Much was made of the revelation this week that Kodak once had a nuclear reactor in its basement, with even your humble Newser wondering what sort of nuclear Kodak moments the photo giant might have planned. But in truth, Kodak couldn’t have developed even one nuclear warhead, Physics Central explains. The company didn’t possess nearly enough nuclear fuel to do so; in fact, its reactor was the size of a refrigerator and similar ones can be found on university campuses today. These types of reactors are much safer than the type used at power plants, and Kodak followed strict safety procedures.
Kodak wanted to check for impurities in chemicals, and Neutron Activation Analysis was the best way to do so. Kodak needed a source of neutrons, so it used Californium-252, an isotope of the radioactive element Californium that one nuclear engineer calls “a poor man’s reactor.” Kodak wanted more neutrons, so it decided to use uranium plates to increase the flow. The company had 3.5 pounds of uranium on-site, and about 100 pounds are necessary for a reactor to develop a nuclear weapon.