he tells Hosmer that he intends to push the AEC to build the demonstration LMFBR in California but encourages discretion, saying "this has got to be something we play very close to the vest." June 30. Unit One of the Monticello Nuclear Power Plant in Minnesota enters commercial service. It is a General Electric boiling-water reactor with a capacity of 572 megawatts. Construction had begun on 19 Jun 1967, criticality was achieved on 10 Dec 1970, and grid connection on 05 Mar 1971. July 21. President Nixon accepts the resignation of Dr. Glenn Seaborg, discoverer of plutonium and the potential of thorium, as the chairman of the US Atomic Energy Commission.. August. The MSR program issues ORNL-4676, their semiannual progress report for the period ending February 28, 1971. August 15. Under Nixon's direction, the United States withdraws from the Bretton Woods Accord, taking the US off the Gold Exchange Standard (whereby only the value of the US dollar had been pegged to the price of gold and all other currencies were pegged to the US dollar), allowing the dollar to "float". September 26. In remarks at the Hanford Works in Washington and an accompanying statement, President Richard M. Nixon reiterates his commitment to the Liquid Metal Fast Breeder Reactor. Nixon Hanford Speech Excerpt #1 Nixon Hanford Speech Excerpt #2 November 16. Unit Three of the Dresden Nuclear Power Plant in Illinois enters commercial service. It is a General Electric boiling-water reactor with a capacity of 867 megawatts. Construction had begun on 14 Oct 1966, criticality was achieved on 12 Jan 1971, and grid connection on 22 Jul 1971. December 31. Unit One of the Palisades Power Plant in Michigan enters commercial service. It is a Combustion Engineering pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 778 megawatts. Construction had begun on 14 Mar 1967, criticality was achieved on 24 May 1971, and grid connection on 31 Dec 1971.

1972

January 20. In his State of the Union speech, Nixon references his June 4 message to Congress and states "in that message last June, I presented a long list of means for assuring an ample supply of clean energy--including the liquid metal fast breeder reactor--and I again emphasize their importance. Because it often takes several years to bring new technologies into use in the energy field, there is no time for delay. Accordingly, I am including in my new budget increased funding for the most promising of these and other clean energy programs. By acting this year, we can avoid having to choose in some future year between too little energy, and too much pollution." February. The MSR program issues ORNL-4728, their semiannual progress report for the period ending August 31, 1971. March 16. In a special message to Congress on science and technology, Nixon touts the fast-breeder reactor effort as a good example of public and private cooperation, stating "one example of the benefits of such a partnership between the Federal Government and private enterprise is the program I presented last June to meet our growing need for clean energy. As I outlined the Federal role in this effort, I also indicated that industry's response to these initiatives would be crucial. That response has been most encouraging to date. For example, the electric utilities have already pledged some $25 million a year for a period of 10 years for developing a liquid metal fast breeder reactor demonstration plant. These pledges have come through the Edison Electric Institute, the American Public Power Association, and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. This effort is one part of a larger effort by the electrical utilities to raise $150 million annually for research and development to meet the growing demand for clean electric power." June 6. 427 miners are killed by an explosion at a coal mine in Wankie, Rhodesia. July 10. The Democratic Party platform for 1972 is released and states "we should promote greater research and development, both by government and by private industry, of unconventional energy sources, such as solar power, geothermal power, energy from water and a variety of nuclear power possibilities to design clean breeder fission and fusion techniques. Public funding in this area needs to be expanded, while retaining the principle of public administration of public funds." August 21. The Republican Party platform for 1972 is released and states "a liquid metal fast breeder reactor demonstration plant will be built with the financial support of the Atomic Energy Commission, the electric power industry and the Tennessee Valley Authority." September 7. Testimony before the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy notes that the US government will be expected to cover cost overruns on the fast-breeder reactor, and that the development cost will be at least $700 million. Rep. Craig Hosmer states that if cost targets are missed "I for one don't intend to scream and holler about it." September. An "evaluation" of the molten-salt breeder reactor concept is released by the Division of Reactor Development and Technology of the AEC in response to a request from the Office of Science and Technology (WASH-1222). Although it contains no overt recommendations about MSR research, it essentially ignores all of the beneficial safety and performance advantages of the MSR over solid-core reactors (especially the LMFBR) and accentuates the problems uncovered during the operation of the MSRE, such as tellurium cracking and tritium generation. It also emphasizes the AEC's preference for the LMFBR and the cost difficulties of funding two totally different approaches to breeder reactors (fast-spectrum uranium-plutonium vs. thermal-spectrum thorium-uranium). October 1. Unit Two of the Point Beach Nuclear Plant in Wisconsin enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 516 megawatts. Construction had begun on 25 Jul 1968, criticality was achieved on 30 May 1972, and grid connection on 02 Aug 1972. October. The MSR program issues ORNL-4782, their semiannual progress report for the period ending February 29, 1972. November 29. The Fermi fast breeder reactor is shutdown for the last time and a decision is made to decommission it, marking an end to the first attempt in the US to build a commercial fast breeder reactor. The reactor had only generated 0.03 terawatt-hours over a few years of operation. November 30. Unit One of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station in Vermont enters commercial service. It is a General Electric boiling-water reactor with a capacity of 620 megawatts. Construction had begun on 11 Dec 1967, criticality was achieved on 24 Mar 1972, and grid connection on 20 Sep 1972. December 1. Unit One of the Pilgrim Nuclear Station in Massachusetts enters commercial service. It is a General Electric boiling-water reactor with a capacity of 685 megawatts. Construction had begun on 26 Aug 1968, criticality was achieved on 16 Jun 1972, and grid connection on 19 Jul 1972. December 14. Unit Three of the Turkey Point Nuclear Generating Station in Florida enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 693 megawatts. Construction had begun on 27 Apr 1967, criticality was achieved on 20 Oct 1972, and grid connection on 02 Nov 1972. December 22. Unit One of the Surry Nuclear Generating Station in Virginia enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 799 megawatts. Construction had begun on 25 Jun 1968, criticality was achieved on 01 Jul 1972, and grid connection on 04 Jul 1972.

