The Nuclear Dome in Rincon Puerto Rico – The Real Deal

Matt, Conner and I went skin diving this morning for more lobsters. We were drinking coffee at 4:30 am and spent about an hour and a half exploring Reactor Reef, the reef that sits just north of Domes surfing beach. We hopped in about 100 yards around the corner on domes trail and hunted around the corner of the reef to Domes beach. I saw about 20 lobsters, but they were all small. Conner and Matt both spotted a few big ones but weren’t able to catch any. All in all, it was fun diving but I was a little disappointed to come back empty handed. That’s just how it goes.

On our walk back to the truck (without lobsters), we started talking about the Dome that is right off the beach and I told Conner and Matt that I didn’t know the real story, but rumor had it that it was only open for an hour and then they shut the thing down, filled it with concrete and haven’t touched it since. When we got home, Conner decided to do a little research and we got the skinny on the Rincon Nuclear Reactor from the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission website.

Rincons BONUS Decommissioned Nuclear ReactorThe Dome is located on the point of Rincon past the light house about 100 yards at the end of the road. Rincon is located on the North West corner of Puerto Rico South West of Aguadilla and North West of Mayaguez. Rincon can be accessed of the #2 Road on both sides by the 115. The Dome was prototype nuclear power plant built to learn more about the technical and economical feasibility of a Boiling Nuclear Superheater reactor (BONUS). Rincons BONUS reactor is one of only two ever built by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. The Nuclear Power Plant created power by producing saturated steam in the center portion of the reactor and would then superheat that steam in four surrounding chambers and feed the superheated steam into a turbine generator which would create electricity.

The Dome in Rincon Puerto RicoConstruction for the facility began in 1960 and the first nuclear chain reaction was achieved on April 13th 1964. After being thoroughly tested it was brought up to full power in September of 1965. The reactor ran successfully until June of 1968 when its operation was terminated due to technical difficulties and high-cost modifications needed to run the plant safely and effectively. It was fully decommissioned in late 1969 early 1970. All nuclear materials were removed to the mainland. All the lines were flushed and the reactor vessel and associated internal components within the biological shield were entombed in concrete. Recently, in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s more clean-up and shielding activities were conducted. The site is inspected minimally every quarter by PREPA and DOE. Current intentions of the site include opening the main floor to the public as a museum and learning facility.

Hmmm, I wonder how big the lobsters were out there in the early 70’s?

75 thoughts on “The Nuclear Dome in Rincon Puerto Rico – The Real Deal”

  1. As a kid i grew up in rincon beautiful town to visit but i remember going to a wedding near the plant and to this day if im not mistaken this place to celebrate weddings in is still open for business so anyone thinking to travel to rincon go for it you wont regret it is not radio active in rincon

  2. Guanche, me imagino esos maravillosos momentos… cuánto me encantaría haber conocido a tu querido padre, el distinguido Profesor de f’ísica, José (Pepín) Medina Hernández!!! Todo el que conozco me dice que era una persona muy jovial y encantadora!

  3. Fact: The US built this WITHOUT knowledge, less the consent of the Puerto Rican People.
    Fact: The US lied before and will lie again about this issue.
    Fact: There are FIRST HAND reports of the US taking into the plant, groups of elementary students.
    Question (Know the answer): Can I go and measure radiation onsite TODAY?
    Opinion: The US had no right whatsoever to build this facility or to hide the testing results from the international community.
    Opinion: The US can’t blame other nations for using radiological, biological or chemical weapons against their own population because, THEY’VE DONE IT TOO.
    Conclusion: If you belief what the DOE says, you are naive.

