Pa. Property Investor Seeks New Home for Historical Westinghouse "Atom Smasher"

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Pa. Property Investor Seeks New Home for Historical Westinghouse "Atom Smasher"

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A developer is trying to find a new home for an industrial Van de Graaf generator at Westinghouse's former Pennsylvania research center – a historical landmark in the development of nuclear power.

Westinghouse Van de Graaf generator. Source: Lee Paxton via WikipediaWashington, D.C.-based investor Gary Silversmith recently purchased a suburban Pittsburgh site that was once the center of the company's nuclear research, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Sunday. Within it sits the bulbous 5-million-volt generator known as the atom smasher, which was the showpiece of the first large-scale nuclear physics program in American industry.

Silversmith has asked the Smithsonian Institution and the Heinz History Center if they'd be interested in taking it. Both said it would be too large, and the paper reported that he's still interested in finding someone who wants to preserve the generator and can offer at least what it's worth as scrap.

Westinghouse committed to build the roughly 50-foot-tall generator in 1936 – three years before the discovery of nuclear fission – on faith that the physics research would lead to commercial applications, according to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. The generator bombarded target atoms with high-energy particles to create nuclear reactions. Its design allowed for more precise observations of the reactions than existed at the time, and experiments there in 1940 lead to the discovery of uranium photofission.

The generator was shut down in 1958 as Westinghouse relocated its research to a larger campus, and the Post-Gazette reported that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission cleared the site for reuse in 2001.

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  • I'll take it. Do you except payments ?

  • It's original location, keeping it together as a historical site would be the highest use. However the investor has accepted, he has a different rationale. If he cannot recognize it's value in-place, a trade with scrappers is the ultimate end result to mitigate his perceived losses and lack of creativity.

  • Ship it to Waltz Mill in Madison