Hallam Nuclear Generating Station

Sheldon Power Station

A nuclear power plant built in days long before the events at Three Mile Island, The Hallam reactor used an unconventional sodium-cooled design that proved difficult to operate. Today, portions of the core are securely buried beneath the coal-powered Sheldon Power Station.

Nuclear Energy

The first public nuclear power plant, at least built entirely for peacetime uses, was Shippingport Atomic Power Station near Pittsburgh, PA. Within the United States, Boiling-Water Reactors (BWRs) and Pressure-Water Reactors (PWRs) would become most common, however in these early days of atomic energy other options were considered.

In 1957, the Atomics International company built the SRE (Sodium Reactor Experiment) near Simi Valley, California. This was the first power reactor to actually produce electrical power for a commercial grid, although it would suffer a partial meltdown in July 1959. 

SRE in Nebraska

Proposed in 1955, an improved sodium-moderated reactor was proposed near Hallam, Nebraska. Construction would actually begin in April 1959 reaching a peak of 270 workers in March 1961. By November of that year construction would be complete and by January 1962 the first initial criticality of the core was performed.   


The Hallam station would actually be powered via the fission reactor along with a coal-power capability, the latter which remains in service as of 2020. While the reactor would generate electricity (somewhere between 75MW and 240MW depending on the source, the reactor would suffer difficulties throughout its life. Three moderator elements would rupture in February 1964 causing costly damage to the reactor. Although the reactor would continue to operate, it would ultimately deactivate on September 27, 1964.   


While the Atomic Energy Commission would declare the reactor's mission "fulfilled" in 1966, Consumer Public Power (a predecessor to Nebraska Public Power District) would reject an AEC proposal to take over the site and by 1969 the reactor was decommissioned.

A Long Road

While strongly radioactive components were removed, some components would remain in place. The core would be sealed with concrete and other environmental protections and buried below ground. Today, a grassy bump within the confines of the Sheldon Power Station is all the remains of the Hallam Nuclear Power Plant. With strict Nuclear Regulatory Commission monitoring, the buried portions will remain under NRC monitoring until 2070.

By 2015 however, Nebraska Public Power District committed to hydrogen power at the plant, California-based Monolith began building a two-stage $50 million plant to produce carbon black from natural gas. The existing power plant, however, retains the ability to produce electricity by natural gas.


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