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The following tape recorded program is a presentation of the National Association of educational broadcasters. You'll be interested to know that the Italian Navigator has just landed in the New World that with the voice of author Compton he first reported the birth of atomic energy the birth of a new world. This series has been called the New World. Its aim is to outline some of the great benefits that atomic energy is bringing to mankind. The program's up produced by the University of Alabama. Program for atomic energy and propulsion.
The use of atomic reactors as engines as a means of propelling vehicles of all kinds ranks in importance with their use for electric power reactors are already being used as the engines for submarines and research is now going on into their use for propelling large surface ships aircraft and railway locomotives. To help us explore this wide field we asked Mr. Frank pace Gioia former secretary of the army who is now executive vice president of the General Dynamics corporation to give us a general view of the use of reactors as engines. It was his firm the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics Corp. which built the world's first submarine powered by atomic energy. The USS Nautilus Here is what Mr. Pei says it is now a reality that it make energy can be harnessed to the needs of propulsion. In fact January
17 1955 will go down in history as the first major milestone in man's afeard to make the atom work for him in a controlled and non destructive way. Any skepticism about man's ability to travel by means of nuclear power was dispelled forever on the waters of the fames river at Groton Connecticut on January 17th 1955. On that day the submarine U.S. asked Nautilus became the world's first example of transport propelled by atomic energy. It was shortly before noon when she cast off her livens and made her way down the river and into the tide rips of Long Island Sound for her Farsi tabs. These tests later proved far beyond anyone's expectation. Now a
submarine poses one of the most complicated problems of construction that we know. So it goes without saying that if we can build an efficient and economic propulsion system in a submarine we can build Ronnie on any surface ship of the same size. It will be far easier to build them for the larger ships. And it is quite clear that for a larger surface ships including warships of all classes and ocean liners and merchant vessels there is a vast potential application of nuclear energy in the near future. I myself cannot proceed at this time that there would be any demand for installing atomic propulsion plants in surface ships smaller than submarines or any need for such an application. When we turn to the problem of designing and building aircraft run by atomic power we run into a whole new set of difficult and exacting
requirements not the least of these is the question of shielding to prevent radiation of the crude and the atomic submarine of course lead shielding does the job and presumably lead would be used in surface vessels powered by atomic energy. But the weight of lead makes it an impractical material to use in aircraft where a weight is clearly a vital factor in effect excessive weight in shielding the nuclear reactors would defeat the whole purpose of scientists and engineers who are now engaged in designing an atomic aircraft which will have all the speed and maneuverability of today's military and commercial planes. As far as aircraft go. Proper shielding from radiation is the main problem. The design of the airframe for an atomic powered plane is not nearly so complicated. But
in spite of these complex factors in the development of nuclear powered aircraft I feel quite optimistic about the eventual solution of the problem. Our own organisation for example has been working on this problem for more than five years and our people at General Dynamics Convair division share my optimism. I myself believe that it will take no more than 10 years for the United States to develop a sound and workable aircraft powered by atomic energy provided we have the determination to do so. In fact I think it could be last when the first atomic submarine was first proposed seriously in 1948. It was believed that another 15 to 20 years would have to go by before such a ship became a reality. The facts were different. Less than four years passed from the time the contract was awarded
to the electric boat evasion to the time the Nautilus went to sea in January of 55. It was last year the General Dynamics began to operate a nuclear reactor for technical test purposes with atomic aircraft at his plant in Fort Worth. It isn't possible for me to go into detail about the work in this field but while the military worth of atomic aircraft as a deterrent to aggression is obvious to everyone its peaceful applications seem equally far reaching if not of a into a way more so the day will come and not too many years away. When fleets of Adam powered commercial aircraft will be crossing this guy is on a far cheaper basis than any we know today. These aircraft will fly for longer periods of time without refueling. They will fly more cheaply and will open up a
whole new field of transport and business potential gradually even trains can be propelled by atomic energy. In the case of this means of travel of course speed is fairly well restricted. But economy of operation would make the use of nuclear power more than worthwhile especially for a long hauls by rail. You will be hearing more about the design of nuclear reactors for railway locomotive locomotives later in this program. Lest anyone get the impression that I believe atomic energy can do anything and everything. I would like to say that there are certain fields in which in my own judgment atomic energy will probably not play a major role. For instance it is been suggested that automobiles might be
driven by atomic power. I am sure that this is not technically impossible but when one talks about a unit the size of an automobile the thought that it could eventually become economically feasible to use so large a means of generating power for the purpose of driving so many small individual units seems to me to be highly impractical. I think its important that the atom should be put properly in perspective. I myself feel that it will one day change the industrial face of America and I think it will one day change the economic and probably the political face civil war. But I think that this will come in time more rapidly in my judgment than other scientific advances in the past.
