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. . .

The birth of Lucas Heights

A historian friend, Neil Huybregts, pointed me to George Dalton. A New Zealand engineer, he joined Harwell in 1947, worked on the British breeder, then transferred back home in 1949. In 1955 he was snapped up by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission’s chief scientist, Charles Watson-Munro (whom I know quite well through his early role in Canada’s atomic efforts). Dalton returned to. . .

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. . .

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