A Hot Reactor in Queens

Robert Moses’ cheerleading for an expanded Hall of Science was matched by Mayor Lindsay on May 31, 1967, when he announced a $10 million City commitment for a new building to be built within 14 months.

The five-story addition would house 190,000 square feet of exhibit, laboratory, and training space. The centerpiece would be the first publicly accessible atomarium, a nuclear reactor where scientists and educators could conduct research and give demonstrations to the public. In a basement laboratory, students could collect protons, neutrons and gamma rays. Museum visitors would be able to watch from a 150-seat auditorium, peering down into a 23-foot pool of water, beneath which was submerged blue glowing reactor.

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The New York Times assured readers that the reactor “is also equipped with a built-in safety device that acts on the principle of a thermostat—if things get too hot, it shuts itself off.”

Funded by the Atomic Energy Commission, the atomarium, according to Lindsay, “in turn should act as a magnet for commercial and industrial developers.”

High hopes. Big plans. An ambitious timeline. The planners of the Hall of Science expansion had their funding in place. Up next, City administrative bureaucracy awaited.

 

Read more about the history of the New York Hall of Science in the NYSCI Archives.