Idaho Falls

May/June 2017

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54 IDAHO FALLS MAGAZINE MAY/JUNE 2017 he not come up with that design," ATR Director Sean O'Kelly said, "but it would not have been as perfect." Doing something important For Frank Fogarty, experiments at ATR hit home. A native of Great Falls, Montana, Fogarty was a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy and eventually rose in rank to become the fifth captain on the USS Nautilus, the world's first nuclear-powered vessel. Back then, however, the Nuclear Navy was limited by a technology in its infancy, forced to frequently come into port for expensive and time-consuming refueling. ATR and the researchers and engineers who worked there would eventually solve that problem. But not without experiencing some growing pains. Efforts to bring the reactor critical for the first time had been hindered by an over-pres- surized coolant pipe and then a mistake in how 16 control cylinders had been installed. Operators overcame the technical difficulties and ATR went critical on July 2, 1967. Fogarty retired from the Navy and came to work at Idaho's DOE site. After a couple years of on-the-job training, Fogerty took over as ATR director. "The responsibility was there, but the people working at ATR were top of the line," he said. "That was the important thing." Eventually, the Navy got what it was looking for from ATR: testing of full- scale elements and faster results. The U.S. Nuclear Navy became the envy of the world, and an important part of U.S. national security. Today, the Navy remains ATR's primary customer and its aircraft carriers and sub- marines go for two decades and longer with- out refueling. That saves taxpayers millions of dollars and ensures that the Navy's best and most capable are patrolling the seas and not sitting in port waiting to be refueled. For example, Fogarty's old ship, the USS Nautilus, required refueling every two formance over the last 50 years," Smith said. For Fogarty, there is immense satisfaction in knowing the work he and his colleagues did at ATR made their country safer. "We knew we were doing something important," Fogarty said. "It was never hard to get up and go to work in the morning." Ensuring longevity Look at that list of INL's 52 reactors and one thing becomes clear: ATR's longev- ity is unparalleled. Some reactors, such as Experimental Breeder Reactor II, remained active for up to three decades. ATR, how- ever, just turned 50, and INL and DOE leadership are planning experiments at the reactor through 2050. That includes continued work with the Navy. "The U.S. Navy continues to pursue nuclear power plants that provide more energy over longer period of time to meet the evolving mission," Smith said. "These improvements are only possible through a robust irradiation testing program that is performed at the Advanced Test Reactor." O'Kelly said ATR has never been more in demand. Currently, 95 percent of the reactor's irradiation positions are booked, meaning they are running experiments or have them scheduled. Every year, DOE reviews applications to determine who gets a coveted ATR place- ment. It's a process that was expanded in 2007 when the reactor became a National Scientific User Facility (now known as the Nuclear Science User Facility). That allows universities, national laboratories and indus- years. According to Naval Reactors Public Affairs Director Lee Smith, the reactor cores for the Navy's newest submarines last for the life of the ship, more than 30 years. "The fine work performed by generations of personnel that irradiated Navy material at the Advanced Test Reactor directly contrib- uted to improvements in naval reactor per- Sean O'Kelly Frank Fogarty Early 1967, workers are checking the clearance of the Advanced Test Reactor fuel elements at the end of construction.

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