In April 2015 I published an article about the “Incredible Disappearing Nuclear Reactor” from the Phipps Bend Nuclear Plant in Surgoinsville TN. To recap: in 1980, a 2.3 million pound pressure vessel, the housing in which the nuclear fuel core itself resides, was transported from Knoxville to Phipps Bend over a period of several weeks, the heaviest load ever to travel across Tennessee roads. It took months of preparation to reinforce roads and bridges; when the convoy finally started, roads had to be shut down and power lines lifted for the 100 foot long, 26 foot wide, 30 foot tall load to move through at 3 mph. In other words, you couldn’t miss it.
At some point however, that huge reactor pressure vessel disappeared into thin air.
Now I’ve found a second nuclear reactor pressure vessel that was supposedly transported to Phipps Bend in 1981. It too, is nowhere to be found.
The disconcerting part about the transfer of this second nuclear reactor pressure vessel to Phipps Bend is that there was virtually no media coverage of it. Whereas the first pressure vessel was watched by hundreds of people gathered along the roads, it’s like this one slipped by unnoticed. The first pressure vessel’s voyage was covered in local media: newspaper photos taken, many news articles written, and there was even video coverage.
I’ve found one article about the second pressure vessel in Kingsport’s paper, the Daily News. Here is the June 1981 article in its entirety (click here for link to paper):
Unit 2 on Way
The Reactor Pressure Vessel now en route to Phipps Bend Nuclear plant near Surgoinsville is identical to the one at left, moved the site in 1980. The 92-mile trip by barge and overland for the vessel to be placed in Unit No. 2 of the two-unit nuclear facility began Monday and will take several more days, perhaps another week, to complete.
That’s it. Not even a picture of the event or the RPV itself. To add insult to injury, a photo of the first pressure vessel reactor was used for the story. Note the time of transport, ‘several more days, perhaps another week,’ is a substantially shortened amount of time for the vessel to reach its destination compared to the amount of time it took the first pressure vessel to arrive. Quite simply, it was a ghost when it arrived, and it was a ghost when it left. No photos. No video. Seemingly no eyewitnesses.
One of these pressure vessels were transferred to Dewberry and Davis, who claim they don’t know what happened to it. Below is a link to the only document the TVA FOIA officer could find relating to the sale, disposal or other transfer of the vessel.
I will rephrase the original question:
How do you make two, 2.3 million pound nuclear reactor pressure vessels, disappear into thin air?
Update: Chicago Bridge and Iron worker confirms 2nd reactor vessel never shipped to Phipps Bend proving the above newspaper article was disinformation.