Kodak may be going under, but apparently they could have started their own nuclear war if they wanted, just six years ago. Down in a basement in Rochester, NY, they had a nuclear reactor loaded with 3.5 pounds of enriched uranium—the same kind they use in atomic warheads.
But why did Kodak have a hidden nuclear reactor loaded with weapons-grade uranium? And how did they get permission to own it, let alone install it in a basement in the middle of a densely populated city?
Nobody really knows. Kodak officials now admit that they never made any public announcement about it. In fact, nobody in the city—officials, police or firemen—or in the state of New York or anywhere else knew about it until it was recently leaked by an ex-employee. Its existence and whereabouts were purposely kept vague and only a few engineers and Federal employees really knew about the project.
It's extremely strange that Kodak managed to get something like this. According to Miles Pomper, from the Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Washington. it's "such an odd situation because private companies just don't have this material." While 3.5 pounds of weapons-grade uranium is not enough to create a nuclear bomb, illegal arm merchants are seeking small amounts like this to put them for sale in the black market—which is why the United States has such a tight control on this material. The government doesn't want Iran or al-Qaeda getting their hands all over the atomic candy for obvious reasons.
Kodak's purpose for the reactor wasn't sinister: they used it to check materials for impurities as well as neutron radiography testing. The reactor, a Californium Neutron Flux multiplier (CFX) was acquired in 1974 and loaded with three and a half pounds of enriched uranium plates placed around a californium-252 core.
The reactor was installed in a closely guarded, two-foot-thick concrete walled underground bunker in the company's headquarters, where it was fed tests using a pneumatic system. According to the company, no employees were ever in contact with the reactor. Apparently, it was operated by atomic fairies and unicorns.
It wasn't until 2006, well after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, that it was decided to dismantle it. [Democrat and Chronicle]