INL News Release
Feb. 15, 2016

Laura Scheele, 219-381-8672,
Lori McNamara, 208-520-6066,

Idaho National Laboratory mourns death of Warren Nyer

IDAHO FALLS — Warren Nyer, a nuclear pioneer who worked on the Manhattan Project and major reactor experiments at what is now Idaho National Laboratory, died Feb. 4 at his home in Idaho Falls.

Nyer, 94, died of natural causes.

On Dec. 2, 1942, Nyer was one of 49 scientists who gathered near a squash court at the University of Chicago’s abandoned Stagg Field. They were witness to history when Chicago Pile 1, the world’s first nuclear reactor, went critical.

Nyer, 21 at the time and a laboratory assistant in the physics department at the University of Chicago, was one of 20 scientists who worked directly under Enrico Fermi, the Italian physicist who created CP1, which became a key element in the Manhattan Project.

Nyer performed a variety of tasks leading up to the CP1 success, including taking charge of a crew preparing fuel for use in the reactor.

“Warren Nyer was part of a select group that shaped history,” Idaho National Laboratory Director Mark Peters said. “His pioneering work on the CP1 Project marked the beginning of the era we live in today, in which nuclear energy stands prepared to play a major role in providing the clean energy the world needs to power its future.”

Nyer’s early work took him to Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Hanford National Laboratory and Los Alamos National Laboratory, where he witnessed the first test of an atomic bomb.

In 1951, Nyer settled in Idaho with his wife and two sons. Nyer devoted the rest of his career to developing nuclear reactors for the generation of electricity, working first at the Materials Test Reactor and later heading up nuclear safety programs for the Phillips Petroleum Company. Nyer was also the organizing chairman of the Idaho section of the American Nuclear Society.

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Posted Feb. 16, 2016