1973

US utilities order 41 nuclear power plants, a one-year record. But thereafter, no reactor ever ordered was completed to operation. The final reactor completed from the 1973 order was the Watts Bar-1 plant in Tennessee, which achieved criticality in 1996. January. ORNL is directed by the AEC to terminate all development of the molten-salt reactor. February 18. Unit One of the Quad Cities Nuclear Power Plant in Illinois enters commercial service. It is a General Electric boiling-water reactor with a capacity of 867 megawatts. Construction had begun on 15 Feb 1967, criticality was achieved on 18 Oct 1971, and grid connection on 12 Apr 1972. March 10. Unit Two of the Quad Cities Nuclear Power Plant in Illinois enters commercial service. It is a General Electric boiling-water reactor with a capacity of 867 megawatts. Construction had begun on 15 Feb 1967, criticality was achieved on 26 Apr 1972, and grid connection on 23 May 1972. March. The MSR program issues ORNL-4832, their semiannual progress report for the period ending August 31, 1972. April 18. In another special message to Congress, President Richard M. Nixon reiterates the national commitment to the fast breeder, saying it will extract 30 times more energy from uranium than light-water reactors and that "development of the liquid metal fast breeder reactor is our highest priority target for nuclear research and development." The message was accompanied by a televised speech (transcript). May 1. Unit Two of the Surry Nuclear Generating Station in Virginia enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 799 megawatts. Construction had begun on 25 Jun 1968, criticality was achieved on 07 Mar 1973, and grid connection on 10 Mar 1973. June 29. President Nixon proposes to split the Atomic Energy Commission into the Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA) and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). July 15. Unit One of the Oconee Nuclear Station in South Carolina enters commercial service. It is a Babcock and Wilcox pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 846 megawatts. Construction had begun on 06 Nov 1967, criticality was achieved on 19 Apr 1973, and grid connection on 06 May 1973. August 31. The first French power plant based on the liquid-metal fast breeder reactor, named "Phenix", achieves criticality. It has a power rating of 250 MWe. September 7. Unit Four of the Turkey Point Nuclear Generating Station in Florida enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 693 megawatts. Construction had begun on 27 Apr 1967, criticality was achieved on 11 Jun 1973, and grid connection on 21 Jun 1973. September 26. Unit One of the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant in Nebraska enters commercial service. It is a Combustion Engineering pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 482 megawatts. Construction had begun on 07 Jun 1968, criticality was achieved on 06 Aug 1973, and grid connection on 25 Aug 1973. October 6. Syria and Egypt launched a surprise attack on Israel, triggering the Yom Kippur War. October 12. President Richard Nixon authorized Operation Nickel Grass, an overt strategic airlift to deliver weapons and supplies to Israel, after the Soviet Union began sending arms to Syria and Egypt. October 16. OPEC announced a decision to raise the posted price of oil by 70%, and the following day, oil ministers agreed to the embargo on oil to the United States, a cut in production by five percent from September's output, and to continue to cut production over time in five percent increments until their economic and political objectives were met. Libya announced it would embargo all oil shipments to the United States. Saudi Arabia and the other OPEC states quickly followed suit, joining the embargo on October 20. November 7. Nixon announces "Project Independence," a plan to make the US energy independent by 1980. The breeder reactor was a central feature of this plan. December 16. Unit One of the Prairie Island Nuclear Power Plant in Minnesota enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 551 megawatts. Construction had begun on 25 Jun 1968, criticality was achieved on 01 Dec 1973, and grid connection on 04 Dec 1973. December 31. Unit One of the Zion Nuclear Power Station in Illinois enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 1040 megawatts. Construction had begun on 01 Dec 1968, criticality was achieved on 19 Jun 1973, and grid connection on 28 Jun 1973.

1974

January. The Molten-Salt Reactor Program is reinstated at ORNL. January 31. The Fort St. Vrain power plant achieves criticality for the first time. Manufactured by General Atomics, it is a high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR), with a graphite-moderated core and helium coolant. In addition to being the first commercial large-scale gas-cooled reactor, the nuclear material in the core consists of thorium as a fertile material and highly-enriched uranium (>93% U-235) as the fuel. The reactor is designed to achieve significantly high conversion ratio for a commercial reactor-about 0.8, but still not enough to breed. General Atomics intended to build a new fuel cycle based on thorium and highly-enriched fuel that never took off after Fort St. Vrain became an economic failure. It was permanently decommissioned in 1989, after a history of operation where it was only available about 14% of the time (compared with ~90% of typical nuclear plants). February 4. In his annual budget message to Congress, Nixon highlights the development of fast-breeder nuclear reactors as part of his "comprehensive national energy policy." March 17. Arab oil ministers, with the exception of Libya, announce the end of the embargo against the United States. May. India detonates a nuclear weapon built from plutonium separated from natural uranium irradiated in a heavy-water reactor similar to the US reactors built at Hanford. June 16. Unit One of the Kewaunee Power Station in Wisconsin enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 556 megawatts. Construction had begun on 06 Aug 1968, criticality was achieved on 07 Mar 1974, and grid connection on 08 Apr 1974. July 1. Unit One of the Cooper Nuclear Station in Nebraska enters commercial service. It is a General Electric boiling-water reactor with a capacity of 770 megawatts. Construction had begun on 01 Jun 1968, criticality was achieved on 21 Feb 1974, and grid connection on 10 May 1974. July 5. Unit Two of the Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station in Pennsylvania enters commercial service. It is a General Electric boiling-water reactor with a capacity of 1112 megawatts. Construction had begun on 31 Jan 1968, criticality was achieved on 16 Sep 1973, and grid connection on 18 Feb 1974. August 1. Unit Two of the Indian Point Energy Center in New York enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 1025 megawatts. Construction had begun on 14 Oct 1966, criticality was achieved on 22 May 1973, and grid connection on 26 Jun 1973. August 1. Unit One of the Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant in Alabama enters commercial service. It is a General Electric boiling-water reactor with a capacity of 1065 megawatts. Construction had begun on 01 May 1967, criticality was achieved on 17 Aug 1973, and grid connection on 15 Oct 1973. August 9. Richard Nixon resigns as President of the United States and is replaced by Gerald Ford. September 2. Unit One of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station in Pennsylvania enters commercial service. It is a Babcock and Wilcox pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 786 megawatts. Construction had begun on 18 May 1968, criticality was achieved on 05 Jun 1974, and grid connection on 19 Jun 1974. September 9. Unit Two of the Oconee Nuclear Station in South Carolina enters commercial service. It is a Babcock and Wilcox pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 846 megawatts. Construction had begun on 06 Nov 1967, criticality was achieved on 11 Nov 1973, and grid connection on 05 Dec 1973. September 17. Unit Two of the Zion Nuclear Power Station in Illinois enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 1040 megawatts. Construction had begun on 01 Dec 1968, criticality was achieved on 24 Dec 1973, and grid connection on 26 Dec 1973. October 11. President Gerald Ford abolishes the Atomic Energy Commission and creates in its place the Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA) and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to begin regulating the nuclear industry. The Joint Congressional Committee on Atomic Energy (JCAE) is also abolished. December 16. Unit Three of the Oconee Nuclear Station in South Carolina enters commercial service. It is a Babcock and Wilcox pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 846 megawatts. Construction had begun on 06 Nov 1967, criticality was achieved on 05 Sep 1974, and grid connection on 18 Sep 1974. December 19. Unit One of the Arkansas Nuclear One site in Arkansas enters commercial service. It is a Babcock and Wilcox pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 842 megawatts. Construction had begun on 01 Oct 1968, criticality was achieved on 06 Aug 1974, and grid connection on 17 Aug 1974. December 21. Unit Two of the Prairie Island Nuclear Power Plant in Minnesota enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 545 megawatts. Construction had begun on 25 Jun 1969, criticality was achieved on 17 Dec 1974, and grid connection on 21 Dec 1974. December 23. Unit Three of the Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station in Pennsylvania enters commercial service. It is a General Electric boiling-water reactor with a capacity of 1112 megawatts. Construction had begun on 31 Jan 1968, criticality was achieved on 07 Aug 1974, and grid connection on 01 Sep 1974. December. The MSR program releases ORNL-5018, entitled "Program Plan for the Development of Molten-Salt Breeder Reactors." ORNL-5018 is an attempt to assemble a programmatic plan to address the research and technology development challenges that needed to be solved before an MSBR could be built, along with an estimate of the funding required to accomplish these efforts.

