Kintner, nuclear power pioneer

The New York TimesMay 23, 2010 

Edwin E. Kintner, who played a role in early efforts to harness nuclear power and later witnessed its destructive potential while heading the decontamination of the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant after a partial meltdown, died May 7 in Exeter, N.H. He was 90.

Kintner had prostate cancer, his son Eric said.

After World War II, Kintner helped develop a reactor for the Navy that was later used in the first nuclear-powered submarine, the Nautilus.

"To produce Nautilus, it was necessary to expand man's knowledge far beyond the 'known' in almost every technical area - physics, metallurgy, mechanical engineering, electronics, environmental medicine," Kintner wrote in The New York Times Magazine in 1965, shortly after the 10th anniversary of the submarine's maiden voyage on Jan. 17, 1955.

Government projects

Kintner went on to a wide-ranging career in military and civilian energy. He worked for the Atomic Energy Commission and was head of the Department of Energy's fusion program, overseeing the construction of reactors and developing nuclear power as an alternate source of energy.

When the core of the reactor melted down at the Three Mile Island plant near Harrisburg, Pa., in March 1979, which severely set back the development of nuclear power plants, Kintner was named to oversee the cleanup.

Edwin Earl Kintner was born in Paris, Ohio, on May 1, 1920. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1941 and later earned a master's degrees in naval construction, ocean engineering and physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

In 1949, Kintner was selected by Vice Adm. Hyman G. Rickover, who was then a captain and later became known as the father of the nuclear Navy, to work on the Nautilus, a secret project. Kintner helped build sister vessels for the Navy until he retired in the early 1960s at the rank of captain.

'A national error'

In the 1970s, when gasoline prices were rising sharply, Kintner led a project to explore ways to use nuclear fusion to replace oil. But he stepped down in 1982, complaining that the federal government had not provided the resources needed for the research. In his resignation letter, he said the Reagan administration was making "a national error for which a price far greater than present savings will be paid at some future date."

In 1983, he became executive vice president of General Public Utilities Nuclear Corp., the owner of Three Mile Island, in charge of finishing the cleanup of its reactor.

"It is a symbol that we have this beast by the throat," Kintner told The New York Times in 1984, describing his strategy to avert future hazards.

In the accident's wake, Kintner worked to standardize nuclear training and operation and, in 1990, he was inducted to the National Academy of Engineering.

Besides his son Eric, of Westford, Mass., he is survived by his wife, Alice, of Exeter, N.H.; two other sons, John, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Peter, of Park City, Utah; and a daughter, Mary, of Underhill, Vt.

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