Physical Insights

An independent scientist’s observations on society, technology, energy, science and the environment. “Modern science has been a voyage into the unknown, with a lesson in humility waiting at every stop. Many passengers would rather have stayed home.” – Carl Sagan

50 years of fission power.

with one comment

Today we mark the 50th anniversary of the first operation of a nuclear power plant, at least in the United States.

On December 18, 1957, the Shippingport Nuclear Power Station was connected to the electricity grid – the first reactor designed specifically as a nuclear power plant in the Western world.

Of course, the Obninsk nuclear power plant went on the grid in June, 1954, so the Russians were, really, the first. Calder Hall was connected to the grid in 1957, but it was primarily a military plutonium production reactor, with electricity essentially a useful byproduct.

The 5 MW GE boiling water reactor at Vallecitos Nuclear Centre went on the grid a little earlier – in October, 1957. However, unlike Shippingport, it was not designed from the ground up to be what we are today familiar with, as a full scale nuclear fission power plant.

More from Mechanical Engineering magazine.

Here’s looking forward to 50 more years of clean, safe, productive use of nuclear fission power plants.

In 50 years, energy generation via nuclear fusion should be technologically mature and in commercial use. I look forward to our children’s Shippingport.


Written by Luke Weston

December 18, 2007 at 12:53 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. Although not on the same par as commercial nuclear generation, there is another famous first we cant overlook: (from Wikipedia)

    “Experimental Breeder Reactor I (EBR-I) is a decommissioned research reactor and U.S. National Historic Landmark located in the desert about 18 miles southeast of Arco, Idaho. At 1:50pm on December 20, 1951 it became the world’s first electricity-generating nuclear power plant when it produced sufficient electricity to illuminate four 200-watt light bulbs”


    December 18, 2007 at 5:15 pm

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