1975

January 15. In his State of the Union address, President Ford announces that the United States will be energy independent by 1985. February 1. Unit One of the Duane Arnold Energy Center in Iowa enters commercial service. It is a General Electric boiling-water reactor with a capacity of 580 megawatts. Construction had begun on 22 Jun 1970, criticality was achieved on 23 Mar 1974, and grid connection on 19 May 1974. February 25. At a White House-sponsored conference in Florida, President Gerald Ford reiterates his commitment to the fast breeder reactor as the cornerstone of an energy-independence plan, now saying that it will provide 60 times more energy from uranium than conventional light-water reactors. March 1. Unit Two of the Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant in Alabama enters commercial service. It is a General Electric boiling-water reactor with a capacity of 1104 megawatts. Construction had begun on 01 May 1967, criticality was achieved on 20 Jul 1974, and grid connection on 28 Aug 1974. May 8. Unit One of the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant in Maryland enters commercial service. It is a Combustion Engineering pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 873 megawatts. Construction had begun on 01 Jun 1968, criticality was achieved on 07 Oct 1974, and grid connection on 03 Jan 1975. June. The MSR program issues ORNL-5011, their progress report for the period ending August 31, 1974. June 26. President Ford requests legislation from the US Congress privatizing the nation's uranium enrichment facilities at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, Portsmouth, Ohio, and Paducah, Kentucky. July 28. Unit One of the FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant in New York enters commercial service. It is a General Electric boiling-water reactor with a capacity of 854 megawatts. Construction had begun on 01 Sep 1968, criticality was achieved on 17 Nov 1974, and grid connection on 01 Feb 1975. August 28. Unit One of the DC Cook Nuclear Power Plant in Michigan enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 1009 megawatts. Construction had begun on 25 Mar 1969, criticality was achieved on 18 Jan 1975, and grid connection on 10 Feb 1975. September. The MSR program issues ORNL-5047, their semiannual progress report for the period ending February 28, 1975. November 3. Unit Two of the Brunswick Nuclear Power Plant in North Carolina enters commercial service. It is a General Electric boiling-water reactor with a capacity of 920 megawatts. Construction had begun on 07 Feb 1970, criticality was achieved on 20 Mar 1975, and grid connection on 29 Apr 1975. December 26. Unit Two of the Millstone Nuclear Power Station in Connecticut enters commercial service. It is a Combustion Engineering pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 877 megawatts. Construction had begun on 01 Nov 1969, criticality was achieved on 17 Oct 1975, and grid connection on 09 Nov 1975. December 27. 375 miners are killed by an explosion followed by flooding at a coal mine in Chasnala, India. December 31. Unit One of the Hatch Nuclear Power Plant in Georgia enters commercial service. It is a General Electric boiling-water reactor with a capacity of 876 megawatts. Construction had begun on 30 Sep 1968, criticality was achieved on 12 Sep 1974, and grid connection on 11 Nov 1974. The Energy Research and Development Administration (formerly AEC) begins to search for a possible permanent repository for the nation's nuclear waste. A multiple site survey emphasizing buried salt deposits and federal nuclear facility sites is conducted in 36 states, including Nevada, but is reduced in scope due to decreased funding and political opposition from states.

1976

February. The MSR program issues ORNL-5078, their semiannual progress report for the period ending August 31, 1975. February. ORNL is again directed by the AEC to end all work on the molten-salt reactor, "for budgetary reasons." February 26. In a special message to Congress, President Ford urges the enactment of his proposed energy legislation and calls for an increase in energy research and development from $2.2 billion to $2.9 billion, with the fast breeder reactor mentioned as a particular priority. March 22. President Ford again highlights fast breeder reactor development and how it could extend uranium resources for "centuries." May 20. Unit One of the Trojan Nuclear Power Plant in Oregon enters commercial operation. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 1155 megawatts. Construction had begun on 01 Feb 1970, criticality was achieved on 15 Dec 1975, and grid connection on 23 Dec 1975. August. The MSR program issues ORNL-5132, their semiannual progress report for the period ending February 29, 1976. This is the final progress report ever issued by the MSRP. August 30. Unit Three of the Indian Point Energy Center in New York enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 1040 megawatts. Construction had begun on 01 Nov 1968, criticality was achieved on 06 Apr 1976, and grid connection on 27 Apr 1976. October 1. Unit One of the Beaver Valley Power Station in Pennsylvania enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 892 megawatts. Construction had begun on 26 Jun 1970, criticality was achieved on 10 May 1976, and grid connection on 14 Jun 1976. October 28. In the days leading up to the election and under campaign pressure from his political opponent, President Ford bans the reprocessing of nuclear fuel, based on fears of proliferation of nuclear material for weapons. He states, "I have concluded that the reprocessing and recycling of plutonium should not proceed unless there is sound reason to conclude that the world community can effectively overcome the associated risks of proliferation. I believe that avoidance of proliferation must take precedence over economic interests. I have also concluded that the United States and other nations can and should increase their use of nuclear power for peaceful purposes even if reprocessing and recycling of plutonium are found to be unacceptable." He goes on to say that the breeder program will continue, stating "my decisions today do not affect the U.S. program of research and development on the breeder reactor. That program assumes that no decision on the commercial operations of breeder reactors, which require plutonium fuel, will be made before 1986." Obviously, without reprocessing and recycling of plutonium fuel, the fast-breeder reactor concept is non-viable. December 21. Unit One of the St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant in Florida enters commercial service. It is a Combustion Engineering pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 839 megawatts. Construction had begun on 01 Jul 1970, criticality was achieved on 22 Apr 1976, and grid connection on 07 May 1976.

