When We Almost Lost Detroit

On Wednesday, October 5 of 2016, Alliance To Halt Fermi 3 will hold a press conference in Monroe, MI to commemorate the 50th anniversary of our close escape from widespread disaster. In the evening, we will present several speakers on issues of nuclear power at University of Detroit Mercy. See our Calendar for details.

Southeast Michigan nearly had its own Chernobyl before Chernobyl; its own Three Mile Island before Three Mile Island. 50 years ago, the Fermi 1 reactor near Monroe had a meltdown. It’s still not completely decommissioned.

The 69 MWe prototype fast breeder reactor Fermi 1 unit was under construction and development on the shore of Lake Erie near Monroe, MI from 1956 to 1963. On October 5, 1966 this reactor experienced a fuel meltdown. A piece of zirconium cladding inside the reactor chamber came loose. The metal blocked liquid sodium coolant from reaching two of the reactor’s 103 subassemblies, each holding multiple fuel rods.

That fuel heated to the point of melting. Obviously, it was never part of the plan to have loose pieces of zirconium in the reactor blocking the flow of coolant. If more or larger pieces had come loose, then more subassemblies could have been blocked, and an uncontrollable chain reaction could have started. In this case, the worst did not happen, but that was more a matter of luck than great engineering.

John Fuller’s book, We Almost Lost Detroit, has nearly 300 pages of detailed discussion of this event and its significance. It’s out of print now, but you can buy a used copy from Amazon for under $5 (https://www.amazon.com/Almost-Lost-Detroit-John-Fuller/dp/0345252667), or you can download a pdf copy for free from http://wsrl.org/pdfs/detroit.pdf

We should never forget this near disaster, and we should not let today’s nuclear industry downplay the possibility of future catastrophe. That’s why we are having our march and rally on October 5, 2016.

At 3:09 pm, we will open our Press Conference at Loranger Square, Downtown Monroe, MI. This will mark the 50th anniversary of the reactor core melt at Fermi-1 to the minute on October 5, 1966. Representatives from ATHF3, Union of Concerned Scientists, Beyond Nuclear, and Don’t Waste Michigan will reflect on the significance of the anniversary.

In the evening, we will present “Fermi-1 At 50: We Almost Lost Detroit / Accidents Can Happen,” at University Of Detroit Mercy. Keynote Speaker: David Lochbaum, Director of the Nuclear Safety Project at Union of Concerned Scientists, plus Paul Gunter, Director of Reactor Oversight, Beyond Nuclear, Takoma Park, MD and Ethyl Rivera, “Got KI?” Campaign Coordinator, Alliance To Halt Fermi-3.

See our Calendar for addresses and other details of these events.

We support the renewable energy revolution to protect our water and our children from radioactive and chemical pollution and from climate change.

One thought on “When We Almost Lost Detroit”

  1. He also wrote the book Nuclear Witness. Great books and I would love to get another copy of Nuclear Witness. He talks about the Portsmouth USEC plant in Piketon, Ohio. I worked at the Portsmouth/Piketon site until I got sick. vcolley@earthlink.net

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