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Dawsonville Georgia Nuclear Aircraft Laboratory 1959

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Uploaded on Feb 23, 2010

The Georgia Nuclear Aircraft Laboratory (GNAL) near Dawsonville, Georia, was a nuclear facility in conjunction with the Lockheed Martin Corporation, the United States Air Force and the Atomic Energy Commission. With operations beginning in the 1950s until decommissioning in 1971, the Georgia Nuclear Aircraft Laboratory's primary goal was to create a nuclear propulsion system for military aircraft. The facility, spread out over several miles, included a hot cell building, a nuclear reactor site, and a cooling site for irradiated materials. These three separate sites were connected by an onsite narrow-gauge railway system with rail cars that transported materials to and from the three facility stations. The reactor itself, a 10 million watt reactor, was in a hollow of the forest. It was kept in a concrete pool when not in use and raised from the pit when it was to be operated. During any test or irradiation procedures when the reactor was in operation, facility employees reverted to shielded underground quarters. Once the reactor had been raised and turned on, or "flashed," employees waited for the procedure to end and the reactor to be returned to its pool before again emerging from the shielded quarters.
The nuclear reactor was what is termed an air-shielded reactor. This means the reactor was unshielded when removed from its storage pool. Each time it was used to irradiate a product of any kind, it also irradiated the surrounding landscape and forest. After only a few uses, all the foliage surrounding the reactor area had died. Beginning in 1958, the Lockheed/ Dawsonville reactor site was used for extensive radiation studies and animal experiments. Conducted via contract with the University of Georgia, Emory University, and the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, these studies subjected wildlife, both indigenous to the area and introduced to the area, and the surrounding landscape to massive doses of radiation. For more information on this site, go to http://www.pickensprogress.com/archiv... . This is clipped from the 1959 U.S. Air Force film, Georgia Nuclear Laboratory, Progress Report No. 1, 1959. This color film shows pan shots of landscape; construction and assembly of the Reactor Pool; Primary Equipment pit; seepage pit; water system; filter plant; Maintenance building; Critical Experiment Facility building; Weather Station; Instrumentation Lab; Audio Tower; Radiation Effects lab; technicians practicing the handling of controls in a hot cell mockup; Analytical Lab; and scenes of the first hot tests conducted 15 December 1958. The entire film is available at the US National Archives.

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