1977

March 1. Unit Three of the Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant in Alabama enters commercial service. It is a General Electric boiling-water reactor with a capacity of 1105 megawatts. Construction had begun on 01 Jul 1968, criticality was achieved on 08 Aug 1976, and grid connection on 12 Sep 1976. March 13. Unit Three of the Crystal River Nuclear Power Plant in Florida enters commercial service. It is a Babcock and Wilcox pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 860 megawatts. Construction had begun on 25 Sep 1968, criticality was achieved on 14 Jan 1977, and grid connection on 30 Jan 1977. March 18. Unit One of the Brunswick Nuclear Power Plant in North Carolina enters commercial service. It is a General Electric boiling-water reactor with a capacity of 938 megawatts. Construction had begun on 07 Feb 1970, criticality was achieved on 08 Oct 1976, and grid connection on 04 Dec 1976. March 25. President Jimmy Carter states in a question-and-answer session with the press that solar energy will be his prime focus and that "we're going to cut back drastically on the concentration involving the breeder reactor and a plutonium society." April 1. Unit Two of the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant in Maryland enters commercial service. It is a Combustion Engineering pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 862 megawatts. Construction had begun on 01 Jun 1968, criticality was achieved on 30 Nov 1976, and grid connection on 07 Dec 1976. April 7. President Carter announces that Ford's policy banning reprocessing of used nuclear fuel will be continued, stating "we have seen recently India evolve an explosive device derived from a peaceful nuclear power plant, and we now feel that several other nations are on the verge of becoming nuclear explosive powers." He also states that the US breeder program will be restructured to give greater priority to non-plutonium breeder designs, and that the date of commercial breeder operation will be deferred. He also calls for a cutback in federal funding for the Clinch River Breeder Reactor effort. April 20. In a speech before a joint session of Congress, President Carter announces a National Energy Plan, the cornerstone of which is to reduce demand for energy through conservation. He argues for less petroleum use and greater reliance on domestic coal reserves. He states, "We now have 63 nuclear power plants producing about 3 percent of our total energy, and we also have about 70 more nuclear power plants which are licensed for construction. Domestic uranium supplies can support this number of plants, judged by the most conservative estimate, for another 75 years at least. Effective conservation efforts can minimize the shift toward nuclear power. There is no need to enter the plutonium age by licensing or building a fast breeder reactor such as the proposed demonstration plant at Clinch River." In the fact sheet accompanying his speech, he announces that the Clinch River Breeder Reactor effort will be deferred indefinitely, and that all component construction, commercialization, and licensing efforts will be cancelled. The United States breeder program will be redirected toward evaluation of alternate breeders, fuels, and advanced converter reactors with emphasis on nonproliferation and safety concerns. May 17. In a televised question-and-answer session, President Carter blames emphasis on the breeder reactor for the slow progress made in solar power. June 30. Unit One of the Salem Generating Station in New Jersey enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 1174 megawatts. Construction had begun on 25 Sep 1968, criticality was achieved on 11 Dec 1976, and grid connection on 25 Dec 1976. August 4. President Carter combines the Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA) with the Federal Energy Administration (FEA), creating the Department of Energy (DOE). August 26. An experimental thorium-uranium-233 core is loaded in the Shippingport Atomic Power Station to test the use of thorium fuel in conventional pressurized-water reactors. The core runs for five years and is then removed and examined. The examination shows that there is 1.3% more fissile material in the core than when the experiment began, showing that thorium can be successfully bred into uranium-233. Unfortunately, no additional light-water reactors are converted to "light-water breeder reactors." December 1. Unit One of the Farley Nuclear Power Plant in Alabama enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 851 megawatts. Construction had begun on 01 Oct 1970, criticality was achieved on 09 Aug 1977, and grid connection on 18 Aug 1977.

1978

June 6. Unit One of the North Anna Power Station in Virginia enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 903 megawatts. Construction had begun on 19 Feb 1971, criticality was achieved on 05 Apr 1978, and grid connection on 17 Apr 1978. July 1. Unit Two of the DC Cook Nuclear Power Plant in Michigan enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 1060 megawatts. Construction had begun on 25 Mar 1969, criticality was achieved on 10 Mar 1978, and grid connection on 22 Mar 1978. July 31. Unit One of the Davis-Besse Nuclear Generating Station in Ohio enters commercial service. It is a Babcock and Wilcox pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 879 megawatts. Construction had begun on 01 Sep 1970, criticality was achieved on 12 Aug 1977, and grid connection on 28 Aug 1977. December 30. Unit Two of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station in Pennsylvania enters commercial service. It is a Babcock and Wilcox pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 906 megawatts. Construction had begun on 01 Nov 1969, criticality was achieved on 27 Mar 1978, and grid connection on 21 Apr 1978.

1979

March 28. The second unit at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station suffers a partial core meltdown when the water coolant is accidentally drained from the core of the reactor. Without the cooling from the water, the decay heat from the fission products in the fuel rods lead to a temperature increase that causes the fuel to melt and bow. Gaseous fission products (krypton and xenon) are released from the fuel and later vented to the environment. There is a tremendous fear that a bubble of hydrogen and oxygen gas, formed from the dissociation of water, is present in the reactor vessel and might recombine and explode, damaging the containment, but this is later mitigated. The reactor is never restarted. No fatalities or excess cancers are ever directly tied to the accident but it becomes a rallying cry for the anti-nuclear movement. September 5. Unit Two of the Hatch Nuclear Power Plant in Georgia enters commercial service. It is a General Electric boiling-water reactor with a capacity of 883 megawatts. Construction had begun on 01 Feb 1972, criticality was achieved on 04 Jul 1978, and grid connection on 22 Sep 1978.

1980

March 26. Unit Two of the Arkansas Nuclear One site in Arkansas enters commercial service. It is a Combustion Engineering pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 997 megawatts. Construction had begun on 06 Dec 1968, criticality was achieved on 05 Dec 1978, and grid connection on 26 Dec 1978. December 14. Unit Two of the North Anna Power Station in Virginia enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 903 megawatts. Construction had begun on 19 Feb 1971, criticality was achieved on 12 Jun 1980, and grid connection on 25 Aug 1980.

