National Geographic : 1962 May
"As for sewage," he added, "we dump that into other wells, where it freezes." My thoughts turned to the Antarctic once more. Our McMurdo Sound base sits on solid ground. In the winter plenty of snow lies near at hand, but men must collect it in weather sometimes as cold as -50° F. In the summer, temperatures rise above freezing and the snow recedes to the hills, making collecting trips long and costly. A solution there will be to use the abun dant surplus heat of a nuclear power plant to distill sea water from McMurdo Sound. At the South Pole Station, on the other hand, we could use Camp Century's system, melting ice with steam pipes running from a nuclear power plant. First Rule With Reactors: Safety The big day arrived when we moved from the temporary camp into permanent, sub surface Camp Century. The nuclear power plant was nearly complete; meanwhile diesel oil powered the generators. It was a day of luxuries. After stowing my gear in the new quarters, I went next door to the showers, gazed fondly at the modern plumbing, and then stood for long minutes under a hot downpour. I confess I felt slight ly guilty, knowing that every bit of fuel that made the shower possible had been pains- takingly hauled 150 miles from Thule by trac tor train. Perhaps the next occupant of the room would relax in the knowledge that his hot shower was the work of PM-2A, which now requires only 43 pounds of uranium-235 every two years to keep going. At lunch that day, conversation turned to the reactor. "Tomorrow we load the fuel elements," an nounced Maj. James W. Barnett, resident engineer and project officer for PM-2A. That evening I sat in on a blackboard "chalk talk" that Jack McCool gave to his loading crew. He reviewed each detail in the placing of fuel elements in the reactor. For the first time I noticed a tense attitude in the men. A mistake or accident could result in a burst of killing radiation. When I arrived at the reactor building next morning, the loading crew already had gath ered. Gazing down into a pool of crystal-clear water - excellent shielding against radiation - - I could see the stainless-steel vessel that would contain the reactor core - the assembly of fuel elements and control rods. AttheotherendofthepoolIsawabig latticelike rack. This would eventually store spent fuel. Today, as a test, it would be loaded briefly with the shiny new fuel elements, be fore they went into the reactor vessel. The loading crew resembled a group of Modern kitchen encased in age-old ice turns out enormous meals to satisfy the appetites of men working in cold. Frozen storage presents no problem: The icecap provides a free deep freeze. Here, cooks prepare a turkey dinner. HS EKTACHROMEBY W. ROBERT MOORE,NATIONALGEOGRAPHIC STAFF © N.G.S.