Shutdown and Legacy

By the late 1960s the Army Nuclear Power Program had made great strides. Engineers had designed and produced nuclear reactors that generated reliable power in the harshest conditions. They had also built small modular reactors that could be transported to remote locations, assembled, put into service, then removed and deactivated.

At the same time, technology and the nation’s strategic priorities changed dramatically over the two decades that the ANPP existed. The advent of intercontinental ballistic missiles, advances in aircraft design and the deployment of other modern weapons, and the country’s involvement in Vietnam altered the Army’s budgetary priorities and national defense strategy. Moreover, nuclear power was not as cost effective or as easy to maintain as originally thought. So, rather than continue to operate SM-1 at Ft. Belvoir at considerable cost, the Corps decommissioned it in 1973. With the shutdown of the MH-1A Sturgis in 1976, the involvement of the Army and the Corps of Engineers in producing nuclear power, which began in 1942 with the Manhattan Project, came to an end.

In developing these new, unproven, and expensive reactors, the Army Nuclear Power Program took on risks that the private sector was initially hesitant to assume. In doing so, the Army was responsible for a number of important innovations in reactor design, as well as improvements in materials science and nuclear health and safety, that it transferred to the civilian Atomic Energy Commission, thereby contributing greatly to the field of commercial power generation. In addition, many of the servicemen that trained at SM-1 as power plant operators went on to careers at civilian nuclear facilities.

Achievements of the Army Nuclear Power Program:
SM-1 at Fort Belvoir, Virginia
• First nuclear power plant with a containment structure
• First use of stainless steel for fuel element cladding
• First nuclear power plant in the U.S. to supply electricity to a commercial grid
SM1-A at Fort Greely, Alaska
• First replacement of a plant’s steam generator while the reactor remained operational
• First reactor with a complex steel-and-concrete vapor container
SL-1 at National Reactor Testing Station, Idaho
• First operational boiling-water reactor power plant
PM-2A at Camp Century, Greenland
• First portable, pre-packaged, modular nuclear power plant to be installed, operated, and removed
PM-3A at McMurdo Sound, Antarctica
• First use of nuclear power for desalinization
ML-1 Mobile Reactor
• First land-transportable, mobile nuclear power plant
• First nuclear-powered, closed-loop gas turbine
MH-1A Sturgis
• First floating (barge-mounted) nuclear power plant

Apr. 2017


Visit the other pages of the Army Nuclear Power Program Virtual Exhibit

SM-1 Booties

Exhibit Home

SM-1 Dedication

Origins of the ANPP

Sturgis Core

Nuclear Power Generation

SM-1 Control Panel

SM-1 Ft. Belvoir


MH-1A Sturgis


Experimental Reactors