Two nuclear reactors sites, 369 Whisman Road Mountainview (now Google) and San Ramon CA

ATL Job 5164 ATL-D-619 7 June 1961
Page 46

ATL Job 5164
7 June 1961

Google currently occupies the location where American Standard built portable nuclear reactors that were sent overseas in trade shows for the Atomic Energy Commission and for colleges and universities. The AEC shut down the facility because it was located in a densely populated area and given the accidents from these reactors and that the location had no shielding or even containment for the radioactive gasses and radioactive water, it was decided to pull the plug on the reactors. They had two reactors on site and built these reactors for other entities:

Iowa State University
Virginia Polytechnic Institute / North Carolina State college
Australia (Atomic Energy Commission)
Japan (Kinki University) Osaka
Japan (Tokai University)

ATL Job 5164 ATL-D-619 7 June 1961
Page 27

From the report page 6:

“B. Reactor Building
The reactor will be housed in an existing 20′ x 32′ x 14′ eave height steel frame
reactor building. The building is supported on a reinforced concrete foundation and has corrugated steel walls and roof and a concrete floor sealed with Amercoat. A concrete curb around the base of the building will prevent run off of radioactive water. Gas-tight construction has not been provided. Entry to the building is provided by two sliding doors, which may be locked with a padlock. A stairway provides access to the top of the reactor. A one-ton electric hoist is available for removing the concrete closures from the reactor”

Note the curb around the building to prevent run off of radioactive water and the padlock on the door for security. Remember this is for two nuclear reactors.

These are the concentric circles that the Atomic Energy Commission requires for safety. If there was an accident everyone within range would have to be permanently evacuated. page 44

This reactor type was based on the Argonne reactor which had some serious defects causing a melt down.

Ruzich, K. C.., Sturm, W. J.. Hazard Summary Report for the Argonne AGN-201 Reactor. United States: Argonne National Laboratory, 1962.

When the (Atomic Energy Commission changed the safe levels of radiation to the lower number in 1959, these reactors suddenly had a problem, they were over the limits and so shielding had to be devised to keep them running. So American Standard sent the following letter to the Atomic Energy Commission to get them to change their rules, otherwise they were out of business.
Guess what, it didn’t work, they are out of business.

Comment of E. Wilson, Advanced Technology Labs, to H. Price, on proposed rulemaking concerning environmental factors to be considered in site evaluation for power and test reactors. 06/26/1959

The portable nuclear reactors were capable of being placed on a truck or train car and moved to any location where a deep pool of water with the necessary hook ups would be arranged so they just lower the reactor into the pool, connect it to the system and you are done.

You would think that something like this would be noticeable in the State of California or even the EPA but for some strange reason, they do not seem to know anything about this. The Atomic Energy Commission knew about it. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission knows about it.

There is a disconnect between the NRC, Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the EPA even though the EPA is registered with the NRC for its own radiation detection equipment and it has its own NRC license.

San Ramon Nuclear Reactors were being built 10 at a time

Another location as the Aerojet-General Nucleonics Nuclear Reactor plant in what is now downtown San Ramon which at any one time was building 10 portable nuclear reactors.

Aerojet Radiography and Research Reactor Hazards Summary Report, September 1964 (Redacted Version)
page 114 of 123 in the PDF file

In the above map:

1) An AGN-201 reactor, currently opera ting at 20 w, used for instrument and dosimeter calibrations and for research work in connection with AGN’s fission-chemistry development programs.
2) A hot cell with high-density concrete walls 20 in. thick. And high-density glass viewing windows, also 20 in. thick, designed to handle specimens up to 300 curies at 1 Mev
3) Chemistry laboratories, including two radiochemical laboratories, two wet chemical laboratories, a sample preparation laboratory, and storerooms
4) A specialized experimental laboratory for AGN’s fission-chemistry programs, used for UO2 slurry circulation, sample vessel assembly, loading, and unloading, safety tests, and sample analysis

5) A metallurgical and material laboratory for evaluation of high temperature materials and nuclear applications of both fueled and unfueled materials
6) A liquid metals Laboratory, including two liquid metal capsule corrosion test facilities, a boiling and condensing heat transfer test facility for space system radiators and boilers, and a dynamic liquid metal corrosion loop test facility
7) An electronics development laboratory
8) A nuclear measurements laboratory with equipment for precision alpha, beta, and gamma counting

The main office building (2) contains engineering and administrative offices, drafting rooms, computer facilities, a document control center, and printing, photographic, and other supporting services. It includes special AEC and DOD restricted area, for work on classified projects.

