Science: Bugs in the Reactor

Los Alamos' Omega West is a swimming-pool-type research reactor whose fuel rods are suspended under 25 ft. of water, which acts not only as coolant and moderator but also shields its human operators from radioactivity. In the spring of 1958, physicists peering down through it saw that the water was getting cloudy. They called Chemist-Bacteriologist Eric B. Fowler of the laboratory's radioactive-waste disposal group, who found that it was swarming with microorganisms, about i billion per quart. The bugs turned out to be rod-shaped bacteria of the genus Pseudomonas, which were feeding on resin and felt in the water purifying system.

The...

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