Phipps Bend Missing Nuclear Reactors- part of Carter’s hostage negotiations with Iran?

1981: Did the U.S. trade A Phipps Bend nuclear reactor for the release of the U.S. embassy hostages in Iran?

The National Security Archive at George Washington University, Electronic Briefing Book No. 268 states:

“…two U.S. presidents dealing with the Shah of Iran, Ford and Carter, put concerns over proliferation and the Shah’s possible desire to build a nuclear bomb front and center when they approved negotiating positions for a deal to sell nuclear reactors to Iran.” (1)

We’re told the Iranian Revolution of 1979 killed the deal- but did it?

November 4, 1979: 52 Americans from the U.S. Embassy in Tehran were taken hostage, and held for 444 days. Remember, up until this crisis and the revolution, plans had been made to sell nuclear reactors to Iran.

Is it possible the U.S. was pressured to honor the original agreement? Did we send the second missing Phipps Bend reactor pressure vessel to Iran in order to secure the hostages’ release? We are given the fake news article about its arrival in Phipps Bend in June, 1981:


The Chicago Iron and Bridge worker interviewed in May of 2016 said he wasn’t sure what ultimately happened to the second vessel, but he did know it had not been sent to Phipps Bend. He said, “several RPVs were being stored onsite in Memphis” at the time.

Sending a nuclear reactor to Iran wouldn’t have been the most popular move an already unpopular President could have made. If this did happen, it well explains the lies and secrecy fed to the American public concerning the second reactor.

The U.S. had given Iran a nuclear reactor once before

In 1957, The United States and Iran signed the Atoms for Peace nuclear cooperation agreement:

“…an agreement that provides for technical assistance, the lease of several kilograms of enriched uranium, and cooperation on research on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.” (3)

In 1967, the Tehran Nuclear Research Center is built:

“It has a 5-megawatt pool-type thermal research reactor supplied by the United States and is to be operated by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran…(In November) the reactor at Tehran Nuclear Research Center goes critical, using 93 percent enriched uranium supplied by the United States.” (3)

In the article, “How Iran became a “Nuclear State” by Jeremy Bernstein, the author states:

When the TRR (Tehran Research Reactor) initially needed new fuel elements it was shortly before the 1979 revolution, and the Iranians chose simply to replace the TRR with a new, safer model of reactor designed in part by Freeman Dyson and manufactured by the San Diego firm General Atomics, which they ordered and paid for. Before it could be delivered, however, the revolution came and General Atomics’ export license was revoked. (4)

Iran has now paid for a nuclear reactor it appears they won’t receive, in addition to paying an additional $400 million to the United States for military equipment prior to the 1979 uprising. But the nuclear reactor they paid for back in 1979 was never brought up again. Was this reactor a secret part of the 1980-1981 hostage negotiations?

“The major issue between the two governments was a $400 million payment for military equipment made by the government of the Shah of Iran, prior to the 1979 uprising that toppled him. The U.S. banned delivery of the jets and other weapons amid the hostage crisis, but froze the $400 million advance payment.”(5)

Notice the issue of the paid-for reactor they (supposedly) did not receive is not mentioned.

The Barack Obama administration repaid the $400 million 35 years later…in addition to $1.3 billion in interest. This payment happened to coincide with a new nuclear agreement with Iran and another hostage release, the five Americans held in Tehran:

The White House repeatedly insisted that the nuclear deal must be kept a separate issue from the cases of the detained Americans, but the nuclear talks have helped significantly open up avenues of communication between the two countries that had been little used since the U.S. cut ties in 1980. (6)

It’s almost as if Iran has learned how to make the United States keep its nuclear promises.

(1) The National Security Archive. “The Nuclear Vault: U.S.-Iran Nuclear Negotiations in 1970s Featured Shah’s Nationalism and U.S. Weapons Worries.” Burr, William., Jan. 13, 2009. 

(2) The Kingsport Daily News. “Unit 2 on Way.” June, 1981.

(3) Iran’s Weapons of Mass Destruction: the Real and Potential Threat. Cordesman and Al-Rodhan. The CSIS Press (Center for Strategic and International Studies.) 2006.

(4) “How Iran became a ‘Nuclear State.'” Jeremy Bernstein. The New York Review of Books. Feb. 19, 2010.

(5) “5 Things You Need to Know About the $400 Million America Sent to Iran.” Shawn Tully. Aug. 5, 2016.

(6) “Iran releases 5 detained Americans, including Washington Post reporter.” Nahal Toosi. Jan. 16, 2016. Politico.

Is the 2nd Missing Phipps Bend Nuclear Reactor Pressure Vessel below the Ozarks?

2nd Missing Phipps Bend NUCLEAR Reactor Pressure Vessel’s Last Known Location: Memphis, TN

Documents indicate Chicago Bridge and Iron Nuclear fabricated the two massive reactor pressure vessels in Memphis Tennessee.  Unit 1 traveled by barge to Knoxville, where it continued on to Phipps Bend in a slow, widely publicized procession. There is video as well as photographic evidence of this event.(1)

We have no proof Unit 2 ever arrived to Phipps Bend.

