ArchiveJanuary 2022

Garden party diversion

Francis (Franz) Simon was a German-born chemist and physicist who emigrated to England. He invented the crucial gaseous diffusion method of uranium enrichment. He doesn’t figure much in my story of power reactors but, to be on the safe side, I dutifully read a fairly recent biography by a Canadian academic. Here’s a fascinating cameo scene in Oxford towards the tail end of 1954. What. . .

Tailings

Illinois historian Eric Mogren now researches bow hunting (according to his university’s web page on him) but in 2002 he wrote an illuminating history of uranium mill tailings (i.e. the sandy residues of mining the mineral). This involves more detail than my general history can cover, but I did enjoy reading this conclusion: Moreover, the AEC’s persistent focus on short-term, high-level. . .

An oceanographer complains about radwaste

Jacob Hamblin, a historian in Oregon, unearths the most fascinating archival material. Preparing for the BEAR meeting of oceanographers, Vine wrote a memorandum in February 1956 outlining what he considered to be the basic conundrum of waste disposal. He captured the uncertainty by describing the problem as “somewhere between nonexistent and insolvable.” Partly this was due to a lack of. . .

A judgment call

If you’re seeking the truth when writing history, rather than expressing a view as in a polemic, it can be difficult to judge your references. Bharat Karnad is a research professor in New Delhi, with impeccable credentials including many governmental assignments and roles. In 2005, he published his 575-page magnum opus on India’s nuclear weapons history and status, titled Nuclear. . .

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