Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Friday, August 22, 2008

50 Years Of Idaho Nuclear Power

As time goes on, descriptions and images that were once considered highly classified will start to filter out into the public domain as it becomes harder to justify keeping them under wraps. For example, those of us who were assigned to the S5G Prototype at the Naval Reactors Facility in Idaho probably didn't expect to see this again:

There it is, floating in its basin in all its glory. This fascinating picture comes from Chapter 10 of this remarkable history of the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (now just the Idaho National Laboratory) from 1949-1999. Most nukes, after reading through Chap. 10, will want to go straight to the chapter on the SL-1 reactor accident; it's pretty in-depth.

I can't wait to see what else will be declassified (when appropriate) as time goes on. Maybe they'll eventually open up the Engine Room of the Nautilus for public tours. (All the plexiglass and signs are in place back there; all they need is permission from NR to open it up.)


Blogger IronMal said...

I wonder who those young Nukes are in the :Chapter 10" photo under Rickover captioned "Navy Students in training onboard S1W"... ? The Nautilus is SO plexiglassed off it is disappointing. They could at least rig an alarm or 2 for the kids. Of the 3 subs my kids have been on for tours they gave the 571 thumbs down for being kid friendly and thumbs up for the number of stupid mannequins. And it's only a cone tour.

8/23/2008 7:05 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The3 S2W plant is still light years ahead of anything North Korea or Iran could build on their own. Who knows where their weak areas are? I say keep Nautilus off limits to non-nucs and let the mulla's copy a Russian design.

8/23/2008 7:44 AM

Anonymous Carl said...

I did prototype on S5G. Of course, by then it was "moored" and dry but it was still interesting with the dyno. I recall standing RO watch during end-of-cycle physics testing and observing the positive MTC.

8/23/2008 8:37 AM

Blogger Nereus said...

Was that just some evil underway simulator for training? Did that thing have a permanent list or is that just the angle of the photograph?

8/23/2008 10:21 AM

Blogger Mr. C. said...

Thanks for the great link!

If you've not had a chance to do so, you want to get ahold of the following book:

Idaho Falls: The Untold Story of America's First Nuclear Accident.


8/23/2008 12:44 PM

Blogger BlueShirtO said...

If you are cheap and digital like me, read the Idaho Falls books Dale C (my buddy from Orlando) suggested at

8/23/2008 6:31 PM

Blogger BlueShirtO said...

OK - so I am a dope and you can't read the whole book on line. To make it up to you all, check out the surreal AEC video at on the SL-1.

8/23/2008 7:48 PM

Blogger montigrande said...


Thanks for posting this, it was so interesting that I spent several hours of the night shift pouring over it while at work. Not while I was supposed to be “touring ,“ of course.

To Ironmal, I agree 571 is pretty tame, the last time that I was on the USS Clamagore (SS 343) in Charleston, SC, the conning tower dive and general alarms worked (I know, I tried them and scared the hell out of several other “guests.”). adding to that when I was an instructor at NAVSUBSCOL we took students up to USS Lionfish (SS-298), to help keep her “ship shape.” Just before I left the A-gangers had gotten the auxiliary diesel to run and actually power the ship. It was pretty cool.

8/23/2008 10:43 PM

Blogger Patty Wayne said...

Thanks for the mental shakeup. Lots of good memories from my time in Idaho and at A1Wonderful.


8/24/2008 2:49 AM

Blogger Mike Mulligan said...

That was my prototype...I think I remember the list.

I believed I lived at Lovejoy street in Idaho Falls.

I was sooo far from home I thought.

8/24/2008 4:16 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

For nereus re: Was that just some evil underway simulator for training? Did that thing have a permanent list or is that just the angle of the photograph?

There was not a permanent list. It was essentially in a floating dry dock so that the effects of different attitudes on the natural circulation primary system could be tested. It was usually in a normal attitude just resting on the blocks.


8/24/2008 10:56 AM

Blogger IronMal said...

Thanks for the tip Montigrande... I'm adding the USS Lionfish and Battleship Cove to the list of places to drag my kids to.

8/25/2008 2:32 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I went to prototype at S5G, then to a a boomer at EB getting converted to S5W/S3G core II. What a dinosaur.

8/25/2008 6:01 AM

Blogger 630-738 said...

Wow, that was my exact sentiment after leaving S5G prototype to a S5W boomer. I couldn't believe how much more efficient the use of space was in S5G than other plant designs I have been in, even vs. S6G and S8G. True, S8G engine rooms are huge, but I generally found working conditions better on S5G (I went to the prototype and served on NARWHAL) due to more efficient equipment layout. Case in point, the SSTG collector housings.