1981

President Ronald Reagan lifts the ban on commercial reprocessing, but the development of reprocessing facilities was no longer considered economically viable in the United States. July 1. Unit One of the Sequoyah Nuclear Power Plant in Tennessee enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 1148 megawatts. Construction had begun on 27 May 1970, criticality was achieved on 05 Jul 1980, and grid connection on 22 Jul 1980. July 30. Unit Two of the Farley Nuclear Power Plant in Alabama enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 860 megawatts. Construction had begun on 01 Oct 1970, criticality was achieved on 05 May 1981, and grid connection on 25 May 1981. October 13. Unit Two of the Salem Generating Station in New Jersey enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 1158 megawatts. Construction had begun on 25 Sep 1968, criticality was achieved on 08 Aug 1980, and grid connection on 03 Jun 1981. December 1. Unit One of the McGuire Nuclear Power Plant in North Carolina enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 1100 megawatts. Construction had begun on 01 Apr 1971, criticality was achieved on 08 Aug 1981, and grid connection on 12 Sep 1981.

1982

June 1. Unit Two of the Sequoyah Nuclear Power Plant in Tennessee enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 1126 megawatts. Construction had begun on 27 May 1970, criticality was achieved on 05 Nov 1981, and grid connection on 23 Dec 1981. October 1. The Shippingport reactor, loaded with an experimental thorium/U233 solid-oxide core, is shutdown for the last time. The fuel is unloaded and the unit is decommissioned. It is the end of the first commercial nuclear power plant in the United States and the first and only demonstration of the light-water breeder reactor concept.

1983

January 7. President Reagan signs into law the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. June 8. Unit One of the Susquehanna Nuclear Generating Station in Pennsylvania enters commercial service. It is a General Electric boiling-water reactor with a capacity of 1185 megawatts. Construction had begun on 02 Nov 1973, criticality was achieved on 10 Sep 1982, and grid connection on 16 Nov 1982. August 8. Unit Two of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in California enters commercial service. It is a Combustion Engineering pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 1070 megawatts. Construction had begun on 01 Mar 1974, criticality was achieved on 26 Jul 1982, and grid connection on 20 Sep 1982. August 8. Unit Two of the St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant in Florida enters commercial service. It is a Combustion Engineering pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 839 megawatts. Construction had begun on 02 Jun 1977, criticality was achieved on 02 Jun 1983, and grid connection on 13 Jun 1983. October 26. Funding for the Clinch River Breeder Reactor project is killed by Congress.

1984

January 1. Unit One of the LaSalle County Generating Station in Illinois enters commercial service. It is a General Electric boiling-water reactor with a capacity of 1118 megawatts. Construction had begun on 10 Sep 1973, criticality was achieved on 21 Jun 1982, and grid connection on 04 Sep 1982. January 1. Unit One of the Summer Nuclear Station in South Carolina enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 966 megawatts. Construction had begun on 21 Mar 1973, criticality was achieved on 22 Oct 1982, and grid connection on 16 Nov 1982. March 1. Unit Two of the McGuire Nuclear Power Plant in North Carolina enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 1100 megawatts. Construction had begun on 01 Apr 1971, criticality was achieved on 08 May 1983, and grid connection on 23 May 1983. April 1. Unit Three of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in California enters commercial service. It is a Combustion Engineering pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 1080 megawatts. Construction had begun on 01 Mar 1974, criticality was achieved on 29 Aug 1983, and grid connection on 25 Sep 1983. August 29. The board of directors of the Tennessee Valley Authority unanimously vote to cancel construction of two reactors at their Yellow Creek site near Corinth, Mississippi and two other reactors at a site near Hartsville, Tennessee. Customers had already paid about $1.3 billion in construction costs and would be responsible for another $2.7 billion over the next 11 years. The TVA estimates the Hartsville plant would cost $6.5 billion to finish, while the Yellow Creek plant's price tag is estimated at $10 billion. Work on the plants stopped in 1982. October 19. Unit Two of the LaSalle County Generating Station in Illinois enters commercial service. It is a General Electric boiling-water reactor with a capacity of 1120 megawatts. Construction had begun on 10 Sep 1973, criticality was achieved on 10 Mar 1984, and grid connection on 20 Apr 1984. December 13. Unit Two of the Columbia Generating Station in Washington state enters commercial service. It is a General Electric boiling-water reactor with a capacity of 1131 megawatts. Construction had begun on 01 Aug 1972, criticality was achieved on 19 Jan 1984, and grid connection on 27 May 1984. December 19. 27 miners are killed by a fire at the Wilberg coal mine in Wilberg, Utah. December 19. Unit One of the Callaway Nuclear Plant in Missouri enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 1190 megawatts. Construction had begun on 01 Sep 1975, criticality was achieved on 02 Oct 1984, and grid connection on 24 Oct 1984.

1985

February 12. Unit Two of the Susquehanna Nuclear Generating Station in Pennsylvania enters commercial service. It is a General Electric boiling-water reactor with a capacity of 1140 megawatts. Construction had begun on 02 Nov 1973, criticality was achieved on 08 May 1984, and grid connection on 03 Jul 1984. May 7. Unit One of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant in California enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 1122 megawatts. Construction had begun on 23 Apr 1968, criticality was achieved on 29 Apr 1984, and grid connection on 11 Nov 1984. June 29. Unit One of the Catawba Nuclear Station in South Carolina enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 1129 megawatts. Construction had begun on 01 May 1974, criticality was achieved on 07 Jan 1985, and grid connection on 22 Jan 1985. July 1. Unit One of the Grand Gulf Nuclear Station in Mississippi enters commercial service. It is a General Electric boiling-water reactor with a capacity of 1259 megawatts. Construction had begun on 04 May 1974, criticality was achieved on 18 Aug 1982, and grid connection on 20 Oct 1984. September 3. Unit One of the Wolf Creek Generating Station in Kansas enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 1160 megawatts. Construction had begun on 31 May 1977, criticality was achieved on 22 May 1985, and grid connection on 12 Jun 1985. September 16. Unit One of the Byron Nuclear Power Plant in northern Illinois enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 1164 megawatts. Construction had begun on 01 Apr 1975, criticality was achieved on 02 Feb 1985, and grid connection on 01 Mar 1985. September 24. Unit Three of the Waterford Steam Electric Station in Louisiana enters commercial service. It is a Combustion Engineering pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 1176 megawatts. Construction had begun on 14 Nov 1974, criticality was achieved on 04 Mar 1985, and grid connection on 18 Mar 1985.

