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............................ D... Department of Energy One the cover: Albert Einstein (1879-1955) Office of Nuclear Energy................................................................ 13 Selected References ....... 27 U....................... 4 The First Self-Sustaining Chain Reaction ................. The History of Nuclear Energy Table of Contents Preface ............................ 1942-1994 ...................... 20585 ................................................ 7 Chronology of Nuclear Research and Development....................................................................... 3 The Discovery of Fission .S................. 23 Glossary . 1 Introduction ....... 5 The Development of Nuclear Energy for Peaceful Applications ..... Science and Technology i Washington...........C..........

The reduction occurs because some of the matter changes into energy. During fission. This splitting is called heated. ii iii . and steam from the boiling water turns fission. The combined mass of the fission products is less than that of the original U-235. Coal. difference in the various types of steam-electric plants is the heat source. unstable and split into two light atoms called fission products. Heat from a self- Uranium-235 (U-235) is one of the isotopes that sustaining chain reaction boils the water in a fissions easily. The heat released in fission can be used to turbines and generates electricity. This causes U-235 to become in other powerplants to heat the water. Although they are tiny. oil. Water is part of their energy as heat. This is called a self-sustaining chain reaction. U-235 atoms absorb nuclear powerplant. A self-sustaining chain reaction creates Energy From The Atom a great deal of heat. A series of fissions is called a chain reaction. The energy is released as heat. The main help generate electricity in powerplants. which can be used to help generate electricity. or gas is burned loose neutrons. atoms have a large amount of energy holding their nuclei together. If The History enough uranium is brought together under the Of Nuclear Energy right conditions. Certain Nuclear powerplants generate electricity like isotopes of some elements can be split and will release any other steam-electric powerplant. These neutrons may hit other atoms. Two or three neutrons are released along with the heat. causing more fission. a continuous chain reaction occurs.

you can discover first-hand our nation’s efforts to develop and control this powerful technology. Then we follow the path to the early scientists who discovered radioactivity. Later. By doing so. In the years just before and during World War II. we reach modern-day use of atoms as a valuable source of energy. Finally. Preface The concept of the atom has existed for many centuries. nuclear research focused mainly on the development of defense weapons. After years of research. We begin with the ideas of the Greek philosophers. scientists concentrated on peaceful applications of nuclear technology. scientists have success- fully applied nuclear technology to many other scientific. We hope the glossary will explain terms that may be new to some readers and that studying the chronology will encourage readers to explore the resources listed in the bibliography. But we only recently began to understand the enormous power contained in the tiny mass. An important use of nuclear energy is the generation of electricity. This pamphlet also includes a detailed chronol- ogy of the history of nuclear energy and a glossary. and industrial purposes. medical. This pamphlet traces the history of our discoveries about atoms. 1 .

Introduction It is human nature to test. The mathematical formula is E=mc 2. meaning indivis- ible. atomos. to observe. The history of nuclear energy is the story of a centuries-old dream becoming a reality.” It took almost 35 years for someone to prove Einstein’s theory. 3 . Scientists in the 18th and 19th centuries revised the concept based on their experiments. By 1900. and to dream. physicists knew the atom contains large quantities of energy. In 1904 he wrote: If it were ever possible to control at will the rate of disintegration of the radio elements. or “energy equals mass times the speed of light squared. an enormous amount of energy could be obtained from a small amount of matter. Ancient Greek philosophers first developed the idea that all matter is composed of invisible particles called atoms. The word atom comes from the Greek word. Albert Einstein developed his theory of the relationship between mass and energy one year later. British physicist Ernest Rutherford was called the father of nuclear science because of his contribution to the theory of atomic structure.

