Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Monday, 3 August 2009

Burgers in Atomic City

Arco, Idaho

We like this little Kampground of America (KOA) a lot. They let us wash the Toyota and RV, they have a happy hour where travelers get together to talk at 3:30 and they serve ice cream at eight. They have a pool, cable TV, Wi-Fi and big spaces. They're far enough off the little roads though town that there's no traffic noise. You can smell the rural cow and horse manure when it rains. We decide to spend an extra day to relax and read.

There are some really strange RVs in the US.

Arco is a very small town. I drove though it four times looking for a grocery store to buy wine, mayonnaise, sweet pickles and onions for a salmon salad. Finally I stopped at the place where they serve Atomic Burgers and got directions. This is the first city in the world to be powered by an atomic reactor.

We went to visit EBR-1. It was the world's first atomic reactor. It was an experimental breeder reactor that produced more fuel than it used. It came online in 1951. LBJ declared the reactor to be a National Monument in 1967 after it became hopelessly obsolete.

When they started EBR-1 up, a spike in the nuclear reaction in seconds registered as a dangerous hyperbolic curve. The engineer in charge shouted for a shutdown, but he used language that was misunderstood. After a few more seconds the reactor scrammed itself automatically.

They shipped 148 tons of radioactive waste from Three Mile Island out here to be buried. We read in the Monument that there are huge underground rivers flowing though here which emerge as springs that empty into the Snake River and flow into the Columbia. Hopefully the burial containers won't leak anytime soon. These light bulbs were illuminated in 1951 by U-235 fuel rods, turbines, liquid sodium and other high tech gadgets.

In 1949, when I was in the 1st grade, they gave us a newspaper called the Weekly Reader. At the time we were optimistic about nuclear power. We read about using atomic bombs to build canals, electrical power too cheap to meter and the coming revolution in fusion power. We could go to a shoe store in any small town and see green and white X-ray images of our tiny feet. Sometime they talked about "duck and cover".

These are prototypes of atomic aircraft engines. They are 25 feet tall and appear to weigh 200 tons each. One can only surmise that they intended to miniaturize them.

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