ArchiveJanuary 2024

Digging into the past is fun

I’m researching and writing about the peaceful atom but the thought did occur to me when reading up about the Manhattan Project, how did they come up with the colossal amount of money needed? Well, a New York Times reporter has recently done a deep dig into just that subject, namely: It turns out that when Congress voted to fund the bomb, there was no debate and no discussion. Only seven. . .

What is an energy box?

Walker Cisler, an energetic, debonair electricity utility executive during the early years of nuclear power, penned a biography of sorts in 1976. He writes engagingly but I haven’t ended up using his material much, simply because other sources trump his. At one point he writes about the new Japanese market, which he obviously claims to have opened up for America, and refers to the Lucky. . .

Misinformation in the 50s

History professor Brian Balogh wrote a readable, academic 1991 book (most obscure in Australia) about nuclear debate, covering the three decades to 1975. In 1956, he writes, based on National Security Council papers (which I now wish I’d sighted): …the OCB [Operations Coordinating Board] warned that “there are signs that the early emotional over-optimism on peaceful uses may turn into. . .

When nuclear engineering was not a profession

Key reactor pioneers in the 1950s spearheaded the creation of a new profession, that of nuclear engineering. A historian of science in Scotland, Sean Johnston, wrote a book on just this topic (he gave the academic book an evocative title, something I admire). Intriguingly, one of his key protagonists resisted the notion of a new profession, as Johnston writes (pp. 181-182): Hinton was averse to a. . .

Divining passion

The reactor pioneers of the 1940s and 1950s were, above all, practical. They politicked, they campaigned, but few of them could be said to display overt passion. Sometimes I had to divine their emotions from ephemera. In October 1956, just before the grand royal launch of Calder Hall, Christopher Hinton sent Mrs. Marr of Durdar, Carlisle a photograph of the plant as a memento, writing: “As you. . .

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