Before its downfall and bankruptcy, Kodak was a pretty big player in the camera game. That being the case, it makes sense that they had their own nuclear reactor hidden in a bunker in upstate New York. Or wait, maybe it doesn’t. Either way, Kodak did have a secret reactor in Rochester from 1978 to 2006, complete with more than three pounds of enriched uranium, uranium one might be inclined to call “weapons-grade.” Yeah. Take that Polaroid.
The reactor, a californium neutron flux multiplier, was used by Kodak to check out the purity of various chemicals and materials. It was also useful in researching the imaging technique neutron radiography. How all this wraps back around to selling films and cameras to your average citizen, however, is still a little unclear. Because the reactor wasn’t used to generate power like most reactors you tend to think of, it wasn’t in danger of a meltdown or anything. Still, it could have leaked radiation and the uranium it used could have been put to nefarious use by terrorists who managed to get their hands on it. Both of these are part of the reason the reactor’s existence was so hazy for so long.
That said, it wasn’t a complete secret. The Democrat and Chronicle — the Rochester paper that broke the story — found that the reactor was referenced in research papers, and even public documents, but the specifics of its existence and its location were never explicitly stated. And that’s all it’d really take, right? Who would be willing to believe Kodak had its own nuclear reactor in the absence of pretty solid evidence?
Well, it’s now being confirmed by some people at Kodak who knew of it or worked with it including Kodak spokesman Christopher Veronda who noted that he couldn’t find any record that Kodak ever announced the existence of the reactor, but assured the Democrat and Chronicle that “This device presented no radiation risk to the public or employees. Radiation from the operation was not detectable outside of the facility.”
So the next time you hear a crazy conspiracy theory, you still shouldn’t accept it right off the bat, but just think about it like this for a little bit: If someone had told you once popular photographic materials company Kodak had a secret nuclear reactor just hanging out in upstate New York, what would you have said? Maybe now people will start believing me when I tell them about the black hole in my closet that eats all the socks.
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