DuPont Company Atomic Energy Division, Savannah River Plant photographs and films1951-1984 Majority of material found within 1951-1972
The Savannah River Plant manufactured basic materials required in the production of nuclear weapons, specifically plutonium and tritium. The complex was comprised of five reactors, two chemical separation plants, a heavy water extraction plant, a nuclear fuel and target fabrication facility, a tritium extraction facility and waste management facilities. Additionally, the site included research laboratories, offices, worker housing, and other ancillary facilities. This collection contains photographs, glass plate negatives, lantern slides, negatives, transparencies and 16mm films that document the construction and development of the Savannah River Plant complex between 1951 and 1982, with a bulk of the materials created between 1951 and 1972. The collection is organized into seven series: Construction and progress; Technical photographs; Project photographs; Voorhees Walker Foley & Smith architectural renderings; Speeches and presentation lantern slides; Transparencies; and Films.
- Majority of material found within 1951-1972
- E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company. Atomic Energy Division (Organization)
20 Linear Feet
1412 photographic prints : b&w ; 8 x 10 in. 159 photographic prints : color ; 8 x 10 in. 351 photographic prints : b&w ; 5 x 7 in. or smaller. 29 photographic prints : color ; 4 x 5 in. 27 contact sheets. 27 glass plate negatives : b&w ; 8 x 10 in. 388 lantern slides : b&w ; 4 x 5 in. 35 slides : color ; 35mm. (glass). 30 transparencies : b&w ; 10 x 12 in. or smaller. 9 negatives : b&w ; 6 x 7.5 in. or smaller. 1 blueprint. 98 items. 57 reels : si., col. ; 16mm. 34 reels : sd., col. ; 16mm. 9 reels : sd., b&w ; 16mm. 1 videocassette (Betacam).
The Savannah River Plant manufactured basic materials required in the production of nuclear weapons, specifically plutonium and tritium. The complex was comprised of five reactors, two chemical separation plants, a heavy water extraction plant, a nuclear fuel and target fabrication facility, a tritium extraction facility and waste management facilities. Additionally, the site included research laboratories, offices, worker housing, and other ancillary facilities.
In 1950, after having worked on the Manhattan Project during World War II, the DuPont Company was asked by the U.S. Government to build a nuclear facility near Aiken, South Carolina. The Explosives Departments’ Atomic Energy Division had responsibility for the administration of the site and the design and construction of the reactors. Technical services were provided by the Engineering Department. Construction began in 1951 and by 1955 all five reactors were in operation. The DuPont Company operated the Savannah River plant under a government contract which allowed it to recover expenses plus a fixed fee of $1 per year. This arrangement was established in order to insulate the company from the kind of public criticism that it had received after the First World War when it had been labelled as a "Merchant of Death".
The plant complex was organized into different areas. The 100 areas were the reactors, each of which was identified with a letter. The reactors were R, P, L, K, and C, and were constructed in that order. The 200 areas were where the separation of fissionable materials took place. There were two mirror facilities called 200 F and 200 H. The 200 F area included a central laboratory, shops, laundry, metallurgical and storage magazine buildings.
The 300 area was the fuel and target fabrication area. The 300 area adjoined the 700 area, which was the administration and service center. This included a technical laboratory, medical facility, communication building, patrol headquarters, maintenance and storage buildings. In the 400 area were the heavy water production and support buildings. There were also several man-made ponds. One in particular was called Par Pond, which was constructed to augment the cooling water requirements for the P and R reactors.
Voorhees, Walker, Foley & Smith was a New York architectural and engineering firm. The DuPont Company hired them as subcontractors to design the service buildings, laboratories and general facilities including roads, walks, fences, and parking areas; the manufacturing buildings in the 300 area; laboratories; some design work for 200 areas and overall site clearance at the plant.
In 1958 the construction of the Heavy Water Components Test Reactor (HWCTR) began. The purpose of the HWCTR was to test heavy water moderated and cooled for civilian power. Tests began in 1962 and ended in 1964. The building was identified as 770-U.
The construction management team consisted of several DuPont Company employees from the Engineering Department. Frank H. Mackie (1903-19??) was manager of all DuPont Company’s construction activities. He began working for the DuPont Company in 1934 and retired in 1968. Robert K. Mason (dates unknown) was the field project manager for construction from 1950 to 1955. J. Wortham Mercke (1907-19??) was the control superintendent and assistant field project manager for the Savannah River Plant. Mercke was formerly in charge of labor relations for construction forces.
The DuPont Company oversaw the facility until 1989, when the company handed over management and operation of the site to Westinghouse Electric.
Scope and Content
This collection contains photographs, glass plate negatives, lantern slides, negatives, transparencies and 16mm films that document the construction and development of the Savannah River Plant complex between 1951 and 1982, with a bulk of the materials created between 1951 and 1972.
The collection is organized into seven series: Construction and progress; Technical photographs; Project photographs; Voorhees Walker Foley & Smith architectural renderings; Speeches and presentation lantern slides; Transparencies; and Films.
