Westinghouse Astronuclear Laboratory

Westinghouse Astronuclear Laboratory

The 'Westinghouse Astronuclear Laboratory' (WANL) was a division of Westinghouse Electric Corporation. Established in the late 1950s to develop nuclear space propulsion technologies for the government, the lab was located, for most of its history, in the paradoxically small town of "Large" along Pa. Rte 51, about 13 miles south of Pittsburgh in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania [USA] . The site is not far from the Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory in West Mifflin, which Westinghouse operated during the same time and later.

"Historical Note: The Large site is that of the former [http://www.ellenjaye.com/hist_mono3overholt.htm#large Large Distillery] , founded by Jonathan Large (1794-1862), who came to the area as a child in 1797 after the Whiskey Rebellion. The distillery originally produced Monongahela rye whiskey, which was a local favorite. Management of the distillery later passed to Jonathan's son, Henry, who ensured the distillery's success by making "Large Monongahela Rye Whiskey" a national brand. Eventually, the Large Distillery was sold to The National Distillery Company, which retired the Large label but continued to market the whiskey as Old Overholt."

The Large distillery eventually ceased operations and the property was sold to a developer who leased it to Westinghouse in the 1950s, and several of the warehouse buildings were adapted for developing and testing reactor plant components for the nuclear submarine development program underway at Bettis under the direction of Admiral Hyman G. Rickover.

WANL's Brief but Important Lifespan

WANL's origins can be traced to 1959 when a dozen engineers and technical specialists from Bettis set up a lab in nearby Whitehall, Pa., for the purpose of bidding on government research and development contracts. In 1960, the operation moved to a new site in Mt. Lebanon, Pa., and continued efforts to land a major development contract.

In 1961, NASA's [http://www.daviddarling.info/encyclopedia/N/NERVA.html Space Nuclear Propulsion Office] , in conjunction with the Atomic Energy Commission, awarded Aerojet General Corporation the prime contract for its Nuclear Engine for Rocket Vehicle Application NERVA Program, with a significant subcontract to WANL for development of the reactor itself. With the award, WANL selected the Large site as the base for operations and moved its personnel to the facility.

Government funding for nuclear space propulsion research diminished during the late 1960s, culminating in the termination of the NERVA program in 1971 due to "lack of clear requirements for its capabilities." However, work on the project helped achieve major milestones in developing high-temperature/high-strength materials technology, which finds application in aerospace and a myriad of private-sector industries.

While other innovative projects (such as development of a fully-implantable, self-contained, [http://www.histech.nl/Shot2004/programma/txt/mckellarw.asp?file=mckellarw nuclear-powered artificial heart] ) were pursued into the mid 1970s, WANL ceased operations as a formal Westinghouse division shortly thereafter.

Advanced Energy Systems Division

In 1976, Westinghouse changed the name of the site to the Advanced Energy Systems Division (AESD), making it an R&D site for development of nonconventional renewable energy systems. According to the official announcement, AESD's mission would be "Engineering today's science into tomorrow's power systems." Under the leadership of Max Johnson, General Manager, AESD engineers designed and built prototype devices such as a heliostat, which was designed to concentrate sunlight (by means of a tracking, flat-mirror assembly) onto a fluid-filled tank mounted on a tower. This hot fluid could then be transferred to the ground and used to produce steam, spinning a turbine to generate electricity. [The Division's heliostat design resulted from a DoE sponsored competition in the late 1970s for the best design for use in the proposed "Solar One" power tower project near Barstow, California. A prototype was built at the Large site and shipped to the Mojave Desert for testing, but another design ultimately was selected.]

Among AESD's successes was the winning site and conceptual design proposal for the [http://www.powerfromthesun.net/chapter16/Chapter16Text.htm Solar Total Energy Project (STEP)] in Shenandoah [now part of Newnan] , Coweta County, Georgia, 35 miles south of Atlanta along I-85. Financed as a joint project by [http://www.georgiapower.com/about/pdf/Renewable%20Energy%20Research%20ext%20page.pdf Georgia Power Company] (part of Southern Company) and the U.S. Department of Energy, STEP operated from 1982 until 1989. Covering more than five acres, it was the world's largest solar thermal cogeneration project. It consisted of 114 tracking parabolic-dish collectors (7-m dia), which heated a transfer fluid that produced high-pressure steam for generating electricity that was fed to an adjacent knitwear factory owned and operated by Bleyle of Germany. Downstream of the turbine, medium-pressure steam was piped to the plant for knitwear pressing, and low-pressure steam was used to provide air conditioning. The project was dismantled in 1989 when the turbine failed and there were no funds to replace it or provide other needed maintenance on the facility.