  4. Well Jaime, it seems you have not read my previous posts on this issue but let me clear some of your concerns: First, the design and concept was based on Dr. Modesto Iriarte’s Master thesis (a bpricua) when he was studying nuclear engineering (he became the first nuclear engineer in the US from Wisconsin Univ.; was send by PREPA to study there). Also there were public meetings in San Juan before being built (read my older posts). Taking elementary school students into the plant…well I attended 1,500 elementary student on one day and a Boys Scout Camp of about 600 once. It has also been visited by appointment by students from US univ, Mayaguez campus, ect. Copy of the project and the surveys were giving and delivered to Rincon’s Public Library and its Municipal Assembly years ago and are also on DOE’s web page. You can call PREPA’s Environmental Division Head to visit (groups of 10 or more please; I do not think they would mind for you to make the measurements) at 787 521-4960. I used to supervise, make the survey measurements and give the tours before retiring from PREPA in 2009. Hope this helps…another thing… watch THE NUCLEAR Option is a documentary where even the founder of Green Peace says he was wrong about blaming on the nuclear issues (because not a single dead has occur in the US related to nuclear issues in US Nuclear Power Plants). Conclusion: read more, conclude less.

  5. Wow, this thread is an amazing wealth of Domes knowledge. Just a thank you to everyone who took the time to research and/or share their professional experience and knowledge with the rest of us. I am a science geek and love this stuff – and who knew you could tour Domes?

  6. I own a house in Rincon and actually I wonder if anyone has ever taken readings of the ground water besides the DOE? I love Rincon and the people of Puerto Rico and would prefer other sources to confirm exactly what, if any, issues regarding the plant may exist. I mention this only because no one has ever did a study that I am aware of regarding cancer rates throughout the island and compared it to Rincon specifically nor am I aware if anyone has ever given the cancer rate of Rincon in relationship to areas in general. I think for me personally, having a Dome is interesting but always makes me wonder and I certainly wouldn’t take DOE information without independent verification. The DOE has lied more than once as well as its predecessor before it. Have ground water readings ever been taken independent of a government agency charged with keeping records? I am not an alarmist but very much a realist.

  7. I’d do appreciate this website and I’m open minded but I know of 2 local people who I call frienads, one died a year ago in her early 30s (her sister owns Tamboo) and another a friend who’s family has been in Rincon for many generations.. yes he is older but has a well on his property so I think it only fair to ask and I don’t know who else to ask. Thanks and please keep me posted via email. I’ll be there all of Janurary at my home in Rincon.

  8. BONUS reactor trivia – During my last trip to Rincon about 2 years ago I was speaking with the owner of a coffee shop who claimed for a while the inside of the dome was rented out for partys and events. He said there’s a large flat concrete slab in there that they would turn into a dance floor. He claimed to have participated in one such event in which they hung a disco mirror ball in the middle of the dome and danced all night. I have to way to collaborate this story, but I also have no reason to doubt it.

  9. John: First your friend is right. During the 70´s and maybe part of the 80´s the area at the Cafeteria and Auditorium was rented to the Rincon Municipality and they used for weddings and parties (the contract was later cancelled) but not the inside of the Dome, to the best of my knowledge, which was closed and under annual surveillance by Dr. Nimia Irrizary from Mayagüez Campus, under contract with DOE, as an independent observer. If your friend was inside the Dome and on a party or wedding, please send me some pictures. Pictures usually come in hand with these events, don’t they? Specially, for people for which these premises were like Area 51. Just curious.

    Your second concern regarding the wells…well the plant before and during operation was closely monitored..remember it was the eight plant built by the US and was visited from over 35 scientists from different countries to be study, including Puerto Rico´s Department of Health personnel…samples were taking from the well that supplied water to the plant, the nearby grass and even the cow´s milk. Additionally, three wells were built within the plant premises during the end of the 90´by an independent contractor..Jacobs if I can recall… and monitored as part of the request to be opened for the public. They were later closed, as everything showed OK. PRASA has monitoring reports, but I do not know (at the moment) if they include radiological elements at http://www.acueductospr.com/AMBIENTE/ccr_reports.htm. You have to select the area of concern and enter your PRASA account.

    Your third concern, an epidemiological study relating to cancer was done in the 70´s by Dr. Ramos Jordan comparing the cancer rates between towns on the Island and concluding that most of the small towns, like Rincon that were near the coast had the same cancer rate due to several facts like old age (people retire to the coast) and longer exposures to the sun (we all like the beach). You can contact Raul Hernandez, Radiological Health Division of the PR Department of Health ([email protected]) if you want more information. Hope these clear some of your concerns.