1986

January 28. The space shuttle Challenger is destroyed in an explosion 73 seconds after liftoff. The crew of seven is killed. January 28. Unit One of the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station in Arizona enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 1311 megawatts. Construction had begun on 25 May 1976, criticality was achieved on 25 May 1985, and grid connection on 10 Jun 1985. February 1. Unit One of the Limerick Generating Station in Pennsylvania enters commercial service. It is a General Electric boiling-water reactor with a capacity of 1130 megawatts. Construction had begun on 19 Jun 1974, criticality was achieved on 22 Dec 1984, and grid connection on 13 Apr 1985. March 13. Unit Two of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant in California enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 1118 megawatts. Construction had begun on 09 Dec 1970, criticality was achieved on 19 Aug 1985, and grid connection on 20 Oct 1985. April 23. Unit Three of the Millstone Nuclear Power Station in Connecticut enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 1138 megawatts. Construction had begun on 09 Aug 1974, criticality was achieved on 23 Jan 1986, and grid connection on 12 Feb 1986. April 26. Unit-4 of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant is heavily damaged during a safety experiment in Pripyat, Ukraine. The reactor, poorly designed with no containment and operation regimes with positive temperature coefficients of reactivity, is nonetheless used in a "safety" drill that involved the intentional deactivation of most of the automatic safety systems. The accident is not only far worse than Three Mile Island, but substantially different in that it was caused by a runaway nuclear reaction rather than the loss of coolant to remove the decay heat generated by fission products. During the accident, the reactor power jumped to ten times the normal operational output, causing the fuel rods to melt and the water coolant to vaporize to steam. The steam pressure caused an explosion which ripped off and destroyed the reactor lid, ruptured the coolant tubes and blew a hole in the roof. To reduce costs, and because of its large size, the reactor was constructed with only partial containment. This allowed the radioactive contaminants to escape into the atmosphere after the steam explosion burst the primary pressure vessel. After part of the roof blew off, the inrush of oxygen-combined with the extremely high temperature of the reactor fuel and graphite moderator-sparked a graphite fire. This fire greatly contributed to the spread of radioactive material and the ultimate contamination of outlying areas. A 2005 UN report estimates that 56 people were directly killed in the accident and that some 4000 others could suffer accident-related cancers in their lifetime. June 16. Unit One of the River Bend Station in Louisiana enters commercial service. It is a General Electric boiling-water reactor with a capacity of 978 megawatts. Construction had begun on 25 Mar 1977, criticality was achieved on 31 Oct 1985, and grid connection on 03 Dec 1985. August 19. Unit Two of the Catawba Nuclear Station in South Carolina enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 1129 megawatts. Construction had begun on 01 May 1974, criticality was achieved on 08 May 1986, and grid connection on 18 May 1986. September 19. Unit Two of the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station in Arizona enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 1314 megawatts. Construction had begun on 01 Jun 1976, criticality was achieved on 18 Apr 1986, and grid connection on 20 May 1986. December 20. Unit One of the Hope Creek Nuclear Power Plant in New Jersey enters commercial service. It is a General Electric boiling-water reactor with a capacity of 1161 megawatts. Construction had begun on 01 Mar 1976, criticality was achieved on 28 Jun 1986, and grid connection on 01 Aug 1986. The DOE indefinitely postpones the second repository siting program, violating the regional equity intent of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, after much objection from states in the northern mid-west and east where potentially acceptable repository sites in granite are prohibited.

1987

January 1. Eugene Wigner dies at the age of 92. May 2. Unit One of the Shearon Harris Nuclear Generating Station in North Carolina enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 900 megawatts. Construction had begun on 28 Jan 1978, criticality was achieved on 03 Jan 1987, and grid connection on 19 Jan 1987. June 1. Unit One of the Vogtle Nuclear Power Plant in Georgia enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 1150 megawatts. Construction had begun on 01 Aug 1976, criticality was achieved on 09 Mar 1987, and grid connection on 27 Mar 1987. August 2. Unit Two of the Byron Nuclear Power Plant in northern Illinois enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 1136 megawatts. Construction had begun on 01 Apr 1975, criticality was achieved on 09 Jan 1987, and grid connection on 06 Feb 1987. November 17. Unit Two of the Beaver Valley Power Station in Pennsylvania enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 846 megawatts. Construction had begun on 03 May 1974, criticality was achieved on 04 Aug 1987, and grid connection on 17 Aug 1987. November 18. Unit One of the Perry Nuclear Power Plant in Ohio enters commercial service. It is a General Electric boiling-water reactor with a capacity of 1245 megawatts. Construction had begun on 01 Oct 1974, criticality was achieved on 06 Jun 1986, and grid connection on 19 Dec 1986. November 24. Unit One of the Clinton Nuclear Power Plant in Illinois enters commercial service. It is a General Electric boiling-water reactor with a capacity of 1043 megawatts. Construction had begun on 01 Oct 1975, criticality was achieved on 27 Feb 1987, and grid connection on 24 Apr 1987. December. Congress amends the NWPA, designating Yucca Mountain, Nevada as the sole repository site to be characterized. Two other sites are removed from consideration, the screening process for a second repository site is ended, and studies of repository sites in granite are prohibited.

1988

January 8. Unit Three of the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station in Arizona enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 1317 megawatts. Construction had begun on 01 Jun 1976, criticality was achieved on 25 Oct 1987, and grid connection on 28 Nov 1987. January 23. Unit Two of the Fermi Nuclear Power Plant in Michigan enters commercial service. It is a General Electric boiling-water reactor with a capacity of 1122 megawatts. Construction had begun on 26 Sep 1972, criticality was achieved on 21 Jun 1985, and grid connection on 21 Sep 1986. March 11. Unit Two of the Nine Mile Point Nuclear Station in New York enters commercial service. It is a General Electric boiling-water reactor with a capacity of 1143 megawatts. Construction had begun on 01 Aug 1975, criticality was achieved on 23 May 1987, and grid connection on 08 Aug 1987. July 29. Unit One of the Braidwood Nuclear Power Plant in northeastern Illinois enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 1178 megawatts. Construction had begun on 01 Aug 1975, criticality was achieved on 29 May 1987, and grid connection on 12 Jul 1987. August 25. Unit One of the South Texas Project in Texas enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 1280 megawatts. Construction had begun on 22 Dec 1975, criticality was achieved on 08 Mar 1988, and grid connection on 30 Mar 1988. October 17. Unit Two of the Braidwood Nuclear Power Plant in northeastern Illinois enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 1152 megawatts. Construction had begun on 01 Aug 1975, criticality was achieved on 08 Mar 1988, and grid connection on 25 May 1988.

1989

May 20. Unit Two of the Vogtle Nuclear Power Plant in Georgia enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 1152 megawatts. Construction had begun on 01 Aug 1976, criticality was achieved on 28 Mar 1989, and grid connection on 10 Apr 1989. June 19. Unit Two of the South Texas Project in Texas enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 1280 megawatts. Construction had begun on 22 Dec 1975, criticality was achieved on 12 Mar 1989, and grid connection on 11 Apr 1989.

