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The final days of NASA's Plum Brook nuclear facility chronicled in photos

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Wired and NASA have provided a series of images chronicling the decommission and demolition of the Plum Brook Nuclear Facility, home to the agency's only fission reactor.

NASA Plum Brook nuclear facility reactor (NASA)
NASA Plum Brook nuclear facility reactor (NASA)

In 1961, NASA's Plum Brook Reactor Facility in Sandusy, Ohio went live, with a focus on researching nuclear-powered vehicles — first airplanes, and then rockets. It was shut down 12 years later, and in 1998 NASA finally decided to begin the process of decommissioning the site. Wired has published a photo tour of the facility, taken before its final demolition on May 31st this year, and when paired with NASA's own site on the decommissioning process it provides a haunting look at the last days of the 27-acre installation.

Plum Brook's reactor differed from many others in its focus: research. The uranium core was used to bombard small experiments with neutrons, usually components that were intended to be used in nuclear-powered airplanes or the end-result of the agency's NERVA — nuclear engine for rocket vehicle application — program. Neither project came to fruition, but the images nevertheless provide a glimpse inside a facility that would never be allowed under today's regulations. The full set of pictures from both Wired and NASA are definitely worth a long look.