BETTIS ATOMIC POWER LABORATORY
West Mifflin, Pennsylvania
Since 2009, Bechtel Marine Propulsion Corporation has operated the Bettis and Knolls Atomic Power Laboratories for the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration and the US Navy.
The Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory (BAPL) is a government-owned, contractor-operated research and development facility. It is operated for the Department of Energy by Bechtel Bettis, Inc., and was formerly operated by Westinghouse Electric Corporation. Bettis is engaged solely in the design and development of naval nuclear propulsion plants, supporting the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, also called Naval Reactors, which is a joint Navy-DOE program responsible for all matters pertaining to Naval nuclear propulsion, including the research, design, construction, operation, and maintenance of U.S. nuclear-powered warships. This program is distinct from the remainder of DOE both by Presidential Executive Order 12344, 42 U.S.C. Sec 7158, Public Law 98-525 and 50 U.S.C. Sec. 2406, Public Law 106-65.
Bettis is located on nearly 202 acres of the former Bettis Airfield in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania, about 7.5 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh Naval Reactors Office oversees Bettis operations. There are three primary Bettis sites. The main site is located in West Mifflin, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Another is the Moored Training Ship, a nuclear Navy training facility in Charleston, South Carolina. Bettis also operates the Expended Core Facility at the Naval Reactors Facility at Idaho National Laboratory in Idaho Falls, Idaho.
Bettis provides technical support for the safe and reliable operation of existing Naval reactors. Bettis has worked on core and component technology and design, thermal and hydraulic systems, materials, and nuclear physics. Bettis has also been in charge of training Navy personnel in nuclear plant operations at the Naval Nuclear Power Training Command, located in Charleston, South Carolina; the Moored Training Ships; and Fleet training.
Bettis has three primary functions in the Naval Reactors program. It conducts research to develop materials, chemistry controlled environments, and components for nuclear propulsion technology. It tests the designs of new reactors and propulsion systems and oversees the building by vendors of components. It supports the existing fleet with periodic maintenance and refueling of surface ships and submarines. The Laboratory also trains enlisted and officer propulsion plant operators at its Charleston, South Carolina facility.
Bettis designed reactor plants for the first nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Nautilus (SSN 571), the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier (USS Enterprise), all of the Nimitz-class aircraft carriers, and the USS Seawolf. On 10 December 1948 the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) awarded a contract to Westinghouse to develop, design and construct, test and operate a land-based prototype water-cooled reactor power plant suitable for submarine propulsion. This prototype became known as the S1W or Mark 1. Final shutdown of the S1W prototype occurred on 17 October 1989.
Located south of Pittsburgh in Large, PA, Pittsburgh Materials Technology Inc. (PMTI) was formed in 1993 from a unit of Westinghouse. The Large PA site where PMTI is now located was built by Joseph Large, Jr., who began distilling Monongahela Pure Rye whiskey there in 1795. During World War II, the distillery made alcohol for the war effort. Westinghouse Electric Corporation, as operator of the Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory, began using the site in 1951 for materials processing operations related to the Navy nuclear submarine effort. In the late 50's, the nation began working on space nuclear propulsion and Westinghouse established the Astronuclear Laboratory to participate in this effort. In 1961, Astronuclear was awarded a contract to design and build a Nuclear Engine for Rocket Vehicle Application (NERVA). The Large site became the focus for that effort.
Pressurized Water Reactors (PWR) were originally designed by Westinghouse Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory for military ship applications, then by the Westinghouse Nuclear Power Division for commercial applications. The first commercial PWR plant in the United States was Shippingport, which was located near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
In June 2007, Bettis had two computer systems ranked on the TOP500, with its highest placing at 288.
One initiative at Bettis is the design of the nuclear propulsion plants and electrical power systems for the next class of US Navy aircraft carriers.
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