Other work conducted at AESD included testing of nickel metal hydride battery prototypes. A phosphoric acid fuel cell was designed, built, and tested successfully. Dendritic web silicon photocells were built and tested, and that business was later sold and transferred to [http://www.solarpowerindustries.com/ Solar Power Industries Inc.] of West Newton, Pa. AESD engineers also built a prototype for a magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) system utilizing hot plasma gases emitted by a coal-fired power plant. The exhaust gasses passed through a copper plate channel, generating additional electricity [up to 30%] .

Advanced Power Systems Divisions

During the time that AESD was active, the Large site also housed the Westinghouse Fusion Power Systems Department (FPSD), which had a role in development and startup of the Tokamak Reactor at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) in 1982. Along with the Advanced Coal Conversion Department (ACCD) and Advanced Reactors Division (ARD), AESD and FPSD constituted the Company's Advanced Power Systems Business Unit (APSBU), which was based at the Company's Waltz Mill Site in Madison, Pennsylvania, along I-70 a few miles west of the New Stanton interchange of the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-76).

ACCD operated a coal gasification process demonstration unit (PDU), which was funded by DoE in the early 1970s, and conducted related research projects. ARD had the development contract for the planned Liquid Metal Fast Breeder Reactor (LMFBR) project at Clinch River, Tennessee, near the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The [http://www.netl.doe.gov/technologies/coalpower/cctc/newsletter/documents/cct_summer96.pdf PDU gasifier] was eventually sold to Kellogg-Rust, which operated it as Kellogg-Rust-Westinghouse and later KRW Energy Systems. Funding for the LMFBR project was discontinued in 1983, and ARD was merged into AESD at the Large site under [http://www.nwtrb.gov/board/arnold.html Dr. W. Howard Arnold] . At the same time, a new Waste Technology Services Division (WTSD), under [http://www.information-matters.com/resumes/business/Leo%20P%20Duffy.pdf Leo P. Duffy] , was formed to address nuclear waste handling and disposal issues. Both Arnold and Duffy had decades of nuclear-related experience with Westinghouse at Bettis, WANL, and government labs.

1980s and Beyond

John Yasinsky, general manager of ACCD in the late 1970s, became general manager of the Advanced Power Systems Divisions in the early 1980s and was named CEO of Westinghouse Electric Corporation in the early 1990s. By 1995, Yasinsky had moved on to become chairman and CEO of GenCorp Inc., and Westinghouse acquired and merged with Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), took the name CBS, and began selling off all nonbroadcast operations. This marked the end of the heritage Westinghouse Electric Corporation, although the name "Westinghouse" endures in various forms for companies in business sectors as diverse as commercial nuclear power, light bulbs, and large and small appliances.

The former WANL/AESD/FPSD Large site closed for good in the early 1990s, and space was leased to a range of commercial tenants. In 1994, a group of former employees at the site formed [http://www.pittsburghmaterialstech.com/history.html Pittsburgh Materials Technology Inc. (PMTI)] to build upon the capabilities developed by Westinghouse, including advanced refractory metal alloys. In 2007, PMTI is still melting, processing and testing alloys such as niobium-base, tantalum-base, and vanadium-base compositions for a range of customers, particularly in the aerospace sector.

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См. также в других словарях:

  • Westinghouse Advanced Energy Systems Division — (AESD) was a research and development facility for nonconventional renewable energy systems, in the paradoxically small town of Large in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania [USA] . The site is on the east side of Pa. Rte. 51, about 13 miles south of… …   Wikipedia

  • WANL — nucl. abbr. Westinghouse Astronuclear Laboratory …   United dictionary of abbreviations and acronyms

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