But still within the limitations of man's capacity to move far it does seem to me however that space travel by means of atomic energy is also coming closer. In fact we cannot deny the possibility of such flights into outer space into the planets when the evidence of recent research in rocketry and electronics is coupled with the applied realities of the energy sources of the atom the atomic revolution. Make no mistake about it has arrived. It is demonstrating day after day its ability to change many of the basic things about your lives and mine and not the least of these changes will be that which sees most of our vehicles of transport being propelled by the magic of nuclear power. Thank you Mr Pace. We're glad to have had your comment as executive vice president of
General Dynamics Corporation which has already achieved so much in the development of atomic power for propulsion. As Mr. Pace just said if we can build an efficient and economic propulsion in a submarine it will be far easier to build them for larger ships. We turn to a report put out by the Atomic Energy Commission in January of nine hundred fifty five. It was called major activities in the atomic energy programs. It referred to the naval reactors program mentioning the reactors for the submarine USS Nautilus the different type of reactor used for the USS Seawolf America's second atomic powered submarine and the development of yet another nuclear power plant suitable for a high performance submarine. This report also mentioned under the naval programme that research and development work was going on for a large ship reactor. Here is what the report says.
The Westinghouse Electric Corporation was assigned the research and development work required by the new East Sea navy project and the development of nuclear propulsion for a large naval vessels the pressurized water reactor type was selected for this project. Development work will be done at the ACS abettors plant Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. Separate design studies of large nuclear powered ships were undertaken by the Newport News Shipbuilding and dry dock company Newport News Virginia and the shipbuilding division Bethlehem Steel Company at Quincy Massachusetts under contract with the Bureau of ships Navy Department. The AEC Air Force program of research and development for aircraft nuclear propulsion continuum principal ATC contractors in the program are General Electric company through its aircraft nuclear propulsion Department Evandale Ohio carbide and carbon chemicals company through the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and United Aircraft Corporation through Pratt and
Whitney aircraft division East Hartford Connecticut. The General Electric aircraft nuclear propulsion Department definitive contract was signed in July a two hundred ninety four thousand dollar contract was awarded in September to the Jackson construction company of Salt Lake City for work at the National reactor testing station. The agreement calls for a completion of the exhaust system of the initial engine test area at the aircraft's nuclear propulsion area by July 1955. And even more recent development was reported on May 13 thousand nine hundred fifty five. It was then announced that the United States Navy was interested in the design of atomic seaplanes as well as atomic submarines. The Navy in fact seems very alive to the great potentialities of nuclear power. On May the 13th 1955 Rear Admiral F. R. Firth Chief of Naval Research spoke to the Senate Appropriations Committee. He said
that Naval Research had included design studies for a sea plane powered by nuclear energy. Admiral first speech also stated nuclear powered aircraft offer the obvious advantage of practically unlimited range with a very high speed and they see the aircraft office because advantages as a vehicle for exploring nuclear propulsion in aircraft. It was announced at the same time that the Air Force the Atomic Energy Commission and the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics as well as the United States Navy were working on problems involving atomic powered flight. We should stress the fact is Mr. Pace did earlier that although we are using military examples of the application of nuclear power propulsion in this program the propulsion of submarine ships and aircraft all these principles can be applied to civilian uses to merchant and passenger ships and to civil aircraft. Mr Pace you remember also spoke of the use of
nuclear reactors for driving railway locomotives to find out more about this. We visited Dr. loud voiced chairman of the Physics Department at New York University Dr. Boyce had previously worked at Oakridge had then taken charge of reactor development when Brookhaven National Laboratory was being started and later in 1951 became a professor of physics at the University of Utah. It was while he was at Utah that he invented a locomotive reactor. Richard now some of station WNYC questions Dr. Boyce about his invention. Now Dr. Borst Could you tell me first of all where the great advantage lies in using a reactor for this kind of propulsion. The advantages of an atomic locomotive should be primarily economy. The replacement of the steam locomotive by the diesel was dictated primarily from economic reasoning
and presumably the atomic locomotive should be cheaper than the diesel in order to really replace the diesel and railroad propulsion. Refueling is another possibility or an attractive feature. This locomotive would require a pound or two of uranium added every six months. This would be uranium 235 the enriched isotope frequently used for bombs so that the locomotive could run around the country for many months without ever being there without being refueled. A further advantage would be in connection with the performance of the locomotive. Now those of you who live on the east coast know that the electric locomotives start up trains very rapidly much more rapidly than the diesel or the old steam engine. We think we can get the same type of performance with an atomic unit without having the overhead wiring that is used in the east. In other words we