1990

January 8. Unit Two of the Limerick Generating Station in Pennsylvania enters commercial service. It is a General Electric boiling-water reactor with a capacity of 1134 megawatts. Construction had begun on 19 Jun 1974, criticality was achieved on 12 Aug 1989, and grid connection on 01 Sep 1989. August 13. Unit One of the Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant in Texas enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 1209 megawatts. Construction had begun on 19 Dec 1974, criticality was achieved on 03 Apr 1990, and grid connection on 24 Apr 1990. August 19. Unit One of the Seabrook Nuclear Generating Station in New Hampshire enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 1245 megawatts. Construction had begun on 07 Jul 1976, criticality was achieved on 13 Jun 1989, and grid connection on 29 May 1990.

1992

October 24. President George H.W. Bush signs into law the Energy Policy Act. November 9. The only unit at the Trojan Nuclear Power Plant in Oregon was permanently shutdown by a ballot initiative. November 30. Unit One of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in California is shut down for the last time, having generated 51.1 terawatt-hours of electrical energy over 24 years of operation.

1993

August 3. Unit Two of the Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant in Texas enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 1158 megawatts. Construction had begun on 19 Dec 1974, criticality was achieved on 24 Mar 1993, and grid connection on 09 Apr 1993.

1994

January 14. The US signs a contract with the Russian Federation to buy highly-enriched uranium (HEU, >93% U-235) and isotopically dilute it with depleted uranium (<0.7% U-235) to form low-enrichment uranium (LEU) for light-water reactors. The "de-enrichment" of the fuel effectively wastes all of the enormous energies that went into the original enrichment. It also represents another lost opportunity to use HEU as the "start charges" for a great number of liquid-fluoride reactors, that could then sustain themselves on solely on thorium.

1995

Tunnel boring machine makes progress into Yucca Mountain but encounters loose ground at various points. Five miles of tunnels are planned for the study area by 1996. Bills are pending in Congress that re-prioritize the waste program to emphasize interim waste storage and transportation, with site characterization as a lower priority.

1996

May 27. Unit One of the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant in Tennessee enters commercial service. It is a Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor with a capacity of 1123 megawatts. Construction had begun on 23 Jan 1973, criticality was achieved on 01 Jan 1996, and grid connection on 06 Feb 1996. It is the last reactor of its generation to be completed in the United States.

1997

Thermal testing begins at Yucca Mountain. It is scheduled to take eight years.

1998

February 13. Units One and Two of the Zion Nuclear Power Station in Illinois are shut down for the last time, having each generated 124 terawatt-hours of electrical energy over 24 years of operation. DOE fails to meet its January deadline for waste acceptance. Lawsuits are filed by states and the nuclear industry. Legislation that would put an interim storage facility on the Nevada Test Site dies in Congress. The Yucca Mountain Viability Assessment is released in December with DOE declaring the site "viable" but admitting that much work still needs to be done before the site can be officially recommended in 2001.

1999

September 30. Criticality accident at Tokai-Mura reprocessing facility in Japan.

2000

July 31. 2 miners are killed by an explosion at the Willow Creek coal mine in Helper, Utah. August 19. 12 people are killed by an explosion in a natural-gas pipeline near Carlsbad, New Mexico.

2001

September 23. 13 miners are killed by an explosion at the JWR5 coal mine in Brookwood, Alabama. November 24. Milton Shaw dies of cancer at the age of 80 in Maryland.

2002

Spring. It is estimated that 7 billion dollars have been spent studying Yucca Mountain as a nuclear-waste repository, making it the most studied geological site in history. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham recommends Yucca Mountain as a suitable site to President George W. Bush. Bush approves the recommendation. Nevada Governor Kenny Guinn exercises the State's right to veto the Yucca Mountain project. The project moves to Congress, where a simple majority in both houses is needed to overturn Guinn's veto. Yucca Mountain is debated and passed first in the House of Representatives and then more narrowly in the Senate. President Bush signs the joint resolution into law, officially designating Yucca Mountain as the nation's nuclear waste repository site. DOE begins work on its application for a license to build and run the repository. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) identifies 293 technical issues DOE must solve before submitting the license application. The State of Nevada files major lawsuits against DOE, NRC, Bush, and Abraham. August-November. Approximately 4 gigabytes of documents related to the Molten-Salt Reactor Program, from 1951 until 1979, are scanned into PDF form at Oak Ridge and delivered to NASA Marshall Space Flight Center.

2003

January 22. 3 miners are killed by an explosion at the McElroy coal mine in Cameron, West Virginia.

2004

The US Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. throws out the EPA's 10,000 year radiation standard for Yucca Mountain, but dismisses Nevada's other lawsuits. The Department of Energy selects the southern Nevada Caliente corridor to build a rail line for shipping waste to Yucca Mountain (Carlin is named the alternative). Nevada files suit over the Caliente Rail Line. An NRC Board rules that DOE's Yucca Mountain public internet database (Licensing Support Network) is incomplete. It is uncertain whether DOE will submit its license application to the NRC in December as planned. An NRC Commissioner and other officials say a 2010 opening is unlikely. September. 3216 metric tonnes of thorium nitrate, comprising the entirety of the US strategic reserve, begins to be shipped from storage depots in Maryland and Indiana (Curtis Bay and Hammond) to a permanent disposal location at the Nevada Test Site. This thorium, if completely consumed in a liquid-fluoride thorium reactor, would generate 720 quads of heat energy, sufficient to power the entire United States for two years.

2005

August. Thorium nitrate shipments to the Nevada Test Site are completed. August 8. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 is signed into law. In addition to extending the Price-Anderson liability protections until 2025, the act provides for substantial government subsidies (~$4.3 billion) for the construction of new pressurized-water reactors and the construction (at government expense) of a high-temperature, gas-cooled reactor in Idaho capable of generating the high temperatures required for thermochemical generation of hydrogen. Ironically, the liquid-fluoride reactor is also capable of generating the high temperatures needed for hydrogen production, but there is no commercial advocacy for the reactor.

2006

January 2. 12 miners are killed by an explosion at the Sago coal mine in Tallmansville, West Virginia. May 25. At a "Nuclear Power Workshop" held at Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, personnel from NASA, DOE, Cleveland State University, and Battelle discuss LFTR and the implications of a thorium-powered future. This meeting marks the beginning of public-advocacy efforts for LFTR technology. October 10. Kirk Sorensen gives a presentation on LFTR technology to representatives of the nuclear engineering department at Ohio State University. October 18. Alvin Weinberg dies at the age of 91 at his home in Oak Ridge.