The Construction and progress series consist of exterior construction views, mostly long-shots, with a few mid-range and close-up views. Some images include workers and equipment. The images document construction and work progress in the 100 area, Par Pond, 241-F tanks, and the Heavy Water Components Test Reactor. There are also a set of images of sprengel pumps being assembled (1958) and another set of images of different sprengel pumps being installed in a pond (1962). There are four aerial views of the surrounding area taken from a very high distance. Materials in this series date from 1951 to 1962, and are arranged chronologically.
The Technical photographs series are comprised of two different types of images, photographs of models or close-ups of machinery. The images of models are all of the Heavy Water Component Test Reactor (HWCTR). There are images of HWCTR surface cracks, a diagram of the structure, and close-ups of parts. Photographs of machinery from 100, 200, 300, and 700 areas includes a decanning machine, dissolver charger, precision camera, automatic radio-graphic fixture, pin spreader, underwater cut-off saw, component tilting fixture, junior cave manipulator, and composite billet welding machine, among others. There are also images of H-1 furnace coils, a railroad car framework for birdcages, and two men operating a machine.
The Project photographs series is made up of photographs that document construction of specific projects, the materials are separate from the Construction and progress series to reflect the filing methods of the Savannah River Plant. There are images of the Central Control Room panels in building 774-U of the HWCTR and a series of exterior construction views of 200 F and 200 H areas. There are a set of images of a model for building 221F and then another set of images of instruments, panels, and other machinery in building 221F. Additionally there are a few images of powerlines related to building 241 H.
The Voorhees Walker Foley & Smith architectural renderings series are glass plate negatives which contain architectural renderings for various buildings at the Savannah River Plant. These images are mostly exteriors, with a few interior designs. The numbers of the original envelopes have been retained. Envelopes 24, 25 and 26 were labeled "color studies" but were empty. Envelopes 1, 2, 5, 11, 33, and 34 were not included.
The Speeches and presentation lantern slides series are sets of images related to a cost reduction speech which was given bi-annually by the construction division between 1954 and 1958. There were different versions of the speech which highlighted various topics such as the company organization or employee wage and safety, but the majority of the presentations were fairly similar. Many of the sets are incomplete, and there are spare slides for some presentations. Most of the slides for the cost reduction speech are numbered and these numbers have been maintained. The Mason project managers meeting slides are perhaps a presentation given by Robert K. Mason, who was the Savannah River Plants field project manager. Additionally, there are a large amount of slides labeled “FPM meeting”, which presumably stands for “field project managers” meeting. These slides were not numbered and the original order of the slides has been lost, this set of slides has been arranged alphabetically for convenience but this does not reflect the order (nor a presumption of order) used for the presentation. The images on the slides are mainly of charts or graphics, especially in the earlier years. Some of the later slide presentations include photographic images, and the “FPM meeting” slides is almost entirely photographic images. There is one typescript copy of the speech itself which was given in July of 1956.
The Transparencies series includes two sets of transparencies. One set is a presentation about the selection for an architect/engineer for bedrock waste storage. The slides go over proposals from various firms and the criteria for selection. There are also some typescript pages which include some more details about proposals from various firms. The second set of transparencies are close-up images of tank surface specimens. There are photographic prints of most of the transparency images.
The Films series dates from 1952 to the 1980s and mainly consists of films about the construction and operation of the Savannah River Plant. There are several complete films about the plant, such as “The Atomic Energy Commission’s Story of the Savannah River Plant”, the “Savannah River Laboratory” and “Builders of Tomorrow”, all of which include reels of outtakes as well. There are several safety films about proper equipment and procedures, fire safety and reducing exposure to radiation. Also contained in the collection are DuPont Company films on management training and an explanation of the company’s pension plan. Many of the films were produced by E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. Two sets of films, “Power for Progress Unlimited” and “Savannah River Story” contain several cans of film each (and shot lists) but no complete film for either is in the collection. Some of the films have accompanying shot or scene lists. Also included are “Galileo: A Mission to Jupiter”, an animation about a space mission to Jupiter and “Miracle in Paradise Valley” a narrative about farm safety campaigns. Of note are films documenting the large area where the plant was built, near Augusta, Georgia and Aiken, South Carolina. These include shots of people, churches, schools and residences around the area of the plant. Many of the films in this collection have multiple splices. See individual titles for more information. This series was arranged alphabetically.
Existence and Location of Copies
View selected items online in the Hagley Digital Archives.
No restrictions on access; this collection is open for research.
Access to view lantern slides is at the discretion of the conservator. Please inquire in advance of your visit.
Film material (Film Cans 1-100) is located in remote storage. Please contact staff 48 hours in advance of research visit at firstname.lastname@example.org
Language of Materials
E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company, Atomic Energy Division records (Accession 1957), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.
- E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company. Atomic Energy Division (Organization)
Finding Aid & Administrative Information
- DuPont Company Atomic Energy Division, Savannah River Plant photographs and films
- Lisa Kruczek and Laurie Rizzo
- Description rules:
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description:
- Script of description:
Part of the Audiovisual Collections Repository
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