While visiting friends in Livermore, California, we drove along Highway 84 in the Sunol area to see the Vallecitos Nuclear Center nestled among the rolling hills of Alameda County.
The Vallecitos boiling water reactor (VBWR) was the first privately owned and operated nuclear power plant to deliver electricity to a public utility grid. Inaugurated in 1957 with the US Atomic Energy Commission’s “Power Reactor License No. 1,” the main power generating facilities operated until 1963.
Pacific Gas and Electric Company and General Electric (now GE Hitachi) built the facility, which generated about 5 megawatts of electricity, and was mainly used for testing in anticipation of larger commercial plants. The remaining reactor at Vallecitos generates just 100 kilowatts and performs neutron radiography imaging.
The Center is now used for testing, training, and research. Below is a newsreel story from November 25, 1957, of the opening of the plant.