Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory

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Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory

Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory is located in West Mifflin, PA, the site of the Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory was originally developed as Pittsburgh’s first airfield. The site is named after Lt. Cyrus K. Bettis, a famous air-racing Army pilot who died in a tragic plane crash near Bellefonte, PA, in the 1920s. The land was acquired according to a contract between Westinghouse and the Atomic Energy Commission. Westinghouse purchased the land and began operations to support the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program in 1948. Bechtel replaced Westinghouse as the operating contractor in 1999.Bettis was assigned responsibility for the engineering, design, procurement, and construction work on the prototype of the first naval nuclear propulsion plant, and in 1955 the USS NAUTILUS, the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine, went to sea under nuclear power. Prior to NAUTILUS, submarines had been limited by battery power that allowed for undersea travel of 150 miles or fewer at much slower speeds than what NAUTILUS was capable of running. In August 1958, NAUTILUS was able to sail more than 2,000 miles under the polar ice cap. Since NAUTILUS, Bettis led the development of the first nuclear-powered surface ship (the cruiser USS LONG BEACH) and the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier (USS ENTERPRISE).