Another of those fascinating interconnections between the reactor pioneers, of little import but fascinating anyway. Samuel Untermyer, a protégé of one of my main characters, reactor pioneer Walter Zinn, left Zinn’s laboratory in the early 50s to join General Electric. Here in 1958, he writes a polite letter to British reactor pioneer John Cockcroft, asking: Our European representative sent. . .
Sniping across borders
The reactor pioneers visited their overseas contemporaries/competitors often and reading their trip reports offers plenty of interest. At a more general level, one aspect I’ve observed is that if you’re a British physicist visiting U.S. laboratories, your eventual report will imply, if not state, that the British are further advanced. The converse is also true, as I noticed in this. . .
Keeping up with America?
John Dunworth was one of the smart, opinionated physicists collected post-war by John Cockcroft for his Harwell laboratory. Over time Dunworth’s role became that of overall reactor guru. Here I catch him in 1953, eleven pages of him poring over all the technical literature and summing up recent British scientists’ tours of America. I enjoyed his put-down of a General Electric design. . .
Boasting about safety
In 1956 Kenneth Jay, sort of the inhouse historian of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority, wrote a compact book about Calder Hall, the pride and joy of Christopher Hinton, the top engineer. Hinton often preached how safe British reactors were and this paragraph from Jay could have come straight from Hinton’s mouth. It was part propaganda (Hinton used to say the same things about the. . .
It’s hard to control a bike at low speeds . . . but a reactor?
A Westinghouse engineer put out a book way back in 1955 on controlling reactors. My copy was a an ex-library book from the Cranfield College of Aeronautics and I was excited to open it up. Unfortunately it turned out to be too technical for my use. But an interesting introductory remark reveals why reactor engineers and scientists take the greatest care when starting up a reactor. Why? Because. . .
Does a reactor’s auxiliary power requirements affect its economics?
To answer the question, I had to look up the definition of “auxiliary power requirements” in in a 1958 trade journal article titled “A Thermodynamic Comparison,” written by an engineer from a consulting firm. A glance at the diagram shows that this is just the percentage of a reactor power plant’s power that goes into running its many pumps. The lower the better, for. . .