National Geographic : 1962 May
Nuclear Power for the Polar Regions I could not help but see the promise and the possibilities the Army's techniques held for that other ice-mantled land I knew and loved, Antarctica. There, as a contribution to the Interna tional Geophysical Year, the United States had established six research stations and Mc Murdo Naval Air Facility. Four remain ac tive, and we regard them as permanent. The reactor at McMurdo Sound has recently been installed. Another has been authorized for the base, and one each for our new Byrd and new South Pole Stations. All four would save the United States an enormous fuel bill, an item that has always figured large in our Ant arctic research and exploration budgets. Under-ice caverns modeled after those at Camp Century house new Byrd Station, in- land and exposed to the full fury of the world's worst weather. No doubt the new South Pole Station will be similarly housed. Polar Fuel Oil: $6 a Gallon From my years with Deep Freeze, I could appreciate the role of atomic power in these plans. I left my command in 1959 knowing all too well the cost and difficulty of supply ing our bases with fuel. Up to now about 60 percent of the Antarc tic cargo lift has consisted of fuel, most of it oil for heat and light, the rest aviation gaso line. The Navy pays 12 cents a gallon for fuel oil in New Zealand. By the time that oil gets to McMurdo Sound, it costs 40 cents a gallon. For the inland stations, the charge runs as high as $5 to $6 a gallon. Unpacking atomic fuel, a techni cian wears rubber gloves to keep these elements clean after removal of plastic wrapping. Forty-three pounds of uranium will operate Cen tury's atomic plant for two years. Crane lifts the nuclear plant's "hot" waste tank onto the floor of a pre fabricated building. Shipped by sea, the 413-ton, $3,000,000 reactor ar rived in carefully marked sections a giant do-it-yourself kit.