Truth?

I’m redrafting early chapters at present, so no “can’t fit it into the book” content of interest is emerging, hence the low frequency of posting. That will change shortly but in the meantime, a separate reading project has reminded me of something close to my heart. Writing the history of power reactors is tough from one angle: nearly everyone I talk to has firm ideas about the subject, but his. . .

Five Russian nuclear scientists reported killed

I’ve been watching chaotic reports of a Russian “nuclear” accident of some sort. The ABC (article “Russian military orders village evacuation”) has what seems like a good up-to-today summary of what little is available. And I’m not moved to spend much time on it, for purely selfish reasons. This clearly has nothing to do with nuclear power reactors in electricity-producing plants, which is my. . .

Call him William

A recurring bit player in the UK reactor story after the war is one W. G. Marley, a physicist. He crops up regularly but, in the nature of things, I wasn’t intending to mention him in the book. But in a narrative strand about the Windscale fire, he crops up so prominently that I just have to include him as “physicist W. G. Marley.” But wait – doesn’t “W. G. . .

Never forget the awe

Obsessing over something like nuclear power or atomic energy as it was initially occurred, over time you become blasé. Over the last half decade, a group of friends and I have worked through the epic 3,600-page six-book My Struggle series of novels by Norway’s Karl Ove Knausgaard. In the final book, listen: To split the atom is no minor matter. It is to exceed a boundary never before. . .

Canada’s nuke connections

Navigating the line between the peaceful atom, which is the province of my book, and military nuclear weapons, was always going to be tricksy. On the one hand, I am of course interested in what nexus there is between reactors and the spread of weapons of mass destruction. On the other hand, I don’t want to get caught up in nuclear weapons history itself; the topic is just too big to be. . .

Lego’izing history

At the moment I’m preparing to assemble a narrative of the first visionary period of nuclear power, ranging from 1942 through to 1960. Watching, and subsequently championing Craig Mazin’s superlative HBO series, Chernobyl, has been both a re-immersion in a subject I know half well and an aesthetic distraction. Yet I’m feeling a sense of disquiet. It’s one thing for a key. . .

Silly hubris

A fascinating Twitter presence called Soviet Visuals posted this on June 6, 2017. Apparently it’s an “atomic airship” from a 1960s Soviet magazine. The caption: “Atomic ruler of the sky.” My book barely mentions nuclear-powered flight. The power reactor pioneers I’ve studied judged that notion to be nonsensical. The United States spent a few billion on it before JFK shut it down (rather. . .

For once it’s a case of less work not more

Being a slow historian is frustrating if only due to the continual public release of more information, critical data that needs to be obtained, catalogued, analysed and recorded. For example, just this year, three substantive books and a five-part TV series have been published/released, all on the subject of Chernobyl. I spent hours on them. So it is pleasant indeed to confront my “holding. . .

A report I ignored

January 2, 1959. President Eisenhower, one of the most pro-private-enterprise, anti-government-funding American leaders ever, has to deal with a rambunctious legislature that pushes for AEC (the Atomic Energy Commission) to build numerous reactors. (Why? A complex weave of reasons, often nationalistic, often local-political.) No one seems to know which of many reactor designs is. . .

HBO’s Chernobyl mini-series

HBO’s Chernobyl I’ve written before about the quandary of watching documentaries and historical reenactments of nuclear events. On the one hand, of course I need to see such modern interpretations of past events I’m trying to make sense of. On the other hand, for some reason it’s rare to come across a film that actually contributes firm historical data. I end up spending. . .

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