While Indiana hasn't a single nuclear power reactor, we do have a little atomic history: tiny Dana, Indiana was once the site of the first high-volume heavy water plant in the United States using hydrogen sulfide in a setup that looks like a refinery-gone-mad (see first link); it ran from 1951 through 1957. (More info in this PDF)
The site had previously been been used during the Manhattan Project (don't ask me how they were gettin' the Deuterium Oxide untangled from plain Wabash River water back then, nobody's telling; probably vacuum distillation) and DuPont had been brewing up RDX there since 1942 -- when it was America's first industrial RDX production facility.
But wait, there's more! In 1959, the Army took a look at the heavy water facility and decided it would be just about perfect to remodel into a nerve gas facility. Starting in 1959, they set to and were making VX gas there (more-or-less upwind of Indianapolis) from 1961 through 1968. Every bit of VX the U.S. ever had was made right here in Indiana.
--And still the story wasn't over: five TNT production lines were built in 1968, ran through 1975, and as of 1984, were still maintained in "standby" condition. (Nice history with some illustrations.)
Still with me? That's RDX to D2O to VX to TNT, with the name changing from Wabash River Ordnance Works to Newport Army Ammunition Plant and finally Newport Chemical Depot; and then in 1997, nearly every country on the planet -- certainly all the kewl kids -- got together and decided landmines were oooo-tay but this chemical-weapons stuff* was Right Out. There was still a nice pile of tanks of OMG, er, VX at Newport; they were going to burn it (this actually works, as long as the fire's hot enough), but remember that "upwind from Indy" thing? Yeah, lousy PR if your incinerator hiccups, so they used a chemical method and had it all neutralized by 2008. (Speaking of hiccups, in '05, somebody slopped out 30 gallons of the stuff -- and managed to not kill or even hurt anyone. Three cheers for multilevel precautions!)
In 2010, the music stopped. Newport was closed. There's supposed to be a re-use plan but I'm not finding much. ("Picnic in the shade of the nitric acid tanks! Stroll by the old ammonia oxidizer! Marvel at The Bookends in the area planned for the never-built smokeless powder plant!" ...I dunno)
* Except, I guess, for white phosphorous, 'cos the chemical action's just a side-effect. Small compensation if a flare comes to call, so try to be elsewhere, please.
INDIANAPOLIS HAMFEST, 2015
1 month ago