and Fritz Strassman fired neutrons from a source containing the elements radium and Scientists throughout the world began to beryllium into uranium (atomic number 92). in the could be brought together under proper leftover materials. In 1934. Bohr also met Fermi at a conference on Enrico Fermi. The First Self-Sustaining Chain Reaction In 1939. D. Frisch. believe a self-sustaining chain reaction might be They were surprised to find lighter elements. In such a process.C. She worked with bombarded uranium with neutrons. he did Niels Bohr and her nephew. German scientists Otto Hahn of energy. The elements Meitner and Frisch thought the barium and were much lighter than uranium. The results She was an Austrian colleague who had been surprised even Fermi himself. sustaining chain reaction. discussed the exciting possibility of a self- sustaining nuclear chain reaction. conditions. when she added the atomic masses of the fission products. When he forced to flee Nazi Germany. other light elements in the leftover material resulted from the uranium splitting — or fissioning. He shared with Einstein the Hahn-Strassman-Meitner discover- ies. 5 4 . This proved fission occurred and confirmed Einstein’s work. an Italian physicist. could split many kinds of atoms. the leftover materials were only slightly lighter Fission than uranium. Bohr came to America. Otto R. physicist Enrico Fermi conducted Hahn and Strassman contacted Lise Meitner in experiments in Rome that showed neutrons Copenhagen before publicizing their discovery. not get the elements he expected. The amount of uranium needed to make a self-sustaining chain reaction is called a critical mass. It would happen if enough uranium such as barium (atomic number 56). These elements had about half the atomic mass The Discovery Of of uranium. they did not total the uranium’s mass. led the theoretical physics in Washington. possible. Meitner used Einstein’s theory to show the lost mass changed to energy. In previous experiments. However. They team of scientists who created the first self. atoms could be split to release large amounts In the fall of 1938.

When the rods were pulled out. the a possible design for a uranium chain reactor in scientists were ready to begin a demonstration 1941. Fermi and his associate. suggested On the morning of December 2.m. By November 1942. Early in 1942. Lise Meitner and Otto R. at 3:25 p. it contained control rods made of cadmium. the nuclear reaction became self-sustaining. during the next several hours. Finally. This slowed the chain reaction. Chicago time. they were ready for construction to begin on the world’s first nuclear reactor. Most early atomic research focused on developing an effective weapon for use in World War II. Frisch 6 7 . Fermi ordered the control in a stack of graphite to make a cube-like frame rods to be withdrawn a few inches at a time of fissionable material. 1942. The work was done under the Leo Szilard code name Manhattan Project. which became known as Chicago Pile-1. In addition to uranium and graphite. When the rods were in the pile.. The chain reaction sped up. there were fewer neutrons to fission uranium atoms. Leo Szilard. more neutrons were available to split atoms. a group of scientists led by Fermi gathered at the University of Chicago to develop their theories. Their model consisted of uranium placed of Chicago Pile-1. The world had entered the nuclear age. Fermi and his group had successfully transformed scientific theory into technological reality. The pile was erected on the floor of a squash court beneath the University of Chicago’s athletic stadium. The Development Of Nuclear Energy For Peaceful Applications The first nuclear reactor was only the begin- ning. Cadmium is a metallic element that absorbs neutrons.

This milestone symbolized the like Shippingport use ordinary water to cool beginning of the nuclear power industry. 8 9 . Pennsylvania. The AEC authorized the construction of Experimental Breeder Reactor I at a site in Idaho. Demand for electricity decreased and concern grew over nuclear issues. able material in the chain reaction. Therefore. 1942. Light-water reactors 200-watt bulbs on December 20.S. Utility companies saw this new form of electricity production as economi- cal. rapidly in the 1960s. growth slowed. such as reactor safety. The first commercial electricity-generating plant powered by nuclear energy was located in Shippingport. is recreated in this painting. In the 1970s and 1980s.S. however. the reactor core during the chain reaction. environmentally clean. grew than they would use. 1951. the United States government produced in the U. Nuclear energy supplied almost 22 percent of the electricity After the war. focus to developing other reactor technologies. in Chicago. the U. The reactor generated the first electric- ity from nuclear energy on December 20. had twice as many operating nuclear powerplants as any other country in Enrico Fermi led a group of scientists in initiating the first self- sustaining nuclear chain reaction. The historic event. They were the best design then available for nuclear powerplants. 1951. However. which occurred on 1991.S. Still. they would create more fissionable material The nuclear power industry in the U. and safe. This was more than one-fourth of the December 2. and other environmen- tal considerations. It reached its The Experimental Breeder Reactor I generated electricity to light four full design power in 1957. waste disposal. some scientists worked on making Federal nuclear energy programs shifted their breeder reactors. encouraged the development of nuclear energy for peaceful civilian purposes. world’s operating plants. which would produce fission. Congress created the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) in 1946. A major goal of nuclear research in the mid-1950s was to show that nuclear energy could produce electricity for commercial use. Private industry became more and more involved in developing light-water reactors after Shippingport became operational.