Other nuclear reactor pressure vessels have travelled less conspicuously by water, not using overland transportation. The Journal News of White Plains New York reported a similar vessel travelled by ship to New Hampshire’s Seabrook nuclear plant. No roads were closed. No powerlines raised. No bridges reinforced. No traffic diverted. No miles of onlookers to gape at the monstrosity as it crawled slowly down the road.(2)

Let’s go back to the last known location of this missing reactor pressure vessel. Unit 2 was being built at North America’s largest waterway- the Mississippi River. The Arkansas River is a major tributary of the Mississippi, and just as easily traversable by barge. The Arkansas River leads straight to the Ozarks and the Ozark National Forest, where there were numerous reports the federal government was building an H-bomb plant there.

The underground topography in the Ozark area is quite similar to that of northeast Tennessee, southwest Virginia, and southeast Kentucky. Karst/limestone landforms, especially caves, many large and miles long, are abundant in the Ozarks.

Consider the follow article written by Inez Robb for Assignment America:



There seems to be a universal desire for a better ‘ole [hole] on the part of all us H-(for hapless) creatures in this H-bomb age.

Some people seem to feel this ‘ole has materialized in the Ozarks where a Mr. Lester Dill of Stanton, Mo. and his New York press agents hope, with a million dollar loan from Uncle Sam, to equip Mr. Dill’s 26-mile-long Ozark cave as a refuge.(3)

Another editorial, Our Daily Bread, opines:


Anyone who went through the construction period on the Southwestern Proving Ground here isn’t going to have much stomach for another war plant–however much the state is intrigued by published reports that the government is considering establishing the proposed Hydrogen Bomb plant in the Ozarks.

None of us laymen know a thing about either the Atom or Hydrogen bombs except that the one is an accomplished terror and the other offers promise of being a greater terror yet to come. That’s why they are talking about a location in the Ozarks–there are plenty of caves up there, and caves would be useful in handling a dangerous manufacturing and storage operation such as the hydrogen bomb plant. (4)

Of course, other sites were in the running for this proposed H-bomb plant. It seemed that power generation for the proposed Ozark site was a concern to President Truman:


President Truman told Arkansas congressmen James Trimble and Wilbur Mills plainly:

…power supply is the determining factor, and to be very blunt about it, there have been some very shortsighted men in your state. They have deliberately held up vital power projects which are now essential for this plant.(5)

By 1952, President Truman was dedicating and touring two new hydroelectric dams in Ozark territory in Northern Arkansas. It would seem any concern with lack of sufficient power for the plant had been more than addressed.(6)

Just as I theorized the official announcement they had chose Alabama as the site for the nation’s future nitrate plant was disinformation to direct attention away from a secret facility at Cumberland Gap, so I wonder if the final announcement that South Carolina would get the H-bomb plant was also disinformation, intended to protect a secret facility located deep in the Ozarks?

TVA Says the Department of Defense Should Help Fund Phipps Bend’s Construction

From The Tennessean, July of 1981:

TVA leader [Charles] Dean said recently he believed the Defense Department should help fund construction of the nuclear plants so the power could [be] used to build atomic submarines.(7)

Did the 2nd missing Phipps Bend RPV ultimately become part of a secret nuclear submarine facility somewhere in northern Arkansas?

I interviewed a former worker for Chicago Bridge and Iron Nuclear, and he confirmed the second vessel was never shipped to Phipps Bend. He thinks it may have been cut up for scrap, but he cannot say for sure. He said at the time, several RPVs were being stored on site in Memphis.(9)

I followed the footsteps of a second Chicago Bridge and Iron Nuclear worker, whose specialty was reactor pressure vessels. One year after the completion of the second Phipps Bend RPV, he left CB&I to perform inspections on a new power plant construction (1982). The name of the plant is not indicated. Then for the next thirty years he is a senior project manager with a large, worldwide nuclear services outfit. The only problem is, this nuclear outfit has no facilities anywhere near this gentleman’s home base: Jonesboro, Arkansas. Jonesboro is approximately 60 miles from the Ozarks.

Interestingly, I found several career listings in Bay, Arkansas, for mechanics to support nuclear weapons security missions. Even though the jobs are listed under Arkansas (not far from Jonesboro), it indicates applicants will be at the Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia. The company behind the job listings does not appear to have any facilities in the Bay, Arkansas area. So why are the jobs listed geographically for the Ozark region?

Consider this newspaper article from May of 1942:


In July 1951, Congress authorized the first nuclear submarine to be built.

There was already a naval submarine plant accessible to the Mississippi River in Manitowoc, Wisconsin.(8)

Could the Mississippi River and the Ozarks be part of a production line for the construction of naval nuclear submarines? Compartmentalization is key to the success of government defense programs. 1.) Construct the submarines at one location. 2.) Build their power supplies at another. 3.)Store/produce weaponry at another location 4.)The submarine travels down the production line until completed and ultimately sent to its destination.

