A well-kept secret for three decades, it is now coming to light that Eastman Kodak kept a nuclear reactor, including uranium, in a basement bunker near its Rochester, N.Y. facilities.
The company says it was used as a research device and was "perfectly safe." No explosions or leaks ever occurred, and purportedly it was kept under tight security.
According to Digital Trends, Kodak kept the "fully functioning" nuclear reactor for 30 years; reportedly it was packed with 3.5 pounds of highly enriched uranium.
Even more amazing, perhaps, is this was a well-guarded secret, at least until now, six years after the company disposed of the nuclear reactor.
Local media in Rochester, N.Y., The Democrat and Chronicle reported this reactor was one of the "few of its kind in the world," and was used by Kodak until a mere six years ago when the company decided to shut it down.
It had been acquired in 1974.
Apparently, the nuclear reactor's existence wasn't exactly a secret, but was sparsely mentioned.
“It was a known entity, but it was not well-publicized,” said Albert Filo, a former Kodak research scientists who worked with the device for nearly 20 years, and left Kodak in 2010, reported The Democrat and Chronicle. “This particular device was unique," he said.
The publication says it found out about the reactor when a Kodak employee mentioned it to a reporter a few months back. And seemingly not many others knew about it either.
“I’ve never heard of it at Kodak,” said Miles Pomper, senior research associate at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Washington. “It’s such an odd situation because private companies just don’t have this material.”
The nuclear reactor, described as about the size of a refrigerator, was removed from the Rochester underground bunker in 2006, and transported to the southern region of the U.S., with a high level of security. This move was reported to have been coordinated through the U.S. Government and not many details have been shared about the removal from the N.Y. facility.
Prior to this move, the device was stored in the company's bunker, which was constructed with two-foot-thick concrete walls underneath one of its buildings. The reason for the removal was given as the company decided it was no longer needed.
The Los Angeles Times spoke to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and was told Kodak had "enriched 1,582 grams of uranium-235 up to 93.4%, a level considered weapons-grade." The spokesman, Neil Sheehan, noted Kodak's device was unique and a rarity. Sheehan said he didn't know if other private companies were in possession of any weapons-grade uranium.
The Democrat and Chronicle goes into deep detail on the how and the why of Kodak's possessing such a device, including some of the history behind the decision to bring a nuclear reactor to be used underneath one of its buildings.
In Jan. 2012 Eastman Kodak filed for bankruptcy.