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Why Kodak Kept A Nuclear Reactor In Its Basement

The Huffington Post  |  By Posted: 05/14/2012 5:52 pm Updated: 05/14/2012 11:03 pm

Kodak Nuclear Reactor

When someone says "Kodak," you're probably more apt to think "camera" than "nuclear reactor." But, apparently, Kodak had both cameras and a nuclear research reactor in its Rochester, New York, headquarters.

According to a report by Democrat and Chronicle's Steve Orr, the well-known camera company had housed a refrigerator-sized nuclear research reactor containing three and a half pounds of highly enriched uranium below the basement level of a building in Rochester's Eastman Business Park from 1974 to 2007.

For more than 30 years, the company used the research reactor, a californium neutron flux multiplier (CFX), to "check chemicals and other materials for impurities" and "for tests related to neutron radiography, an imaging technique," reports Orr. While the company had never deliberately hid the reactor's existence, it seems it never publicly announced it either, even after the uranium's removal and transport to South Carolina in 2007. (You can read the rest of Orr's report here.)

However, the company did comply with all federal regulations and, as shown by a document available on the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's website, Kodak operated the CFX safely in the 30 years it had it and the reactor's decommission did not adversely impact the surrounding environment, as its contents were disposed off-site.

The fact that Kodak had a nuclear reactor to begin with could be a bit troubling to some, but, as Chris Veronda, Kodak's manager of corporate communications, explained in an email to The Huffington Post, the device the company used "operated with barely enough power for a night light, while a typical power plant would operate at a level 85 million times greater."

He continued later:

In 2003, Kodak decided that there were alternative, more cost-effective means to perform the specific analysis, and communicated with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) that it would not renew its license to operate the device. In 2006, the Californium source was removed and transferred to another licensed recipient for reuse. The Uranium was removed in 2007 and transferred to a federal government facility under the close management of several federal agencies.

What do you think about Kodak housing a nuclear reactor in a building's basement? Do you think they should have let more people know about its existence? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

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