File this one under “strange, but true — and completely terrifying”: Until 2006, beleaguered imaging company Kodak had a fully functioning nuclear reactor, packed with weapons-grade uranium, in the basement of one of its buildings near Rochester, New York. And according to the Democrat and Chronicle (a local Rochester newspaper), almost nobody in the community knew about it — until now.
The small nuclear reactor was housed in a 14- by 24-foot concrete room, deep beneath the basement-level of Building 82 in Kodak Park, the company’s super-fun-sounding office complex near Greece, NY, in the Rochester area. The relatively small reactor, which Democrat and Chronicle writer Steve Orr describes as resembling “Robby the Robot from a 1950s science fiction movie,” house 3.5 pounds of highly-enriched uranium — the kind terrorists like to get their grubby mitts on.
Now, this isn’t quite as insane as it might first sound. (Ok, it is, but things at least never got out of hand, as they could have.) According to Orr’s report, the reactor never had a chance of exploding, never leaked, and never presented any risk of radiation poisoning for either Kodak employees or the general public.
Of course, the big question is: Why in tarnation did Kodak need a nuclear reactor? For tests — duh! Albert Filo, a former Kodak research scientist, tells Orr that the reactor was used to check certain chemicals for impurity, as well as for tests related to an imaging technique known as “neutron radiography.” Kodak had reportedly used a similar reactor at Cornell University, located in Ithica, NY, but decided in 1974 that it needed its own.
By 2006, however, Kodak apparently figured that it no longer needed its own nuclear reactor, and got the U.S. Federal government to help safely transport the uranium to a secure storage facility in South Carolina.
While that’s all well and good, it begs the question: how many other companies have potential disasters just sitting around in their basements?
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