would be able to accelerate trains as rapidly in the middle of Nevada or in the Rocky Mountains as can be done between New York and Philadelphia. Well what were the main factors involved in designing an atomic powered locomotive. This requires a little understanding of reactors reactors usually turn out to be about 30 feet in diameter. Now every locomotive and every train an American railroad is 10 and a half feet wide or less because they are the switches and the stations and tunnels are built for the US width. So a new locomotive cannot possibly be wider than this amount. Now there is some question of whether one could build a reactor is so narrow that it could be adequately shielded and still fit in a railroad tunnel. We feel that we have done this by making two reactor shields four feet thick each
and between the two shields comes the reactor which turns out to be a pancake only two feet wide and perhaps four feet long and four feet high. Now this reactor Burns uranium 235 as I previously mentioned and does not burn any call or any petroleum fuel. They Surprisingly enough the Iranian is burned in water they fuel the uranium would be in the form of urinal sulphate dissolved in ordinary tap water and have one properly arranged in the reactor. This will become a heat source which Well generates steam and the steam is used to drive a turban and an electric generator and thereafter the motors which drive the wheels. The other principal feature is the reactor shield. There was serious question whether one could make a light enough shield any thin enough shield to safeguard people outside of the railroad train
from the atomic radiation. The shield that we propose would we feel accomplish this purpose. Now you say that the reactor had to be only two feet thick. Could you tell me Doctor Borst what type of material was used for the four feet of shielding. There isn't very much published about the nature of a time reactor shields but from the published information we were able to to assure ourselves that by using the pop proper mixture of steel and such material as water or paraffin or possibly even wood making this an alternate layers we would be able to satisfactorily shield the reactor. Now this field actually is an extremely heavy strongbox. It gives the reactor greater protection than any military ship has around its ammunition.
It gives greater protector than any any bank has around it safety PI's advance. So you see if the reactor is inside a very heavy very strong box which protects the reactor in the event of Iraq from losing its radioactive materials. But I think our listeners would be interested in knowing a bit about the fuel used for the reactor could you tell us something about that. Well as I mentioned we use uranium 235 which is the separated isotope that the separator the variety of uranium found in nature only to about 1 percent we can't use the uranium taken from the ground directly that it has to go through the isotope separation plant at Oakridge. And we remove the two thirty eight or the abundant ninety nine percent isotope retain the 1 percent isotope which would be used in this case for the the locomotive instead of being shipped to the weapons fabrication stations of the ABC.
Can you give me some comparison of the power you would expect from your atomic locomotive compared with that for more conventional engines. The question of power is one of design. We can build a locomotive as big as a railroad can neos. And the bigger the locomotive is the more economic economically sound it would be because reactors simply are expensive devices and one wants to get the most out of the reactor possible. Now we talk to the railroads to find out how big a locomotive they would accept. And we decided to try to design this unit to replace for diesel freight type units. The In other words this locomotive would be the same as you see hauling long freight trains are the longest fastest passenger trains. And how do the prices of construction compare Dr. Borst the prices of construction for everything except the reactor are well known we know the price
of the trucks of the motors the generator the turban and the Shasta you are the locomotive body. But the only unknown is the reactor. Now if we say we pay as much for the reactors we pay for all the rest of the locomotive combined which in my opinion is a safe estimate for mass production or for a factory a factory put bread auction. Then the locomotive would come to about twice as much as the same. Power for a diesel locomotives. Now the four unit do so that I mention costs about six hundred thousand dollars at the present time. So I estimate that this atomic unit to replace it would cost about one and a quarter million dollars. But is there anything you can say at this stage about the costs of operation. Well let's take a nice homely example if we have
two cars one a Cadillac. Say burn some cheap fuel like sawdust and a Chevrolet that costs. That burns high octane gasoline. Now the Chevy is going to cost less to buy than the Cadillac but which is going to be the more economical to run. If they both sit in a garage obviously the the Cadillac is going to be more expensive than the Chevrolet is more economical. But if we drive a car 12 hours a day seven days a week it is not at all clear whether the reduced cost of the fuel in the Cadillac may not outweigh its initial cost. So in the case of the locomotive if the price of uranium is sufficiently small then the advantages of operation and the cheapness of the fuel will outweigh the increased cost of the railroad locomotive itself. Well are there plans at present to construct a locomotive.
