Kodak had a Nuclear Reactor and Uranium in its BasementKodak had a nuclear reactor in the basement of its Rochester, NY building. It was filled with 3.5 pounds of enriched uranium. Yes, it is a perfectly fine reaction to ask “what the hell?”
What’s more, they apparently never told anyone about it. The Rochester government was completely ignorant of it, as were the fire department, police department, etc. Kodak even admits that they never actually mentioned having it there. That does beg the question though: where did this thing come from, and why didn’t Kodak tell anyone about it?
Fortunately Kodak’s purpose for the device wasn’t evil. The radiation was used to check various materials for impurities. Which makes sense, given that radiation was discovered by unexposed film in the first place.
But that doesn’t explain why Kodak told no one about the device. Apparently it was cloaked in ambiguity and misdirection. We only know about the reactor because its existence was leaked by an ex-employee.
Eastman Kodak Co.'s californium neutron flux multiplier (CFX)
Kodak finally dismantled the reactor in 2006. The Californium Neutron Flux multiplier (CFX) was installed in 1976 and contained both uranium plates and a californium-252 core.
In case you were wondering, yes, the uranium was weapons-grade. While the reactor was hardly a bomb, nuclear material is kept out of the hands of companies for a reason. Private organizations just don’t get access to uranium.
For their part, Kodak claims that no employees ever interacted with the reactor and that the facility was closely guarded. The material was kept in a 2 foot thick concrete bunker and samples were fed into the machine by pneumatic tube.
Granted, 1978 was before the danger of nuclear reactors became lodged in the public mind. And Kodak has a long history with the US government. In fact, Kodak worked on the Manhattan Project, otherwise known as the birth place of the atomic bomb.
But still... This is a little more than terrifying. What other companies secretly have weapons-grade nuclear material in their basements? And what cities are they located in?