BONUS for Puerto Rico: a digitized film from 1967

By Nick Touran, Ph.D., P.E., 2023-09-19 , Reading time: 10 minutes

Puerto Rico and the US Atomic Energy Commission built and operated an extremely interesting nuclear reactor in the 1960s. It was intended to demonstrate an ability to not only boil water to steam in the nuclear core, but also to superheat the steam to higher temperature. Superheated dry steam would improve the efficiency of power plant and allow use of cheaper off-the-shelf turbine equipment, dramatically improving cost performance over non-superheat boiling water reactors. A variety of small technical problems arose that proved expensive to fix permanently, and so the project was eventually abandoned, and today’s BWRs sadly do not superheat their steam.

We just received in the mail a hard drive containing this documentary, digitized off of 16mm film from the National Archives for (what we believe is) the first time ever. Now, the story of BONUS, its construction, and initial operation, can stream to you in living color wherever you are. Enjoy!

1967 film entitled “BONUS for Puerto Rico”, digitized and uploaded by us, sourced from the US National Archives.

Catalog description: The film describes the construction and initial operation of a small, unique nuclear power station, the Boiling Nuclear Superheat Reactor, in the picturesque, tropical setting of Puerto Rico. Through animation, the film compares nuclear superheat reactors with other types and briefly describes the joint arrangements between the United States Atomic Energy Commission and the Puerto Rico Water Resources Authority for construction and operation of this first nuclear power plant in the tropics.

Thanks to Brett Rampal for funding the digitization of this film.

Read more about BONUS

Contents of the film by timestamp include:

  • 00:00 Intro credits
  • 01:12 Introduction
  • 03:48 Clearing the site
  • 04:41 Ground-breaking ceremony
  • 06:37 Vessel fabrication
  • 07:40 Animations of operating principles
  • 09:16 Arrival of vessel in San Juan
  • 11:07 Completion of containment shell and turbine
  • 15:55 Repairs during construction
  • 16:45 Installing control rods
  • 17:44 Installing fuel assemblies
  • 19:15 Initial criticality and operation
  • 20:49 Summary

These are loaded into the youtube video as chapters for your convenience.

See Also

Reader comments