Kodak: Cameras, Film, And……Nuclear Reactors?

Kodak’s latest Chapter 11 Bankruptcy filings reveal that the company had some odd things going on at its Rochester, New York headquarters:

For more than 30 years, Kodak Park was home to a little-known underground labyrinth containing a small nuclear research reactor, one of the few of its kind in the world.

It wasn’t a power plant, and carried no risk of explosion. Nothing ever leaked. Eastman Kodak Co. officials say the research device was perfectly safe.

Still, the reactor was locked down, remotely surveilled and tightly regulated — mainly because it contained 3½ pounds of highly enriched uranium.

That’s the material that nuclear bombs are made of. Terrorists covet it.

When Kodak decided six years ago to close down the device, still more scrutiny followed. Federal regulators made them submit detailed plans for removing the substance. When the highly enriched uranium was packaged into protective containers and spirited away in November 2007, armed guards were surely on hand.

All of this — construction of a bunker with two-foot-thick concrete walls, decades of research and esoteric quality control work with a neutron beam, the safeguarding and ultimate removal of one of the more feared substances on earth — was done pretty much without anyone in the Rochester community having a clue.

Why, you might ask, did Kodak have a nuclear reactor? Well, fortunately, it doesn’t appear to have anything to do with nefarious plans for world domination:

Starting decades ago, Kodak had an interest in neutrons, subatomic particles that can be used to determine the makeup of a given material or to create an image of it without damaging it.

A steady stream of neutrons is needed for these purposes. Kodak used small research reactors, including one at Cornell University, and possessed a dollop of californium-252, a radioactive isotope that endlessly sheds neutrons.

But it wanted a more potent in-house system, so in 1974 it acquired a californium neutron flux multiplier, known as a CFX. Small plates of highly enriched uranium multiplied the neutron flow from a tiny californium core.

Kodak used it to check chemicals and other materials for impurities, Filo said. It also was used for tests related to neutron radiography, an imaging technique.

Sure, that’s the official story, the one they want you to believe, right?

H/T: Instapundit

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Hey Norm says:

    That is interesting.

  2. As is the lack of caffeine this morning

  3. PJ says:

    Now I get why Iran tried to buy Kodak back in 1995. And was denied.

  4. John Burgess says:

    Lack of caffeine is rarely interesting.

    And NIH has a reactor within the bounds of the DC Beltway!

  5. John,

    True but that’s the government. We can trust them. right? Oh who am I kidding?

  6. PJ says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    True but that’s the government. We can trust them. right? Oh who am I kidding?

    Totally agree. if only the Three Mile Island reactor had been run by a private company…

    I think the question anyone should ask is if there’s any other companies that have their own, secret, reactors.

  7. John Peabody says:

    I don’t know about you, but I’m getting lead photo books for my Kodachrome prints.

  8. Richard Gardner says:

    I don’t see what the big deal is. There are dozens of research reactors in US Universities. Additionally in the DC area there are research reactors at the Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute (Bethesda), National Institute of Standards and Technology (Gaithersburg), and U of Maryland (College Park). Dow Chemical and GE also have research reactors.

  9. superdestroyer says:

    @John Burgess:

    NIH does not have a reactor. It is across Wisconsin avenue at AFRRI.