scientists are still unable to produce useful amounts of power from u To maintain exacting safety and design fusion and are continuing their research. 10 11 .S. 31 other countries also had Scientists are also studying the power of nuclear nuclear powerplants in commercial operation or fusion. There is also an effort under way to make nuclear plants easier to build by standardizing the design and simplifying the In Oak Ridge. that powers the sun.S. and medicine. However. the U. a form of During the 1990s. without lessening safety commonly used in science. Tennessee. In the area of waste management. is working to achieve these goals in a number of ways. energy issues and has developed several major It is also likely to create less radioactive waste goals for nuclear power. standards. The U. For instance. Several of these nuclear power goals were ad- dressed in the Energy Policy Act of 1992. On earth. which was signed into law in October of that year. faces several major hydrogen. which are licensing requirements. industry. That is an impressive world. u To reduce regulatory risk. Their goal is to keep the waste away from the environment and people for very long periods of time. workers package isotopes. standards. It comes from water and is plentiful. Fusion occurs when atoms join — or under construction. engineers are developing new methods and places to store the radioactive waste produced by nuclear plants and other nuclear processes. Department of Energy has undertaken a number of joint efforts with the nuclear industry to develop the next generation of nuclear powerplants. the most promising fusion fuel is deuterium. fuse — rather than split. u To reduce economic risk. At the end of 1991. the U. These plants are being designed to be safer and more efficient. and u To establish an effective high-level nuclear waste disposal program. which are: than fission.S. Fusion is the energy wide commitment to nuclear power technology.

Experimental Breeder Reactor I produces the first electric power from nuclear energy. The '40s radioisotopes are used for measuring 1942 December 2. 12 13 . faces huge. as well as power generation. 1947 October 6. Idaho. The first self-sustaining nuclear microscopic thicknesses. Japan. detecting irregulari. Manhattan Project. Archaeologists use nuclear techniques to date 1945 July 16. science. Fat Man. the nuclear industry ending World War II. New Mexico. The '50s 1951 December 20. peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The AEC first investigates the possibility of peaceful uses of atomic energy. The AEC announces the selection of a site in Idaho for the National Reactor Testing Station. and food and agriculture. Research in other nuclear areas is also continuing in the 1990s. Chronology of Nuclear Research and industry. Alamogordo. Japan surrenders on August 15. 1945 August 6. Connecticut. Nautilus. lighting four light bulbs. The atomic bomb nicknamed Little freezing. Keel for the Navy's first nuclear submarine. chain reaction occurs at the University of Chicago. is laid at Groton. 1949 March 1. ties in metal casings. It causes less vitamin loss than canning. Japan. another bomb. Army’s Manhattan Engineer prehistoric objects accurately and to locate District (MED) tests the first atomic bomb at structural defects in statues and buildings. many ways. and the control nuclear energy development and explore involvement of an enlightened citizenry. For example. issuing a report the following year. In industry. But today. Three days later. very complex issues. Boy is dropped on Hiroshima. 1952 June 14. The U. or drying. Development They also use them to enhance traditional medical treatments. How can we minimize the risk? What do we do with the 1946 August 1. is dropped on Nuclear research has benefited mankind in Nagasaki. under the code name Nuclear irradiation is used in preserving food. Nuclear technology plays an important role in medicine. scientific research. In Arco. and testing welds.S. The Atomic Energy Act of 1946 waste? The future will depend on advanced creates the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) to engineering. doctors use radioisotopes to identify and investigate the causes of disease.

