Jimmy Carter was warned that his job in Chalk River, Ont., meant he wouldn’t be able to have children. He has four.
A viral tweet from the Historical Society of Ottawa is shedding light on an aspect of the region’s history that few people in the area — of the country — are aware of.
The world’s first nuclear reactor meltdown, according to Ben Weiss, co-ordinator of the society’s Facebook page and speaker series. While Chernobyl, Fukushima, and Three Mile Island are commonly mentioned when nuclear disasters occur, this one occurred fewer than 200 kilometres from Canada’s capital.
Even more fascinating is the truth that the disaster was averted in part because of future US President Jimmy Carter’s assistance.
According to a Government of Canada page, in December 1952, an experimental nuclear reactor in Chalk River, Ont., some 180 kilometres northwest of Ottawa, “had mechanical issues and operator mistake that resulted in overheating fuel rods and considerable damage to the NRX reactor core.”
The page goes on to state that it was the world’s first nuclear reactor accident, but it doesn’t mention anything else about what happened.
Weiss had written about the Chalk River catastrophe late Tuesday night, using details from an essay published by journalist and novelist Arthur Milnes.
“The following morning… I took a look around. And then it hits me: this tale has been on fire all night. People, I imagined, slept at night “he stated “But that was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And it struck a chord with the public.”
Weiss noted that while the historical society’s posts typically get tens of thousands of views, this has been “by far” the most-viewed post he’s ever made, with nearly one million views — and that’s just on Facebook.
Carter takes great pride in his involvement in the Chalk River event, according to Milnes, who also wrote a biography about him and his wife Rosalynn.
“It’s not a subject that most American journalists or anyone else are particularly interested in. So when President Carter learned that I wanted to discuss Chalk River, he was ecstatic “Milnes remarked.
The facility’s partial meltdown resulted in explosions and a deluge of hundreds of thousands of gallons of water, leading the Canadian government to seek help from its southern neighbour.
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