Reactors bristle with subatomic complexity. Especially in the early days, devilishly complex reactor physics calculations had to be undertaken because the underlying physical phenomena are so difficult to model. As a former actuary, I knew something about mathematics, but I struggled, and still struggle, with nuclear physics. Witness this page from a wonderful, but tough, basic text, E. E. . .
Cockcroft on the “dark side”
Are nuclear bombs linked to reactors? An ancient question. One aspect of this is covered in a very low-key speech given by Nobel laureate Sir John Cockcroft in 1948: Nor have I spoken about the dark side of the picture – the Atomic Bomb. Workers in atomic energy are indeed always aware of this potential danger of their work. They feel, however, that the problems cannot be solved by a retreat into. . .
A gruesome accident
One of the more analyzed and described nuclear accidents was that of Stationary Low-Power Reactor Number 1 (SL-1) at the very beginning of 1961. The reactor was an army one, so it’s not terribly relevant to me. SL-1 was a strange concept from the start, a self-contained building, 14 meters high and 11 meters in diameter, meant to house a handful of soldiers in remote snowbound areas. Power. . .
Khrushchev envisioned by Iannucci in The Death of Stalin
I’ve spent some time trying to understand Nikita Khrushchev’s role, during his 1953-1964 reign as the head of the Soviet Union, in the history of nuclear electricity. Armando Iannucci’s black-as-pitch satire, The Death of Stalin, messes with chronology to depict Khrushchev’s triumph over Lavrenti Beria after Josef Stalin’s 1953 death. As I’ve noted before. . .
Swedish safety education
In 1957, in the very early days of power reactors, Christopher Hinton, head of reactor building in England, visited Sweden. On his return, he wrote to Frank Farmer, the UK expert on reactor safety. Sweden was planning to build a small reactor, of the sort then being built in Canada, to provide community heating by warming up water piped into a town. “It follows,” wrote Hinton. . .