Our modern LWR reactors descend in direct lineage from Admiral Rickover’s submarine reactors. Few people realize that much of the original engineering and research work sprang from Walter Zinn’s Argonne laboratory. That is no accident. Rickover loathed the scientists and Westinghouse, the industrial powerhouse who took the design to world prominence, had a strong interest in cementing. . .
The invigorating personal touches one finds in archives. Arthur Compton was pivotal to the Manhattan Project during WWII, leading Met Lab, which developed the first reactors and bomb materiels factories. After the war, he stepped back into academia at Washington University. At the end of 1954 he had just retired as chancellor and was writing a book, Atomic Quest, that is a treasure trove for. . .
Violation of instructions
W. H. McCorkle (I just discovered his first name was Willard) crops up a lot in the Argonne files in the early 50s, as a metallurgist who was a director of research. Walter Zinn tended to be blunt with him. I have had reported to me by a reliable source that there has been an occasion when CP-5 has been operating at full power and no operator was in the control room. This is in direct violation. . .
October 1954. Did a smile flit across his face?
Dear Doctor Zinn, Knowing the heavy schedule you have at the Laboratory, I realize the extra demand the speech before the Convention of F.B.I. Agents will make on your time and energy.Cotter, Frank P. 1954. Cotter to Zinn, Oct. 28, 1954. “Argonne National Laboratory General Correspondence,” Box 4, Entry Series 1, RG 126. NARA, College Park, Maryland.
Lilienthal on Strauss
Lewis Strauss looms large over the first decade of postwar reactor history. He was a commissioner under AEC’s first chairman, David Lilienthal, also under the second chairman, Gordon Dean, then got the top job from new president Eisenhower. He attracted strong antipathy. Here is Lilienthal diarising about Strauss at the apex of power in late 1954. It is completely understandable that I. . .
One of the more interesting pioneers was Sam Untermyer (Samuel Untermyer, III) who, together with Walter Zinn, invented the Boiling Water Reactor, helped General Electric develop and launch it, and then kind of faded away. I found 62 pages of interview transcripts mysteriously dated August 1965, with no context or interviewer details. The interview is frank and fascinating. Here he is, describing. . .