8/25/2008 6:45 AM

Anonymous Former Hampton JO said...

A few years back the Smithsonian Museum of American History had an exhibit, "Fast Attacks and Boomers" (exhibit long gone; website still here: This had a bastardized EO, RO and Throttleman stations from, IIRC, an S5W boat. Some changes were made to protect NNPI, but it was more detail than I'd seen anywhere else, at least until reading the "Idiot's guide to Submarines." Anyway, if they ever resurrect the exhibit, I highly recommend it. It also had a mockup of the control room and a lot of detail on some of the formerly-classified special missions in the 70s and early 80s.

8/25/2008 10:36 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some pieces from manuevering had to be "relocated" so they could be sent off to that Smithsonian exhibit. Funny how in decom things seem to walk off. They took the throttle wheels after they came back and some parts of the RPCP from BILLFISH for that display. I think a majority of it came from either ARCHERFISH or SANDLANCE - don't remember.

8/26/2008 12:03 PM

Blogger 630-738 said...

The Manuevering shown at the Smithsonian was from USS TREPANG (SSN 674). It was obviously modified due to it's similarities with other plant designs. It was an excellent exhibit and would be nice to see set up again, although I believe it was set up for the 100th anniversary of the Submarine Force, and isn't likely to be seen again soon. It is still viewable on the web at

8/26/2008 12:27 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you were at the S1W prototype you will want to look at the pictures in
chapter 6 of the INEL history book. I spent many hours of my staff pick up days standing watch on the water brake.

8/26/2008 7:15 PM

Anonymous Old Nuke RO said...

From the website.
"The Navy has worked closely with the Museum to keep such changes to a minimum and to preserve overall appearance. These consoles look much as they did during their active life aboard the fast attack USS Sand Lance (SSN-660)."

8/27/2008 9:50 AM

Blogger 630-738 said...

Yes, I do see that. As I remember, parts of both boats (Trepang and Sand Lance) were used as well as parts from a decommed SSBN as well. In addtion, the screw from the 637 class model used at Carderock was also included, vice a real 637 class screw (too big).

8/28/2008 11:01 AM

Blogger Mike Chapman said...

Is that true about the Nautilus engine room being ready for display? I asked a couple of sailors who were on duty at the Nautilus once; they said there isn't much left in the engineering spaces. The reason they knew this (they said) is because they had to check the bilges every so often.

9/18/2008 4:27 AM

Anonymous Don said...

That Smithsonian site. What class sub was that? The EPCP is pretty much WRONG. Like the controls for the SSMGs are ... where?
Sorry. I went to S1W then to boomers (S3G Core 3) then to Fast Attacks (S6G). Never saw a EPCP like that and I stood EO for so freaking long I still can draw the mimic bus 25 years after getting out. I remember S1W had places you could not go when it was critical. Got my first incident report there when I went over my exposure limit as a nublet. Not my fault. What do nubs know? Remember the big ass knife switch?

9/15/2010 6:15 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

the reactor of nautilus was removed, but it could be possible that the maneuvering console is still in there (which is classified of course). last thing we need is giving china any ideas on how to build better nuclear subs (their han class sucks). its probably true that most of the stuff in engineering is gone.

4/25/2011 11:57 PM

Anonymous Carol said...

Interesting post. I believe nuclear power plants these days have already evolved from the mistakes learned from the Chernobyl incident. I'm thinking more precautionary measures will be added after another power plant leakage that happened in Japan.

5/14/2011 5:34 AM

Anonymous Gloria said...

Oh my god, there is a great deal of worthwhile data above!

9/14/2012 8:33 AM

Anonymous Sabrina said...

Thanks for the post, really effective info.

9/20/2012 2:46 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice to see this blog about INEL.

AIW '81

Was in the area around 2004 and could not find my way around Idaho Falls or where INEL used to be.

Guess I should have stayed awake on the bus ....

3/07/2013 9:08 PM

Anonymous Dan Dossin said...

In the early 60s, I was training on the S!W plant.
They were moving the rod transfer cask/pig over head the upper level reactor compartment.... I was in the upper level as the cask passed over head, the lower door opened, drenching me with the highly contaminated water. In the middle 70s, the US Navy maintained, "We cannot find any record of that event"
Sure would be nice if someone else remembered it so I can go back to the Navy for some satisfaction.

4/02/2013 8:22 PM


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