The idea that there is a supply chain across the eastern United States for our nuclear naval submarines was first presented to me by a colleague. I cannot claim credit for this theory. This colleague went through great hardship attempting to ascertain the truth; understandably, he may not want to return to this research. But he does deserve recognition for this theory, even if I cannot identify him by name. Thank you, W, and I’m very sorry for what you went through.

(1) “Outdoors” by Mark Aldeen. Daily News. March 18, 1977.

(2) “Atomic power protest ends in 180 arrests.” The Journal News. March 10, 1979.

(3) “Ozark cave discussed as an H-Bomb refuge.” St. Petersburg Times. March 22, 1950.

(4) “Our Daily Bread.” Alex Washburn, editor. Hope Star. August 19, 1950.

(5) “Choice of H-Bomb site narrows to three.” The Evening Independent. August 16, 1950.

(6) “Presidential Pathways.”!userfiles/presidential_pathways.pdf

(7) “TVA stall in curbing N-program reported costing $2-$4 billion.” The Tennessean. July 31, 1981.

(8) “Submarines Float Down the Mississippi.” The Montana Standard. May 28, 1942.

(9) Personal phone conversation. Source identity protected. May 17, 2016.


The Airplane Room: Deep Under Cumberland Mountain

The following entry was written by a guest author who wishes to be known only as The Mysterious Man from Rose Hill. We’ve decided to name this huge underground cave “The Airplane Room” in memory of his father.

This is a story that was told to me by my father when I was 8 to 10 years old in the late 50’s. It was an exciting story for a young boy and I still have vivid memories of him telling it.

Please understand that everything I’m relating is hearsay as I have no way to verify or corroborate the account. My father was a very truthful person. In fact he would often admonish me as a child to never exaggerate or embellish a story. “If you stretch the facts, then no one will believe you when you do tell the truth,” he said.

Following is a recounting of the story as told by my father, as  I remember it:

The setting is in Cumberland Gap, Tennessee where my father lived with his family. The time is the early 40’s. It was the war years, and my Dad was in his early teens.

One night, Dad and two of his friends decided to go exploring in Gap Cave, known at that time as Cudjo’s Cave. Arriving late at night, after everyone had gone home, they entered the cave and began their exploration to see how far they could travel inside the cave. After making their way through rough terrain, narrow passages, small openings, mud and water for nearly half the night, they were surprised to enter a huge room much larger than anything they could have imagined.

“We were so excited to have made this amazing discovery,” Dad said, “And to think we were the first people to see it.”

I said, “Dad, how did you know that you were the first people to discover it? How did you know no one else had been there?”

He said, “Well, when we first went in that big room, there was water dripping everywhere. The water had puddled on the floor, and on top of the water, minerals had hardened like a thin sheet of ice on a pond. Where we walked, we broke through the crystal, just like breaking though thin ice, and it left our footprints visible. When we first went in, there were no other footprints, so we knew we were the first.

“Dad,” I said, excited, “just how big was this room? How many feet across?!”

“I don’t know exactly,” he said, “we didn’t have anything to measure with, but I know how big a football field is, and you could put several in it.”

“How many?” I asked.

“Well, several, ” he said.

“Dad, could you see all the way across from one side to the other? Was the ceiling high enough to see the walls all the way around?”

“Oh yeah, he said, “it had a high ceiling.”

“How high would you estimate?”

He said, “Well, it was high enough that you could fly an airplane around in it!”

“Dad,” I asked, “could you fly a passenger plane in it?”

“I don’t know about that,” he said, “but there’s plenty of room to fly a small two-seater plane around inside!”

“Could a small plane take off in that room?” I asked.

“No,” he explained, “the floor is not smooth enough. There are big boulders strewn across the floor. We thought that, in time, there must have been an earthquake and part of the ceiling must have fallen.”

“Do you think that room might ever be open to the public?”

“I doubt it,” he said. “It’s too far back in the mountain and too hard to access. Some of the openings are very small.”

“How long were you there exploring?”

“Not too long,” he replied. “It was a long trek to get there, and we had to be out before morning.”

“Dad,” I asked, “did you carve your names and a date, so people would know you were there?”

“No, he said, “we didn’t do that.”

“Dad, if I ever had a chance to explore that cave, is there any way I could know you were there?”

“Well…” he thought, “we did leave one thing behind. We noticed how heavily everything was mineralized, and we wondered how long it would take for the mineralization to occur. We left a coke bottle under a dripping stalactite thinking that we might come back some day.”

“Dad, how did you get inside the cave?”

“Well,” he said, “there are several ways to get in, but that’s a story for another time, and I have a hard day tomorrow. It’s bedtime and we’d better turn in.”

Second Nuclear Reactor Pressure Vessel Missing from Phipps Bend

There are plenty of media accounts of the first reactor pressure vessel’s snail-pace journey to Phipps Bend. There is no photographic evidence the second pressure vessel ever arrived to Phipps Bend.

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.

1989 Letter: TVA Transfers Nuke Reactor Pressure Vessel to Dewberry and Davis

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.