Stories indeed … oral histories of thirty folks who were there during the founding and expansion of Sellafield.
Sellafield wasn’t called Sellafield until the core of Windscale Pile No. 1 began burning in October 1957. Courage and good luck averted a huge catastrophe, and afterwards, the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority decided to change names to avoid bad publicity.
Listen to one female Windscale worker: “I remember the fire, of course. At that time I had a motorbike, this is before I was married. I was going in and out on this motorbike and of course I was wearing a crash hat. I went to Seascale and then along the railway, there’s a track between the railway and the sea which we called the cinder track. I knew something had gone wrong, but then things did go wrong, so you just don’t take any notice. … I was conscious of the smoke coming out of the chimney and I didn’t think that was a good idea.”
A male worker: “I knew the site was on fire on the Thursday night because one of the lads going home with me was a lad called Bill Rothery who was a health physics monitor. We were sitting there going home and he says, ‘Cyril, the pile’s on fire, look.’ I looked and I could see smoke coming out of Pile 1 chimney. I said, ‘You’re right, Bill.’ ‘Oh, maybe we’ll get a day off tomorrow.’”
There is nothing like a fine oral history collection to impart a flavor of what went down with big events.