Photographs of the worst nuclear reactor disaster in U.S. history that happened just outside of Los Angeles July 13-26, 1959. The top center photograph was taken by John Pace, an eyewitness to the Sodium Reactor Experiment meltdown.
“This is a picture of the men trying to unstick the second fuel rod that broke off in the reactor, Pace told EnviroReporter.com. “They are looking under the lead shield of the Fuel transporter trying to see where the broken fuel rod was stuck at. They are on top of the reactor getting radiation from the reactor core through the open fuel rod hole with the fuel rod half in and out of the reactor. You will see one man with a gas mask on and the other laying down looking under the lead safety shield with a flashlight and no gas mask breathing in all that radiation.
“This is why I took this picture; because of it being so dangerous. I used a company camera not mine to take this picture. I took this picture from the SRE control room through the window looking out in the High Bay area.”
John Pace at reactor controls in 1959.
"This is a picture of the men trying to unstick the second fuel rod that broke off in the reactor," Pace says.
Tall black cask device, lined with lead for inserting and extracting fuel rods,
was called a "coffin" by workers.
The reactor high bay had two coffins, a cherry picker and crane.
Control room before meltdown.
Worker peers through long device inspecting core damage
first from atop a ladder and then lower on the reactor lid.
Looking into stricken reactor core.
Two coffins are moved into place on top of core.
Two workers adjust device above damaged reactor.
Three men, including Pace in
middle, work to contain highly radioactive debris and goo inside the partially melted reactor. Workers stopped wearing radioactive exposure badges
after several weeks, according to Pace, in order not to overexpose the badges. The men continued working in the high bay without radiation badges.
Pace aligning up a piece of equipment on top of the reactor. He is not looking directly into the core. His Atomics International cap reads "Your Safety
is Our Business."
Pace, seated, strains with another worker to pry open the lid of the reactor.
"This is a picture of me, (laying back pulling on a come along with the help of a fellow worker). We are trying to rotate the top of the rector. The seal had to be broken (cut) to be able to rotate the top. With the seal cut it allowed radioactive contamination to leak out through the broken seal."
"The top of the reactor had to be lifted (it weighed 60 tons) about an inch to help break the seal and to be able to rotate it. The reason for rotating the top of the reactor; was to re-locate the large plug in the top of the reactor so we could remove the small broken pieces of fuel rod in the bottom of the reactor core."
"They built a special piece of equipment that would ft over the large plug and remove it so they could remove the small pieces. This was the first time anything like this had been done before. This is how far they went to repair the reactor."
Pace helps guide into place
heavy equipment for the core recovery.
Pace working on patching up an
asbestos pipe with sealant.