James Earl Carter Jr. is a former American politician who served as the 39th President of the United States from 1977 to 1981. He was a Democrat who served as Georgia’s 76th governor from 1971 to 1975 and a Georgia state senator from 1963 to 1967. Since leaving office, Carter has remained active in political and social projects, receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 for his humanitarian work. But did you know he was also a hero?
Former US President Jimmy Carter saved a Canadian nuclear reactor after a meltdown by rappelling down and cleaning the radioactive water.
The Nuclear Reactor Cleaner
The 39th President of the United States was James Earl Carter. Almost 60 years ago, a young United States Carter, a naval officer with the United States’ atomic submarine program at the dawn of the nuclear age, was physically lowered into a damaged nuclear reactor in Chalk River, Ontario, Canada, and exposed to levels of radiation unthinkable today after an accident.
We were fairly well instructed then on what nuclear power was, but for about six months after that, I had radioactivity in my urine. Hey, let us get probably a thousand times more radiation than they would now. It was in the early stages, and they didn’t know.Jimmy Carter, Former US President
Despite his fears, Carter admits he was excited about the opportunity to use his top-secret training in the cleanup of the reactor, which is located along the Ottawa River northwest of Ottawa.
It was a very exciting time for me when the Chalk River plant melted down. I was one of the few people in the world who had clearance to go into a nuclear power plant, There were 23 of us, and I was in charge. I took my crew up there on the train.Jimmy Carter, Former US President
At the time, Carter was based in Schenectady, New York, working on the nuclear propulsion system for the Sea Wolf submarine with Adm. Hyman Rickover. He was quickly ordered to Chalk River, where he joined other Canadian and American service members. (Source: Military)
How Did the Nuclear Cleanup Affect Jimmy Carter?
Even by today’s standards, it was still excessive. For months after the cleanup, the future president had radioactive urine.
We were fairly well-instructed then on what nuclear power was, but for about six months after that, I had radioactivity in my urine. They let us get probably a thousand times more radiation than they would now. It was in the early stages, and they didn’t know.Jimmy Carter, Former US President
Carter’s family medical history is littered with cancer deaths, so the exposure was especially hazardous. Carter left the Navy the following year after his father died of pancreatic cancer. Tumors on the former president’s liver and brain were discovered in 2015, as he turned 91, but prompt diagnosis and treatment resulted in a cancer-free bill of health a year later.
When Carter became president in 1977, his extensive nuclear reactors and energy knowledge would be handy, as other world leaders respected his expertise. (Source: Military)