Pennsylvania. The plant reaches ment of the original Atomic Energy Act. Construction begins on the world's 1955 January 10. Under the Savannah. the first U.S. The first power from a civilian nuclear unit is generated by the Sodium Reactor Experiment Early 1960s. becomes Station in Illinois.S. President Eisenhower delivers his nuclear energy and prevent the spread of nuclear "Atoms for Peace" speech before the United Nations. 1957 September 2. He calls for greater international cooper-aton in the development of atomic energy for peaceful purposes. 1957 July 12. to promote the peaceful use of 1953 December 8. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna. weapons around the world. Yankee Rowe Nuclear Power Station. achieves a experimental boiling water self-sustaining nuclear reaction. Geneva.S. New Jersey. nuclear plant built the first town powered by a nuclear powerplant. The United Nations creates the units for the first time. the N. hosts the 1960 August 19. Nautilus starts its nuclear power 1957 October 1. constructing and operating experimental nuclear power reactors. 1959 October 15. Switzerland. 1957 December 2. nuclear first United Nations International Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy. Small nuclear-power generators are at Santa Susana. 1959. achieves a self-sustaining nuclear reacton. nuclear technology. AEC and industry will cooperate in launched July 21. Idaho. the entirely without government funding. stations and to light buoys for sea navigation. The '60s 1955 August 8-20. The world’s first large-scale 1954 August 30. California. The third U.000. The unit provided power first used in remote areas to power weather until 1966. population 1. giving the full power three weeks later and supplies civilian nuclear power program further access to electricity to the Pittsburgh area. Arco. Dresden-1 Nuclear Power 1955 July 17. The Price-Anderson Act provides financial protection to the public and AEC licensees and contractors if a major accident occurs at a nuclear powerplant. 1958 May 22. Shippingport. powerplant. the first major amend. reactor BORAX III. Austria. The ship is program. President Eisenhower signs The nuclear powerplant begins operation in Atomic Energy Act of 1954. 1953 March 30. Demonstration Reactor Program. in Camden. The AEC announces the Power first nuclear-powered merchant ship. NS Savannah The Nautilus-the First Atomic-Powered Sub 14 15 .

1974 The first 1. Enterprise. Materials Act.000 miles (740. The United States.S. The Energy Reorganization Act of 1974 divides AEC functions between two new agencies — the Energy Research and Develop- ment Administration (ERDA). 1969. President Jimmy Carter SNAP-27 nuclear generator on the lunar surface.000-megawatt-electric nuclear powerplant goes into service – Commonwealth Edison's Zion 1 Plant. 1961 November 22. and Bainbridge. the U.S. ships. Three nuclear-powered surface sions the world’s largest ship. They produce 2. 1964 October 3. Long Beach. 1973. the first 1971 Twenty-two commercial nuclear time a nuclear plant is ordered as an economic powerplants are in full operation in the United alternative to a fossil-fuel plant. Soviet Union. when the Apollo 12 astronauts deployed the AEC's 1977 April 7. States. Jersey Central Power and Weapons. After The '70s June 30.4 percent of U.S. Navy commis. An atomic battery operated on the moon continuously for three years. and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Johnson SNAP stands for Systems for Nuclear Auxiliary signs the Private Ownership of Special Nuclear Power. the Enterprise.” carrier with the ability to operate at speeds up an around-the-world cruise. Light Company announces its commitment for the Oyster Creek nuclear powerplant. utilities order 41nuclear powerplants. electricity at this time. 1965 April 3. It is a nuclear-powered aircraft complete “Operation Sea Orbit.S. 1974 October 11. to carry out research and development.800 kilometers) without refueling. private ownership of the 1970 March 5. Kingdom. 1973 U.S. to regulate nuclear power. Nuclear electric power arrived on the moon for the first time on November 19. and 45 other nations ratify the Treaty for Non-Proliferation of Nuclear 1963 December 12. 1964 August 26. a one-year record. President Lyndon B. United uranium fuel is mandatory. to 30 knots for distances up to 400. announces the United States will defer indefinitely plans for reprocessing spent nuclear fuel. The first nuclear reactor in space (SNAP-10A) is launched by the United States. The U. 16 17 . which allows the nuclear power industry to own the fuel for its units.

