Walter Zinn used language directly, sometime ponderously, but often with flair. Here he is in 1954, writing to a scientist about to come work with Argonne for a month or so. Reading this, I ask myself: who informs Walter what is or isn’t “interesting”? I am delighted to know that you can spend June with us. It seems to me that the pattern we followed last year would be. . .
Our modern energy picture shows a strong tilt to a dominant reactor design, the light water reactor. Its history tends to be portrayed as a logical progression centered around Admiral Hyman Rickover, who, so goes the narrative, so resoundingly demonstrated the design’s efficacy with nuclear submarines, that when he built the world’s first fully commercial power reactor at. . .
Perhaps anyone at the center of history exhibits interesting characteristics when subjected to full scrutiny. Many of the reactor pioneers are fascinating beyond their official histories. England’s John Cockcroft was an extraordinary person but decidedly “Delphic,” as in “deliberately obscure or ambiguous.” Brian Austin, biographer of Basil Schonland, captured one. . .
Another intriguing moment. John Cockcroft was a lynchpin of the British reactor efforts from wartime until the early 60s. Ben Lewis ditto for the Canadian reactor efforts (although his influence waned by the 60s). I spotted a handwritten letter from the latter to the former that suggests to me that Cockcroft was fishing for a successor (something his biographers make plain) and that Lewis. . .
When we look back at early American reactor development, we wonder why the Atomic Energy Commission set up a huge reactor testing station in remote Idaho. Surely that’s overkill? Well, here’s Walter Zinn’s trusty lieutenant reporting in early 1954 about unloading fuel rods (a 5-week job) from the triumphant EBR-I breeder in Idaho: The rod cutting business was continually plagued. . .
My book will cover the famous incident whereby a Japanese fishing vessel, the Lucky Dragon, became engulfed in fallout from the Castle Bravo thermonuclear tests at Bikini Atoll on March 1, 1954. That incident reverberated for years, resulting in, among other things, the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty nearly a decade later. What struck me recently, when doing a kind-of-stocktake of references. . .