Operation at ETEC


Following World War II, the potential uses for atomic energy captured the interest of the United States Government and many companies. This created the need for nuclear research and development (R &D) facilities. North American Aviation (NAA) created the Atomic Energy Research Department (AERD) in 1948 to manage its government and commercial nuclear R&D activities.

NAA established the Santa Susana Field Laboratory in 1947 to meet the requirements to static-fire large rocket engines but also fulfilled the NAA’s later need for a nuclear research facility. Area IV was established at the SSFL in 1953 as a nuclear research and development facility. Since then, the SSFL has housed both nuclear development and rocket development groups, although in distinct and separate locations. The rocket development group conducted operations in the SSFL’s Area I, II and III. The nuclear research group conducted operations in the SSFL’s Area IV. In December 1955, these two NAA groups were transformed into separate divisions: Atomics International (AI) and Rocketdyne.

Over the years, several corporate mergers and organizational changes took place. In 1967, NAA merged with Rockwell Standard to become North American Rockwell. In 1973 the corporate name changed to Rockwell International. Throughout this period AI and Rocketdyne continued to exist as independent divisions within the North American Aviation company at the SSFL.

Two separate groups of AI were located in Area IV and supported by the DOE: one focused on development of civilian nuclear power, while the other was a DOE center of excellence for research and testing of non-nuclear components related to liquid metals. These groups were referred to as AI and the Liquid Metal Engineering Center (LMEC), respectively.

The LMEC, sometimes referred to as the Liquid Metal Information Center (LMIC) was originally created in 1966 as a government-owned, contractor-operated organization to provide development and non-nuclear testing of liquid metal reactor components and to establish the LMEC for the Atomic Energy Commission’s Liquid Metal Fast-Breeder Reactor Program. The LMEC was renamed the Energy Technology Engineering Center (ETEC) in 1978 to reflect the DOE’s desire to broaden its mission beyond the LMFBR Program.

AI focused on the development and commercializing of nuclear reactor technology. Nuclear research and development activities in Area IV increased rapidly from 1953 into the late 1960s. After that time, nuclear R&D activities steadily declined. As a result of this decline, AI merged into Rocketdyne in 1984.

Most nuclear research related programs and operations ceased in 1988. Beginning in the 1990s, activities in Area IV focused on decontamination and decommissioning (D&D) of former nuclear facilities.. In 1996, Rocketdyne merged into The Boeing Company in a corporate acquisition of the aerospace divisions of Rockwell International. In 2006 Rocketdyne was sold to Pratt-Whitney. The Boeing Company retained ownership and operations of Area IV.