National Geographic : 1958 Sep
National Geographic Photographer B. Anthony Stewart Scientists Adjust a Bell Jar to Feed Radiocarbon to a Tobacco Plant Drs. John C. Brown and T. C. Tso, working in the U. S. Department of Agriculture research center at Beltsville, Maryland, use C-14 to trace formation of compounds, including nicotine. of figures. Plants such as ours will yield information that will settle a lot of questions and simplify design." Many experts pin their hopes for eco nomical power on reactors that differ mark edly from the Shippingport type. Two of these experimental systems now produce com mercial electricity on a small scale. One, built by General Electric near Pleas anton, California, permits water to boil in the reactor core (page 308). Steam, slightly radioactive, then passes directly to the turbine. Atomics International, a division of North American Aviation, operates the second power producer near Los Angeles. Its reactor uses liquid sodium as a coolant. The silver-white 332 metallic fluid flows through the core and transfers heat to a water system. Less advanced, but highly promising, is the "breeder" power reactor. Shippingport converts some uranium to plutonium, so it is called a converter plant. In this case the new element is merely a by product, though it contributes to the reaction. It is possible, however, for a plant to produce more fissionable material than it uses as fuel. Several years ago a small AEC installation successfully demonstrated the alchemy of breeding at the National Reactor Testing Station in Idaho. Earlier, on December 20, 1951, the plant generated the world's first electricity from nuclear power.