Buried among the paperwork of Kodak’s bankruptcy assets was the somewhat strange information that the company had its own nuclear reactor and was capable of making weapons grade uranium.
While the photocopying company was going down the loo, it turns out it could have made a fortune flogging enriched uranium to a rogue state or two.
Fortunately for humanity the idea did not appear to have entered the Kodak accountants’ heads.
Six years ago, according to Gizmodo, they had a nuclear reactor in a basement in Rochester loaded with 3.5 pounds of enriched uranium.
The thing was no one seemed to know why Kodak felt it needed to be a nuclear power, nor how they got permission to own it and install it in a basement in the middle of a densely populated city. Certainly it would have made anyone think twice about taking its Kodachrome away.
Its existence was only known about when the details were leaked by an ex-employee. It appears that only a few engineers and Federal employees really knew about the project.
According to Miles Pomper, from the Centre for Nonproliferation Studies in Washington, it was an odd situation because private companies just don’t have this material.
Kodak was not planning to get anyone to ask. It was using the reactor to check materials for impurities as well as neutron radiography testing.
It was a Californium Neutron Flux multiplier (CFX) which they picked up in 1974 and pre-loaded with three and a half pounds of enriched uranium plates placed around a californium-252 core. It is ironic really because there was enough californium to lay waste to Califoria if Kodak had been so minded.
The reactor was installed in a closely guarded, two-foot-thick concrete-walled underground bunker in the company’s headquarters.
No employees were ever in contact with the reactor – well, no one who was has told anyone.
After 2006 Kodak started to wonder if, after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, it might be a good idea to dismantle it.
Rumours that it sold it to a wild eyed scientist who was trying to stick it onto the back of his Delorean can be safely discounted. Still it makes you wonder how many other technology companies are sitting on a nuke or two.