and no overexposure to radiation results from the accident. DOE initiates the Three Mile inadequate containment building. The program will continue for 10 years and make 1987 December 22. 4 nuclear powerplant The '80s in the former Soviet Union. 1977 August 4. 1983 Nuclear power generates more electricity 1979 March 28. site for disposal of high-level 1982 October 1. electricity demand is 50 percent higher 1989. No one is United States. A plant of such develop technology for disassembling and design would not be licensed in the United States. the radioactive waste. nuclear powerplants. de-fueling the damaged reactor. Operator error causes two explo- sions at the Chernobyl No. waste and spent fuel.S. 12 percent of the electricity produced commer- cially in the United States. Shippingport Power Station is shut down.S. 1986 The Perry Power Plant in Ohio becomes the 1979 Seventy-two licensed reactors generate 100th U. 1986 April 26. than natural gas. caused by a loss of coolant from the reactor Eighty-three nuclear power reactors provide core due to a combination of mechanical about 14 percent of the electricity produced in the malfunction and human error. and large Island research and development program to amounts of radiation escape. 46 units have entered service during the 18 decade. who pay the costs of the program. Nevada. 19 .S. improve the safety of reactor operations. nuclear powerplant in operation. commercial reactor history occurs at the Three Mile Island nuclear power station near 1984 The atom overtakes hydropower to become Harrisburg. It also establishes fees which transfers ERDA functions to the new for owners and generators of radioactive Department of Energy (DOE). DOE to study only the potential of the Yucca Mountain. including spent fuel from Department of Energy Organization Act. Decommissioning would be completed in 1988 U. After 25 years of service. Pennsylvania. The accident is the second largest source of electricity. The Nuclear Waste Policy Act 1989 One hundred and nine nuclear powerplants (NWPA) establishes a program to site a provide 19 percent of the electricity used in the repository for the disposal of high-level U. 1977 October 1. DOE begins operations. President Carter signs the radioactive waste. the 1985 The Institute of Nuclear Power Operations NRC imposes stricter reactor safety regulations forms a national academy to accredit every and more rigid inspection procedures to nuclear powerplant's training program. injured. The reactor has an 1980 March 26. 1983 January 7. Later in the year. The worst accident in U. Congress directs nuclear safety technology. than in 1973.S. after coal.. The Nuclear Waste significant advances in developing new Policy Act (NWPA) is amended.

673 megawatts. the historic Fermi experiment is observed world- wide. development of standard designs for advanced light-water reactors. from the Three Mile Island nuclear plant arrives at a advanced nuclear powerplant. The final shipment of damaged fuel engineering of a standardized design for a large. The '90s 1990 March. The Energy Policy Act of 1992 is improve operational safety practices at civilian signed into law. The 50th anniversary of all fuel sources combined in 1956. 1991 One hundred and eleven nuclear powerplants operate in the United States with a combined capacity of 99. detailed 1990 April 19. DOE facility in Idaho for research and interim The engineering is being funded under a joint storage.S. Nebraska consortium.S. early site permits. and DOE. nuclear utility consortium. signs a contract with Westinghouse Electric Corporation to perform engineering work for an advanced. General Electric. Funding for this next-generation plant comes from ARC. 20 21 . Westinghouse. research and development program.S. They produce almost 22 percent of the electricity generated commercially in the United States. The Omaha Public District Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Station 1993 September 6. changes in the licensing process for nuclear powerplants. The U. standardized 600-megawatt pressurized- water reactor. ARC. signs a contract with General Electric Company for cost-shared. This ends DOE’s 10-year Three Mile Island program among utilities. and combined agreement with the nuclear industry to co-fund the construction and operating licenses. 1989 April 18. surpassing 1992 December 2. DOE signs a cooperative design certification. 1990 America's 110 nuclear powerplants set a record for the amount of electricity generated. nuclear utility located at Fort Calhoun. 1993 March 30. and DOE. The NRC proposes a plan for reactor 1992 February 26. DOE launches a joint initiative to 1992 October 24. The Act makes several important nuclear powerplants in the former Soviet Union. 1992 One hundred and ten nuclear powerplants account for nearly 22 percent of all electricity used in the U. the Advanced Reactor Corporation (ARC). The U.

