My Hometown Had a Secret Nuclear Reactor for Over 30 Years!

secret nuclear reactor
Written by Charlie

Travel is a great way to learn new things about new places. But, how about learning something new about your own hometown, like the fact that there had been a secret nuclear reactor owned by a company there for over 30 years?! That is what I found out recently!

One of the fantastic things that I love about traveling is finding out things about places that I might never learn otherwise. Things that you learn from talking to residents, checking out special spots in cities, etc. I never thought that I would have something unique like this about my hometown – that I never even knew about! It just goes to show that there are things right in our own backyard that can sometimes be a surprise!

My Hometown Had a Secret Nuclear Reactor for Over 30 Years

I grew up in Rochester, NY. Rochester is known for many things, including for being (or having been)the headquarters for companies like Kodak, Xerox, Bausch + Lomb, and Harris RF Communications.

At the height of film cameras, Kodak was the largest employer in the Rochester area with tens of thousands of local workers. Pretty much everyone in Rochester had at least one family member that worked for Kodak or they knew people that worked there. Kodak had done some amazing work on the photographic front and was known for that work.

The Secret Nuclear Reactor Owned by Kodak in Rochester, NY

The reactor underneath Kodak Building 82 for 30 years | Nuclear Regulatory Commission

What they were not known for, however, was being one of the few companies/organizations in the world with a (secret) nuclear reactor that actually had 3.5 lbs of highly enriched uranium! This was a tiny research unit that they used for various projects (chemical testing and imaging tests) and it had been built in 1974 beneath Building 82.

Barely Anyone in NY Knew?

For over 30 years, this nuclear reactor (or, californium neutron flux multiplier, to be more exact – only one of 2 ever made) operated in a well-insulated area under a building in Kodak Park with very few people actually knowing it even existed. In fact, a Kodak company spokesperson several years ago said he did not even know if local police and emergency departments even knew about it. Other people said that no one even in NY state knew that this nuclear reactor and its weapons-grade uranium existed under Kodak.

Of course, it had to be secret to keep it safe and keep alarm out of it (there were never any reports of a leak or any other issues with it) but it is still surprising nonetheless to know that a place you had gone by hundreds of times over the years actually had something like a secret nuclear reactor in it!

Shut Down and Moved

In November of 2007, the enriched uranium from this facility was packed up and moved to a federal location in South Carolina. This all came to light through an article written in my local paper (that I hadn’t even stumbled upon until recently) in 2012. It happened as an employee mentioned the existence of this secret nuclear reactor to one of their reporters.

What Do You NOT Know About Your Hometown? 🙂

It just goes to show – we don’t need to travel to find out interesting things! There may be interesting pieces of information right under your nose in your own hometown. I still can’t believe I had missed this when it all came to light in 2012. But, it sure made for some amazement when I learned about it this month!

Source: Democrat and Chronicle

Featured image courtesy of “Larry” (Lherb3) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.