Agency and finally the U.S. Department of Energy. Before assuming his duties in the naval reactors program, Captain Rickover sent him to MIT for a new program in nuclear engineering started at Rickover’s suggestion. This program earned Kintner a second master’s degree, this one in nuclear engineering.
Arriving at naval reactors headquarters in Washington, D.C., Kintner initially headed an engineering group but was then made project manager for the first nuclear-powered submarine, Nautilus, and its full-scale, land-based prototype built on an AEC site in Arco, Idaho.
The Nautilus project involved designing and building the first nuclear plant to produce a large amount of usable power and the associated steam plant to convert that power into the useful mechanical power and electricity needed to propel and operate a submarine without external support. That all had to be done so as to fit into the confined space of a submarine hull. It required breakthroughs in several areas, including physics, metallurgy, electronics, and environmental medicine.
A major decision in the program was to reject advice to pursue an extensive research and development program and instead to proceed directly to the design and construction of the full-scale submarine and its prototype. This decision was described by Kintner in a featured cover article in the Atlantic Monthly for January 1959 titled “Admiral Rickover’s Gamble.” The decision also influenced Ed’s subsequent career.
Kintner managed and coordinated the diverse activities that resulted in successful completion and operation of the prototype and then the Nautilus power plant. Nautilus was completed and launched on January 21, 1954—a little less than three and a half years after the ship was authorized by President Truman in August 1950.
Following the successful initial operation of the Nautilus, a number of additional nuclear submarines were to be built. Kintner was appointed nuclear power superintendent at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard in California, to develop in that yard the capability to build them and to oversee construction of the USS Sargo, the fifth nuclear-powered submarine and the first built on the West Coast, and others.