The Atomic Energy Commission has just recently announced a study contract to be carried out by the Baldwin locomotive works and the Denver and royal grand Western Railroad. Now the Denver grand is a mountain railroad operating between Salt Lake and then vary and there is almost no flat spots and there are flat places and there are whole railroads. They are particularly interested in high power units. We hope that they will be able to proceed with their studies during the next 12 months and come to a become convinced that the atomic locomotive is economically sound at the present time. Well Dr. Borst Could you summarize now the main points of your design. While the locomotive would be a heavy duty large locomotive equipment and power two for a diesel unit it would have twenty four wheels under the reactor which
would weigh some 200000 pounds including the shielding reactor must necessarily be very slender as reactors go no more than 2 feet wide with four feet of ceiling and either side it would burn uranium 235 as fuel and would generate steam by boiling water which is also used as the neutron moderator. The shielding might consist of steel and water or some other material containing hydrogen. This unit we would expect would outperform Diesel's uit at the present time. In normal railroad practice and it is my opinion that you may very well be writing behind atomic locomotives within the next decade. The words of Dr loud voiced chairman of the Department of Physics at New York University. Speaking of the possibilities of atomic propulsion as a means of locomotion on the railroads of the future. Prior to this you heard optimism is sounded by Rear Admiral Firth Chief of Naval Research
Mr Frank pace Jr. executive vice president of the General Dynamics Corp.. These men whose words are based on the facts of the present spell out a future of promise in the field of atomic propulsion. Another vital piece time role of atomic energy in our next program we will visit the atomic center at Oak Ridge to learn of atomic energy and industry. You will hear of enlightening developments from such men of science as Dr. Paul S. Abel sole director of the Atomic Energy Commission isotope division at Oak Ridge. Dr. C. Compton assistant director of the isotope division and Dr. Ross the Overman chairman of the special training division of the Oak Ridge Institute of nuclear studies you will discover that radio isotopes hold many keys to present day industrial problems. That is Dr. Abel Sol will say. Radioactivity in the capabilities of the atom will soon be as familiar to industrialists as
electricity is today. Meanwhile each day brings new evidence in the air on the land and on the sea. It would seem that atomic energy will someday create new avenue economical travel transporting to a new world of peace time possibilities by way of atomic propulsion. You have been listening to the fourth program in the New World. Series dealing with the peaceful uses of atomic energy. You heard the actual voices of Mr. Frank junior executive vice president of General Dynamics corporation. And Dr. Lyle Borst chairman of the Department of Physics New York University who was interviewed by Mr. Richard Nelson of radio station WNYC. The series is
produced by station WUOM of the University of Alabama. Under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. Producer is more youde the narrator was Walt Whitaker. Your announcer Greg Hyman. This is the n AB tape network.
New world of atomic energy
Atomic energy and propulsion
Producing Organization
University of Alabama
Oak Ridge Institute
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program features the voices of Frank Pace, Jr., of General Dynamics Corporation and former Secretary of the Army, and Dr. Lyle Borst, chair of the physics division of New York University.
Series Description
About peacetime uses of atomic energy, with experts from Oak Ridge and other atomic energy centers.
Broadcast Date
Nuclear energy--Industrial applications--United States--History.
Media type
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Interviewee: Pace, Frank, Jr., 1912-1988
Interviewee: Borst, Lyle B., 1912-
Producer: Gouds, Moyra
Producing Organization: University of Alabama
Producing Organization: Oak Ridge Institute
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 56-7-4 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:28:32
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Chicago: “New world of atomic energy; Atomic energy and propulsion,” 1956-01-22, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed February 23, 2024,
MLA: “New world of atomic energy; Atomic energy and propulsion.” 1956-01-22. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. February 23, 2024. <>.
APA: New world of atomic energy; Atomic energy and propulsion. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from