The first 13 nuclear power plants built in the United States were built to manufacture plutonium and tritium to use in nuclear weapons. The 14th nuclear power plant built in the U.S. was the first one built as a commercial plant that would produce electricity for civilian use.
Nuclear power was born violent. Nuclear power plants were invented in Manhattan Project laboratories for the sole purpose of making plutonium to be used in nuclear weapons. Nuclear power plants were invented as part of an effort to develop weapons of mass destruction and to kill hundreds of thousands of people. Nuclear power plants were invented over two years before nuclear weapons. Their first impact on the world was in the Trinity Test in New Mexico on 16 July 1945, and then in the mass murder of almost 100,000 people in Nagasaki on 9 August 1945. It would be 12 years from that brutal day before nuclear power would light one bulb in an American house.
Nuclear power was born violent. Whatever its history was to become, its origins were part of a project of indiscriminate killing.
I have just published an article on this history here in the Asian Journal of Peacebuilding. The article traces the origins of nuclear power plants as a technology. Nuclear power plants were invented as part of the Manhattan Project effort to produce nuclear weapons. The labs where the early experiments were conducted (like the CP-1 experiment at the University of Chicago) and where the prototypes of industrial scale nuclear power plants were built were all Manhattan Project funded labs. The goal of this funding was to find a means of mass producing plutonium-239 for use as the explosive core of nuclear weapons. The program to build nuclear weapons was the motivating factor, and the source of labor and funds for the construction of the first nuclear power plants in the world.
Not only did the United States build its first 13 nuclear power plants solely to produce plutonium, the two countries that built nuclear power plants to produce electricity for civilian use before the United States, the Soviet Union (1955) and the United Kingdom (1956) had both built nuclear power plants to produce plutonium before they built the reactors that produced electricity. Weapons were the reason for nuclear power.
Chinzei Middle School, Nagasaki 1945
These efforts led directly to the murder of more than 100,000 people in Nagasaki, almost half on the day of the nuclear attack. Thousands of the dead were children. The two plutonium production sites of the United States, Hanford and Savannah River, would produce more than 50 tons of plutonium during the Cold War.