Electricity in Chicago

Anyone who has been to Chicago agrees it’s a grand city but I didn’t know this: On an atlas of worldwide electrical cultivation, the brightest zone, the very most intense buildup, would center around Chicago in the decade from 1918 to 1929, when a majority of homes in the city were wired up. Chicago was the most electrified city in the world, with an average per-capita annual. . .

The many factors in play

In the early 50s, intense negotiations between West Germany and those determining its future – the United States, the United Kingdom, and France, among others. Should any atomic energy activity at all be allowed and, if so, what. The Official Committee on Atomic Energy was a group of British senior public servants briefing their ministers. Among those allowed to observe, and to provide. . .

Getting animated about history

History is academic, as dry as a brown hill in a drought, right? This is me on a hike and I’m describing an episode in the global history of nuclear energy. Guess what episode? Yep, you got it … Chernobyl!

A photo from the Fukushima front lines

It’s been an exhilarating yet frustrating time lately with this book. On the one hand, I’m doing little book drafting (hence the lack of “offcust posts” in this blog) but it’s all for a good cause. For four stunning new books have come out on two of the defining nuclear reactor accidents. Charles A. Casto (“Chuck” of course, being American) was on the. . .

Another look at Churchill’s scientist

A fascinating podcast from Malcolm Gladwell, from his Revisionist History series, puts the human cause of a massive famine in Bengal in 1943 down to the relationship between Churchill and Frederick Lindemann, his highly eccentric chief scientist. I don’t have any interest in wartime Bengal but Lindemann, later often called Cherwell (as in Lord Cherwell) plays a cameo role in Britain’s. . .

42 minutes re North Korean nuke war risks

Van Jackson’s “On the Brink: Trump, Kim, and the Threat of Nuclear War” stunned me last year. Compulsory reading for anyone interested in nuclear proliferation, etc. Now Van Jackson has made a 42-minute documentary on the subject. “The Nuclear Button: How Trump and Kim Blustered to the Brink of War” is fascinating, the same points as the book but nonetheless quite. . .

Even Denmark proves to be interesting

Denmark never built or bought a power reactor but in writing up the early history of its atomic/nuclear efforts, I grew fascinated despite myself. What complicated this history was the towering presence of Niels Bohr. Bohr was central in launching the theory of nuclear fission and apparently promised U.S.A after World War II that he wouldn’t use his insider knowledge. So for a decade he. . .

Pleasures & perils of new data

A startling new book published last November by the Institute for Science and International Security, “Taiwan’s Former Nuclear Weapons Program: Nuclear Weapons On-Demand” by David Albright and Andrea Stricker, completely changed my mind about Taiwan’s nuclear history from the 60s to the 80s. I have to admit I’ve grumbled a bit, because processing this book has been a. . .

Italy in 1952: Far behind

In December 1952, the recently established trade journal Nucleonics surveyed the world’s nuclear power prospects as best it could. I guess it figured its American readers desired to know how quickly other countries were progressing towards nuclear-generated electricity, and I’m sure the magazine hit a sweet spot that month. But 1952 was before the Americans, followed by the British. . .

Bartering nuclear materials

From 1948 to 1951, the small nation of Norway leveraged its heavy water factory’s precious output (it’s one of the best moderators of nuclear fission, this “moderation” being essential for controllable nuclear power). It played the British and French off against each other (U.S.A. refused to offer any assistance) in order to build its first research reactor. In May 1951, John Cockcroft in England. . .

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