  10. My father help built the plant and he said when the foundation was been built water started leaking from the sea, also I remenber reading back in the 80’s or 90’s about some surfer reporting a leak from the pplant on the ocean floor. should research articles from El Vocero in that area.

  11. Marcos: the plant was built around 20 feets above sea level. Yet, it had a well on the farm premises and probably what your father saw was water from the table level. Around the 80’s the plant had been decommissioned ten years before and there could be no leak from a solid containment which did not have liquids. Lot of people speculate because it was kind of a mystery on those days. Not anymore. See articles above. Hope this help. If your father has photos during the construction and would like to share them I would appreciate them. Thanks for the comment.

  12. Wow sure are some probably well intentioned but ultra niave comments on here about the “safety” of the worst energy source ever! The pollution from nukes NEVER goes away…

    For thousands upon thousands of years it remains deadly. The routinely leak or have “events” such as explosions or malfuntions and emit radiation that there is NO safe level of exposure to!!! THERE IS NO SAFE LEVEL OF EXPOSURE TO THIS VIAL BS!

    Look @ Fukushima! Total melt downs, TRILLIONS UPON TRILLIONS of radioactive particles emitted. The UN recently estimated the deaths from Chernobyl to be over a MILLION. The UN is pro nuke…
    Hundred of thousands, if not more, of americans have died from nuclear exposure…
    it has been covered up of course because the only thing, literally, that matters is MONEY. That is usa, isreal, europe,china, mexico, russia, japan, the whole freaking world’s god.
    The literally tested nuke fall out on our own troops! Please for the love of truth think about it! Remember those films were they had them RUNNING into where the nuke blasted??? They also tested fall out on the “downwinders”.
    Yeah these tests were secret, and private citizens were simply, one way or another, not allowed to study the effects because A LOT of money/power was @ stake, which is always more important then the lives of common, exspendable folks…
    The nuke plants have had numerous incidences.
    The spent fuel is dangerous, for ever. There are MILLIONS of tons of it just laying around awaiting some inevitable catastrophe that will kill some more!
    Wake up!
    Nukes are the worst!
    Pollution that lasts for generation after generation after generation, yeah not literally “for ever” but for every single lifetime for THOUSANDS OF YEARS!
    Nukes proponents are sickos.
    They are messed up in the head and heart.
    We need a nuke free world immediately.
    Yeah I’m being alarmist cuz this stuff is atrocious, vicious with no end in sight, EVER.
    FUKUSHIMA may literally contaminate the entire west coast of usa.
    Tokyo will probable be evacuated

    Where do u think all this cancer comes from??? Primarily from all the insane, criminal weapons testing AND all the crazy nuke plants were they mess around with atom bombs/the power of the sun like its no big deal…
    The arrogance is only surpassed by their stupidity.
    STILL living in the dark ages…
    Look into the TRUTH about nukes and u will see it has killed MILLIONS UPON MILLIONS.
    I am not even exaggerating.

    ONE nuke plant has the capacity to make entire countries uninhabitable, possibly the entire hemisphere. NOT EXAGgERATING.

    They poured concrete all over because it was highly contaminated…

    Such a shame, crime and tragedy

  13. Need to clarify my post on Iriarte. Did some research with Hilda, her daughter, and we found he was one of the first three nuclear engineers to graduate from Michigan University not Wisconsin. Sorry for the previous error.

  14. Near 1999 i wa able to inspect the interior. I climbed the 40 ft height concrete enclosure. At the top thee was a brass plate the said: “Danger, in case this this concrete stucture cracks, run away an notify Heath officials”…

  15. Due to the hazard -the biggest seismic fault is nearby- and due to radioactivity, I would not buy a property in Puntas.

  16. Carlos, are you in Rincon PR? I’d like to tour the Dome when I get there in a few weeks… I have a house there but mainly live in the states…

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