The shops building (3) includes a general machine shop, a separate bay of 3000 sq ft for welding operations, specialized machine tool areas for the handling of radioactive materials, facilities for the fabrication, assembly, I maintenance, and calibration of instrumentation and electronic equipment, and supporting shop services.

The nuclear fuel fabrication facility (7) is used for ceramic fuel production, sealing and assembly of wire-spaced pins for elements, and preparation of fuel-loaded parts. It is equipped with dust-free assembly rooms, glove boxes, and special equipment for inspection, testing, analysis, and leak
detection. Fireproof vaults are provided for storage of plutonium and uranium.
The entire facility is a restricted area, and appropriate accountability and
health physics services are provided.

Other installations on the western side of the railroad tracks include a special radionuclide laboratory (14), cleaning and decontamination facilities, housing for pumps, generators, and air compressors, and special storage facilities for inflammable (5) and hazardous (9) materials.

To the east of the tracks, a new facility (51) for testing power conversion equipment and other rotating machinery was completed this year. The facility includes a high-bay assembly area, control room, test room, and special power sources and testing machinery. The concrete floor slab extends outside the building to provide a base for testing fully-assembled power conversion units for nuclear power plants.

A new physics laboratory (52) was recently completed to accommodate AGN’s expanding research in plasma physics and related fields. The laboratory houses various large magnetic-field power supplies, capacitor banks, vacuum chambers, von Ardenne and other ion sources, an energetic arc, microwave diagnostic equipment, and other special equipment for experimentation and analysis. The building is-300 ft from the site of the proposed AGNIR facility.

A new building (55) for a pulse power research facility is now under construction northeast of the new physics laboratory. The building will provide 650 sq ft of floor space for research and experimentation in the field of pulsed power production.

At the time the area was orchards wih very few people living within range of the site in the case of a nuclear accident. Unfortunately they used the city sewage for the release of radioactive water which would flow downstream through Walnut Hill and then all the way to Suisan Bay and given the safety levels of the times, this was a lot of radiation.

They built portable nuclear reactors for the following entities:

Catholic University of America
Oklahoma State University of Agriculture and Applied Science
University of Akron
Texas A&M
University of Utah
Argonne National Laboratory (AEC)
Colorado State University
University of California Berkeley
University of Delaware
Oregon State University
AGN 201-111 was operated in the commercial exhibit of the 1958 International Conference in Geneva prior to transfer to the University of Geneva
Switzerland (University of Basel)
Italy (University of Palermo)
U. S. Naval Post Graduate School (USN) – melted down but was contained; no explosion
National Naval Medical Center (USN)
William Marsh Rice University
University of Oklahoma
West Virginia University, College of Engineering
Aerojet-General Nucleonics (5 reactors) AGN 201 reactors
Aerojet-General Nucleonics (5 reactors) AGN 211 Reactors

Today the City of San Ramon parks its School Buses on the site. Google Map

The radioactively contaminated water from the site went into the sewer system of San Ramon and gets dumped into Suisun Bay through Walnut Hill. Unfortunately 1950’s standards for radiation were so dangerous that in 1959 they were cut to 1/3 of what they were in 1955 and this put the portable nuclear reactor business under as the effects of radiation became apparent and all of these reactors were emitting at least 7.5 mrems per hour when today the level of safety is 2 mrems per hour. Any amount above that number is a nuclear accident.

They also had issues with meltdowns and explosions. The Santa Susana reactors near Simi Valley built for NASA and satellites had three nuclear reactors melt down and at least one of them exploded making it the worst nuclear reactor disaster on record. People think Three Mile Island was bad, the reactor exploded and a radioactive cloud of Strontium 90 spread over the valley from the site into Simi Valley and across the hills to Los Angeles County to the River.

We nuked Antarctica

I think I should mention the nuclear reactor built by the Seabees at Port Humene in Antarctica melted down and exploded.

The Navy base at Port Humene is used by the Navy to conduct the radiation studies of Hunters Point Shipyard and Treasure Island. They were directly involved in the studies that purposely contaminated areas for testing.

The Reactor at McMurdo was cleaned up, the materials were sent to the Nevada Test Range for burial. But someone had to clean it up.

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