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Rare look inside a nuclear reactor

I don't think we'll see the inside of any of the stricken nuclear reactors in Japan anytime soon but if you're curious about what one looks like, LIFE posted a series of historical images from their extensive archives.

Fritz Goro / Time & Life Pictures / Getty Images / LIFE

Technicians watch the reactor dome being lowered into place by crane over the reactor pit which is still under construction in 1957 at the Shippingport Atomic Power Station in Pennsylvania.

Al Penn / Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images / LIFE

A control room in 1952 at a U.S. reactor.

J.R. Eyerman / Time & Life Pictures / Getty Images / LIFE

Technicians test a disc of irradiated plastic for hardness in 1954 at the Arco Breeder Reactor in Idaho.

J.R. Eyerman / Time & Life Pictures / Getty Images / LIFE

A universal coffin is used to remove test samples from a reactor at the Arco Breeder Reactor in Idaho.

See more images from inside various nuclear plants on LIFE.com