2007

May 17. Unit One of the Tianwan Nuclear Power Plant in Lianyungang, Jiangsu province, China enters commercial service. It is a Atomstroyexport VVER (Russian pressurized-water reactor) with a capacity of 933 megawatts. Construction had begun on 20 Oct 1999, criticality was achieved on 20 Dec 2005, and grid connection on 12 May 2006. August 6. 9 miners are killed by a collapse at the Crandall Canyon coal mine in Huntington, Utah. August 16. Unit Two of the Tianwan Nuclear Power Plant in Lianyungang, Jiangsu province, China enters commercial service. It is a Atomstroyexport VVER (Russian pressurized-water reactor) with a capacity of 933 megawatts. Construction had begun on 20 Oct 2000, criticality was achieved on 01 May 2007, and grid connection on 14 May 2007. August 28. 181 miners are killed by a flood at the Huayang coal mine in Xintai, Shandong, China. November 18. 63 miners are killed in an explosion at a Ukrainian coal mine.

2008

October 2. The Thorium Energy Independence and Security Act of 2008 is introduced in the US Senate by Orrin Hatch of Utah and co-sponsored by Harry Reid of Nevada. November 3. NASA climatologist James Hansen holds a workshop on reducing CO2 in Washington DC and Kirk Sorensen presents the LFTR concept. November 19. Joe Bonometti presents "The Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor: What Fusion Wanted To Be" as a "TechTalk" at Google in Mountain View, California.

2009

March 16. At his request, representatives from the USASMDC brief Dr. Parker Griffith (5-AL), on the possibilities for developing a prototype LFTR in Alabama. April 15. DoE deputy press secretary Jen Stutsman admits that the GNEP program is being shut down by stating: "The Department has already decided not to continue the domestic GNEP programme of the last administration. The long-term fuel cycle research and development programme will continue but not the near-term deployment of recycling facilities or fast reactors." May 4. Rep. Parker Griffith (AL-5) writes a letter to Dean Popps, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army, requesting that he familiarize himself with the potential of thorium and meet with Griffith about how to move the technology forward as a development and demonstration project within the US Army. May 26. Robert Hargraves presents "Aim High: Using Thorium Energy to Address Environmental Problems," a plan to mass-produce LFTRs to provide power, stabilize population, and reduce CO2 during a "TechTalk" at Google in Mountain View, California. June 20. Congressman Joe Sestak (PA-7) introduces provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act instructing the Secretary of Defense to investigate LFTRs for naval propulsion. The provisions are later removed from the bill as it moves through the approval process. June 29. The Environmental Protection Agency announces the cancellation of the Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for the DOE's Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP). June 30. Rep. Joe Sestak introduces an amendment to the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill instructing the Secretary of Energy to study the use of thorium for national energy needs. July 5. Kirk Sorensen presents the potential of thorium and LFTR to reduce planetary CO2 emissions by generating carbon-free electricity to the Manchester International Festival in Manchester, England. July 13. Writing for The Guardian newspaper, Duncan Clark reports on the thorium presentation at the Manchester Report. July 20. Kirk Sorensen presents his "Lessons for the Liquid-Fluoride Thorium Reactor" as a "TechTalk" at Google in Mountain View, California. October 1. The Manchester Report is released and includes LFTR as one of its top ten strategies to reduce CO2 emissions. October 19-20. The first Thorium Energy Alliance Conference is held in Washington, DC, on the campus of Gallaudet University. Roughly 50 participants come from the US, Canada, France, and Japan to discuss thorium as a global energy source. November 22. 87 miners are killed in a huge underground gas explosion in the Xinxing coal mine in China. December 10. The British newspaper The Economist runs a story called "Nuclear's Next Generation" highlighting the six Generation-4 reactor concepts and LFTR in particular. December 18. The January 2010 issue of WIRED magazine has an article about thorium and LFTR by Richard Martin called "The New Nuke".

2010

January 29. The Department of Energy announces the formation of a Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future to provide recommendations for developing a long-term solution to US used nuclear fuel and nuclear waste. The Commission is co-chaired by Lee Hamilton and Brent Scowcroft and includes Per Peterson of UC Berkeley. February 7. A catastrophic explosion at a natural gas powerplant under construction in Middleton, Connecticut kills six construction workers and destroys the $1 billion facility. February 16. The Obama Administration announces $8.33 billion in federal loan guarantees to advance the construction of two new AP1000 light-water reactors at the Vogtle site in Georgia. March 3. The Thorium Energy Security Act of 2010 is introduced in the US Senate by Orrin Hatch of Utah and co-sponsored by Harry Reid of Nevada. March 22. The Australian ABC Radio network broadcasts an article on its "Counterpoint" program about thorium and the liquid-fluoride reactor. March 28. 153 miners were trapped by a flood at the Wangjialing coal mine in Shanxi province, China. 115 were ultimately rescued after eight days underground, but 38 never came out. March 29-30. The second Thorium Energy Alliance Conference is held in Mountain View, California and is hosted by Google. Roughly 100 participants come from the US, Canada, and Japan to discuss thorium as a global energy source and the technical steps ahead. April 2. 5 workers are killed by an explosion at the Tesoro refinery in Anacortes, Washington. April 5. 29 miners are killed by an explosion at Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch coal mine in Montcoal, West Virginia. It is the worst coal mine disaster since 1970. April 20. 11 workers are killed and 17 are injured by an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico. Over the next three months nearly five million barrels of crude are leaked into the Gulf by the damaged oil well. It is the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry. October 10-12. The first Thorium Energy Conference (ThEC2010) is held by the International Thorium Energy Organization at the Royal Institution in London. Over three days the participants discuss the relative merits of thorium use in light-water reactors, accelerator-driven reactors, and molten-salt reactors. A variety of media is also in attendance.

2011

March 11. The strong earthquake off the coast of Japan causes a tsunami that damages the reactors at Fukushima-Daiichi, leading to meltdowns and the release of radioactivity near the plant. March 31. In her "maiden speech" before the House of Lords, Baroness Bryony Worthington encourages the UK government to consider the merits of thorium-based nuclear reactors as an energy source. April 6. Flibe Energy is incorporated as a Delaware corporation with offices in Huntsville, Alabama. Its intention is to pursue the design, development, manufacture, and operation of liquid-fluoride thorium reactors for a variety of purposes. April 27. The southeastern United States is struck by the worst day of tornadic activity in the nation's history. 344 people are killed by the storms, mostly in Alabama. The high-voltage transmission lines from the Browns Ferry Nuclear Reactor are destroyed by the storms, plunging northern Alabama into darkness for a week or more. Emergency diesel generators are required to operate the plant for four days until outside power is restored. May 12. The third Thorium Energy Alliance Conference is held in Washington, DC. Participants from the US, Canada, and Japan discuss thorium as a global energy source and the technical steps ahead. June 13. Italian voters defeat a referendum by the government of Silvio Berlusconi to restart Italy's nuclear power program.

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