Kinetics Experiment Reactor
The Kinetics Experiment Water Boiler (KEWB) reactor was the first nuclear reactor to be operated at SSFL. It was a small research reactor, using a water solution of uranyl sulfate as fuel. Two different cores were used: the first core was a spherical tank, and the second was a cylindrical tank.
The reactor was referred to as a “water boiler’ because the operation of the reactor caused the formation of small bubbles of hydrogen and oxygen which gave the appearance of boiling water.
The KEWB reactor was used to study the dynamic behavior and inherent safety of homogeneous, water-boiler type reactors. The reactor started up with the spherical core in July 1956, and later operated with the cylindrical core. Most operations were at very low power (1 kWt or less), but the reactor was operated briefly at 50 kWt. The final use was as a neutron pulse test facility, for many different tests.
Following its shutdown in November 1966, the reactor was removed and disposed of and the facility was decommissioned and decontaminated. Atomics International (Rocketdyne's predecessor) performed a final survey and submitted it to the Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA). ERDA released the facility for unrestricted use in March, 1976. The facility was then demolished. Argonne National Laboratories (ANL) performed an independent verification survey of the facility footprint in May 1983. The survey verified that the site could be released for unrestricted use.