5 Frames… Of Idaho’s EBR-I nuclear reactor on Kodak Tri-X 400 (35mm Format / EI 1600 / Nikon n90s + Nikon 35-70mm f/2.8 AI-S) – by Dave Christensen

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Before the world stopped turning, I took a road-trip to the US Pacific Northwest with the dog while my wife and daughter visited the outlaws in the midwest. I got to go visit a bunch of nerdy places that my (at the time) four-year-old either could not go to, or would have been bored to tears at. While I battled a recalcitrant turbo in our 1983 VW Campervan, I did some ‘nuclear tourism’ with stops at the EBR-1 reactor in Idaho and the pinnacle was getting on a tour of the ‘B Reactor’ at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. I had gotten my atomic energy badge back in scouts, so this trip fed my inner nerd.

I picked up a love of the photographic process back in middle school during the early-mid 1980’s shooting my Dad’s Minolta SRT-100 and the schools Pentax K1000 and some random medium format cameras that the teacher had. I am still surprised that they let us play with methyl-ethyl-death chemicals. My newspaper route paid for lots of rolls of Plus-X, Tri-X and the occasional color stocks. After loosing most of my film kit in an accident while moving in the late ’90s, I made the switch to digital. Feeling something was missing, I got an n90s for a song off FleaBay and brought some film along on a trip to our cabin in Alaska in the spring of ’19 and found my joy again of making a physical product.


Back to my trip, I brought along that N90s along with an FA and an Olympus EED, along with an Oly TG-6. The B Reactor was part of the American response to WW II. Built in 1944 to irradiate U-238 into Pu-239 for atomic weapons, and produced the fissile materials for Trinity test and the ‘Fat Man.’ It was shut down in 1968, added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992 and made a Historic Landmark in 2008. The facility is now included in the Manhattan Project National Historic Park, along with facilities at Oak Ridge and Los Alamos. On the tour, I only had the TG-6 and the n90s soI forced myself to use the film.

The lighting was pretty dim and had brought along some rolls of Tri-X because it’s my go-to, and I love the gritty, documentary feel to it. I had planned to push it a stop to begin with, but needed to push it two stops to 1600 so I could get reasonable, hand-held exposure times. I partially stand developed the two 36 exposure rolls in 1:125 HC-110.

It was an incredible experience getting to stand in these places while considering all the activity that went on, and the history. They do offer two additional tours and if I had time, I would have stayed for the restored town where the workers lived. The other tour did not allow photography but would have been a fascinating experience also.

~ Dave

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