From Academic Kids

A scram is an emergency shutdown of a nuclear reactor, though the term has been extended to cover shutdowns of other complex operations, such as server farms and even large model railroads (see Tech Model Railroad Club). Many sources state that the term is actually an acronym, most commonly expanded to safety control rod axe man, referring in that case to a person who would use an axe to cut a wire or rope to drop a control rod into a reactor to shut it down. This became another meaning of the word scram after people working at the first nuclear reactor pile in Chicago, Illinois, known as CP-1, incorporated it into their emergency procedures. (An alternative derivation is that it stood for Simulated Chicago Reactor Axe Man). Many attribute the usage to Enrico Fermi, who supposedly wrote the “axe man” phrase into the original reactor design. There were multiple safety systems in place at the Chicago pile, with some electrically-controlled control rods as well as vessels containing a cadmium solution available to stop any reactions if necessary. Therefore, the job of the “scram man” to drop another control rod by the force of gravity was most likely superfluous.

Some sources indicate that the term may also stand for safety cut rope axe man or start cutting right away, man, but this confusion provides further evidence that the term scram was likely a backronym when it was first proposed in this context. At the time of the Chicago pile, scram was a common imperative, meaning roughly “get away, now!” The workers at CP-1 labeled an emergency shutdown button “SCRAM,” since they would immediately be scramming from the premises as soon as the button was hit.


Scram is a game designed by Chris Crawford for the Atari 800. The player controlled the valves and switches of a nuclear reactor directly with the joystick. Occasionally, earthquakes would occur and the player must analyze the heat readings and dispatch repair crews to the affected area of the plant.

Scram is also a similar game written for the DEC Alpha, where the player would control a small astronaut with a jetpack as she attempted to trigger all the cooling valves in an nuclear reactor before the levels rose to a critical level.

Scram[1] ( is also an occasional journal of unpopular culture


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