Located in Niskayuna, near Schenectady, NY, the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory (KAPL) was established in May 1946, under contract between the General Electric Company and the Manhattan Engineering District. In 1947, the contract was transferred to the recently established Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), Materials Production Division. The original mission of the Laboratory was to provide technical support to Hanford Engineer Works in the chemical separation of plutonium and uranium from irradiated fuel; this was later extended to similar support of the Savannah River Site. In addition, KAPL was developing power reactor technology, specifically a liquid-metal cooled breeder reactor. When the AEC cancelled the breeder reactor project in 1950, the Laboratory’s power reactor efforts were transferred to Navy submarine propulsion development, being pioneered by then Captain Hyman G. Rickover.
KAPL’s liquid-metal cooled reactor design powered USS SEAWOLF (SSN 575), the Nation’s second nuclear powered submarine. During the early 1950s, AEC work shifted to other National Laboratories, and by the mid-1950s, KAPL became totally dedicated to Naval nuclear propulsion. During the years following, KAPL developed a series of nuclear reactor and propulsion plant designs for the U.S. Fleet: the dual pressurized water reactors for USS TRITON, which circumnavigated the globe in 83 days; the dual pressurized water reactors used in the guided missile cruiser USS BAINBRIDGE; the reactor cores that power current NIMITZ Class aircraft carriers; the reactor plants for current LOS ANGELES Class fast attack submarines and OHIO Class ballistic missile submarines. KAPL was also responsible for the reactor plant on the United States’ only nuclear powered ocean engineering and research submarine (NR-1) which operated between 1969 and 2008. KAPL is the lead design laboratory for the newest VIRGINIA Class fast attack submarines and is leading the design effort on the next generation ballistic missile submarine (OHIO Replacement Project).
Supporting the Nation Since 1946
© 2017 Naval Nuclear Laboratory