I was intrigued to find that as early as May 1956, the threat of an airplane crashing into a power reactor, with its load of radioactive fission products, was considered. In fact a British politician asked the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority about this risk. An engineer drafted a response that summed up: In general terms, we think that any such incident is unlikely except by the remotest. . .
A now-forgotten reactor design path was the bright idea of General Electric in the late 1940s to build what they called an “intermediate breeder,” cooled by liquid sodium. This is not the time or place to explore the intermediate breeder concept but suffice to say that it didn’t really work, so GE modified what they had to attempt a submarine reactor, at a time when there were. . .
Looking back, it’s tempting to apply today’s cynicism to yesterday’s words, but often the words mean what they say. Lewis Strauss, Chairman of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission from 1953 to 1958, was mostly a pernicious influence on the history of reactors, but this August 1955 quote (surplus to my requirements) from a fulsome interview by that bellwether magazine, The. . .
Unless you’re lucky, it’s almost impossible to get behind the facades erected by most companies. Westinghouse and General Electric dominated global reactor sales over the 1950s to 1970s, and while there is plenty of public material about them, the real skinny is nigh impossible to get. However, John Simpson, who headed up Westinghouse’s reactor business for years, wrote a book. . .
Historian Dick van Lente managed to track down a nifty paean to the pioneers of nuclear power, a tribute too many for my book. (I found I could get hold of some issues of Life Magazine but not all.) He writes (p. 64): Life on August 8, 1955, reflected on the hope of the atomic age as it had been imagined immediately after Trinity. Tellingly, the magazine chose Trinity as its touchstone, not. . .
Watching pro-nuclear and antinuclear polemics play out in the ideas marketplace is very interesting to me. My son alerted me to a Facebook share from a neat blog called The Logic of Science, whose author prefers anonymity, that mostly targets unscientific nonsense. The Logic of Science suggested taking seriously a blog on radioactive waste from a young Finnish scientist, Iida Ruishalme (photo. . .