America's Deadliest Nuke Disaster

By Winchester, Simon | Newsweek, April 4, 2011 | Go to article overview

America's Deadliest Nuke Disaster


Winchester, Simon, Newsweek


Byline: Simon Winchester

Simon Winchester on the mysterious mishap that killed three men in 1961 Idaho.

In a scattering of graveyards around the U.S.--one of them at Arlington Nation Cemetery in Washington, D.C., the others in New York and Michigan--are three bizarre tombs, each of which holds a lead-lined coffin buried extra-deep and covered with many feet of concrete. The graves hold the still highly radioactive remains of three young servicemen, named Richard Legg, John Byrnes, and Richard McKinley, who died in this country's only fatal nuclear accident--a total fuel meltdown that occurred when an atomic reactor went suddenly and disastrously critical.

The accident--though some credible accounts hint it might have been a murder-suicide--occurred at an experimental reactor in the great, top-secret expanse of what was then known as the National Reactor Testing Station in eastern Idaho.

The ill-fated reactor, known as SL-1, was a prototype for a Pentagon plan to power all of its early-warning DEW-line radar bases with small atomic-generating stations. It was a relatively simple structure, just a nine-ton cluster of uranium fuel rods huddled around a single control rod--the slow removal of which allowed a controlled chain reaction that boiled the water to drive a turbine generator.

On Tuesday, Jan. 3, 1961, the three young operators were called in to restart the reactor after its 11-day holiday shutdown. The rules demanded that the control rod be slowly pulled out by four inches--but for some unexplained reason, Byrnes pulled it up swiftly by more than two feet, causing the reactor to surge instantly to a state known as prompt critical--to, in effect, blow up. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

America's Deadliest Nuke Disaster
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.