Nuclear Energy Institute. D.: U. Edward The Journalist's Guide to Nuclear Energy. Philip. New York: Plenum Press. Washington. and Robert C. 1983. Groves. The Story of the Manhattan Project. 23 . Cohen. Before It’s Too Late. 1979. Van Nostrand Company. Crisis Contained: The Department of Energy at Three Mile Island: A History . Department of Energy. 1994. Princeton: D. An encyclopedic compilation of useful atomic energy information. New York: Harper. Leslie R. Edelson. 1980. Now It Can Be Told. This 1981 recipient of the American Physical Society Bonner Prize for basic research in nuclear physics explains nuclear energy to the layman.S. 3rd ed.. Bernard L. Williams. Selected References Cantelon. The history of the Manhattan Engineering District's wartime project by the man who directed it. Glasstone. A Scientist’s Case for Nuclear Energy. Sourcebook on Atomic Energy . 1975. Samuel.C.

and follows the course of energy program in the United States. international scene to the end of the Truman Administration and the first test of a thermonuclear device. Santa Barbara. II of the official history of the AEC Atomic Energy for Military Purposes . Hewlett. 1990. and Oscar Anderson. Buck. I of the official history of the AEC University of California Press. Pennsylvania: Controlling the Atom: The Beginnings The Pennsylvania State University Press. United States Civilian Nuclear Power Policy. and J. begins with the Commission’s assumption Princeton: Princeton University Press. of Nuclear Regulation. and the Touchstone. Holl. Rhodes. wartime atomic bomb project. Designed to serve as both a one-stop information source and a guide to in-depth exploration. Earl Roger and Byron M. 1985. and Francis Duncan. Nuclear Energy Policy: A Reference Handbook.. Richard. Department of Energy. Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania State University Press. Smyth. Jack M. The classic account of the atomic energy program. from the vantage point of The first comprehensive study of the unrestricted access to the records. Roger M. 1947-1952.C. Richard fission in the exciting and successful The Making of the Atomic Bomb.: U. Richard. immediate postwar problems with the control of atomic energy. early efforts of scientists to understand the nature of atomic fission. Henry D. Dean. Calif. developments on both the national and published at the end of World War II. Jackson. Energy. 1990. The New World. Anders. 1985. Alice L. Mazuzan.: ABC- CLIO. Vol. Viking. Samuel Walker. 1988. Vol. Richard Nuclear Renewal: Common Sense about Hewlett.S. D. the control of such Rhodes. 1946-1962. 1993. Kruschke. of the early history of nuclear power regulation. 1990. George. 1939-1946 . Atomic Shield. 1954-1984 : A History. Washington. tells the story. of responsibility for the Nation’s atomic 1976. 24 25 . and Prentice D.

fission The process in which the nucleus of an atom is split to produce heat. Electrons orbit the nucleus. It is designed so that one of the fission products of the U-235 used in fission is plutonium-239 (Pu-239). fusion The process in which atoms are joined to produce energy. Glossary atom The smallest unit of an element. breeder reactor A nuclear reactor that makes more fuel than it uses. blue-white metal. The combined mass of fission products is less than that of the original whole atom because energy and neutrons are released. Protons and neutrons make up the atom’s nucleus. chain reaction A continuous fissioning of atoms. cadmium A soft. deuterium An isotope of hydrogen used in fusion. It is made up of electrons. fission products Light atoms that result from fission. protons. 27 . and neutrons. The control rods in the first nuclear power reactor were made of cadmium because it absorbs neutrons. critical mass The amount of uranium needed to cause a self-sustaining chain reaction. Pu-239 is also a fissionable isotope.

brilliant-white. silver-white. radioisotope A radioactive isotope of an element. luminescent. highly radioactive metal. radium-beryllium source A combination of the elements radium and beryllium. which ran the program. uranium-235 (U-235) An isotope of uranium that is used as fuel in nuclear powerplants. The name comes from the Manhattan Engineering District. uranium A heavy. corrosion-resistant. radioactive metal. self-sustaining chain reaction A continuous chain reaction. light-water reactor (LWR) The typical commercial nuclear power reactor. 28 25 . The steam turns turbines and generates electricity. steel-gray metal. Manhattan Project The code name for production of the atomic bombs developed during World War II. isotope A form of an element that contains an unusual number of neutrons in its nucleus. It uses ordinary water (light water) to produce steam. lightweight. Radium is a rare. Beryllium is a high-melting.