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The past half-year in the atomic energy program saw the domestic production of uranium ore and uranium concentrates attain record levels, while production from foreign sources continued to increase. Exploration activity by the Commission, other Government agencies and by private mining firms and individuals stood at an all-time high in the United States.
Increased availability of raw materials, along with startup of new plant capacity, and operational flexibility of the Nation's complex of production facilities resulted in a sharp rise in the production of fissionable materials, at lower unit cost.
During the 6 months, plant capacity continued to be enlarged, as a number of the components of the Savannah River, S. C., construction project were placed in operation, and construction of additional reactor capacity at Hanford, Wash., proceeded on schedule. Also, the first gaseous diffusion plant and portions of a second plant at Paducah, Ky., went into operation, while an addition to the Oak Ridge, Tenn., gaseous diffusion plant was partially completed. Construction of the new plant at Portsmouth, Ohio, proceeded satisfactorily. Largely as a result of this progress in construction, capital investment in atomic energy plant facilities was estimated to have reached about $5.7 billion.
The weapons research and development program included a successful test series (Operation CASTLE) conducted at the Pacific Proving Ground during the period of this report. Data on radiation exposures resulting from the tests are included in this report.
A contribution to national civil defense was made through the declassification and public release of "Operation IVY"-official film of the test of a thermonuclear device at the Pacific Proving Ground in 1952.
Progress continued in the Commission's program of developing improved reactors for industrial nuclear power and for naval and aircraft propulsion and other military requirements during the first 6 months of 1954. In a report submitted to the Joint Congressional Committee on Atomic Energy the AEC presented a specific pattern of research and development to be followed during the next 5 years in a major effort to decrease the cost of power generation with nuclear fuels. It would allow increased participation by contractors presently in the reactor program and encourage additional groups outside the Commission to participate.
The longest practical step yet taken toward the goal of civilian power was the attainment of an agreement with the Duquesne Light Co. of Pittsburgh for partial financing of construction of a 60,000kilowatt version of the pressurized water reactor for operation by the company. Development work and design of the reactor is being carried out by the Westinghouse Electric Corp. under contract with the Commission. Ground for the new plant, the Nation's first fullscale power reactor will be broken this year.
The AEC's work on the power plant for the USS Nautilus, the first nuclear powered submarine, whose hull was launched by the Navy on January 21, neared completion and the prototype for the second nuclear submarine, the USS Sea Wolf, also was nearly completed.
The mounting interest among industrial concerns in development of nuclear power was evident in the addition of 5 industrial teams surveying reactor technology and studying reactor designs in research and development during the past 6 months. This brought the total of such teams to 13.
Physical research in atomic energy resulted in growth of scientific knowledge, while possibilities for further progress through research remained large. Two new research reactors will be in operation in two of the national laboratories during the year; while 3 new accelerators went into operation and 2 others were in the design stage. Interest in research reactors was stimulated at the University Research Reactor Conference held in Oak Ridge in February by an announcement of AEC policy on lending fissionable material to nonprofit institutions for use in research reactors.
In the field of biological and medical applications progress was reported on studies of the effects of all types of ionizing and nonionizing radiations on man, animals, and living plants. Emphasis was given to the investigation of the relative biological effectiveness of high energy particles as compared with X- and gamma-rays. A series of very useful public hearings on present and potential peaceful uses of atomic energy was held by the Subcommittee on Research and Development of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy during the spring of 1954. The hearings presented information on the contributions of atomic energy and its byproducts to agriculture and to the medical sciences.
In its community operations, the Commission's proposed legislation to facilitate the establishment of local self-government and to provide for disposal of federally owned properties at Oak Ridge, Tenn., and Richland, Wash., was introduced in Congress on April 1.
On June 30 the term of Commissioner Eugene M. Zuckert expired. Mr. Zuckert was appointed to the Commission on February 25, 1952. In the staff, a number of positions in the Office of the General
Manager were filled to provide for closer coordination in the work of atomic energy during the period of rapid development ahead. R. W. Cook (employed in the project since 1944) was named Assistant General Manager for Manufacturing and Alfonso Tammaro (employed in the project since 1943), Assistant General Manager for Research and Industrial Development. Two new Assistants to the General Manager-Harry S. Traynor and Paul S. Foster-were appointed. E. J. Bloch succeeded Mr. Cook as Director of Production and John A. Derry succeeded Mr. Bloch as Director of Construction and Supply. John J. Flaherty left the San Francisco Operations Office to succeed Mr. Tammaro at the Chicago Operations Office and H. A. Fidler was appointed Manager of the San Francisco Office. Allan C. Johnson succeeded L. E. Johnston as Manager of the Idaho Operations Office. Following reassignment of the duties of the New York Operations Office to provide for closer integration of the production program, Henry B. Fry left that office to become the Assistant Manager for Administration and Services of the Santa Fe Office and was succeeded by Merril Eisenbud. Carroll L. Tyler was succeeded as Manager of the Santa Fe Office by Donald L. Leehey.
The rate of production by all sources of uranium concentrates was as scheduled during the first half of 1954. Foreign sources continued to provide a substantial quantity of the raw material needed for the atomic energy program. New foreign sources increased their production. The domestic uranium mining industry was at its highest state of activity to date, and exploration for and production of uranium on the Colorado Plateau reached record proportions. Research and process development studies into new and improved methods of finding and extracting uranium from low grade as well as commercial grades of uranium-bearing materials, continued to yield useful results.
Production of uranium ore and uranium concentrates in the United States attained record levels in the past 6 months. Interest in prospecting for uranium increased significantly, being stimulated by several recent discoveries of large uranium ore bodies. Many large and longestablished mining companies showed greater interest in this strategic material and entered the uranium mining industry. With the advent of more large mines-uranium mining is becoming more stable and modern, large-tonnage mining methods are coming into wider use.
By May 1, 1954, some 430 mining operators were producing and delivering uranium ore from 530 mines in the United States, with the Colorado Plateau remaining the most important source of domestic uranium production. Nearly all of the large ore bodies discovered in the past 2 years are located in this area. At one time there were only 4 known uranium deposits containing ore reserves in excess of 100,000 tons of ore. Now there are known at least 15 such large ore bodies, and several of these greatly exceed 100,000 tons.
Uranium mineralization is now known in at least 18 different stratigraphic horizons on the Colorado Plateau. Important uranium production is being derived from 5 of these formations. The Salt Wash member of the Morrison formation, occurring throughout the Plateau and at one time the only producing horizon, continues to be an important producer. Intensive exploration in recent months expanded the producing areas of this formation. Other important producing formations include the Shinarump, Chinle, and Moenkopi