AuthorAndres Kabel

Technical intricacies

Anyone considering nuclear reactors from outside the scientific or engineering professions can pretend, after reading and reading and reading, that he or she “understands” how they work. She can absorb all the technicalities of neutron speed, fuel, moderator, and coolant, and imagine that’s all that’s that is needed. But of course that’s naive. Huge complexity lies. . .

An unprofessional grizzle

Yesterday, buried in book editing while on the road, I acknowledged what I’ve been avoiding: I need to absorb and document Australia’s current nuclear debate. You might view this statement as trivial and unprofessional, and, truth be told, I’m ashamed to admit it. Here’s the essence. The leader of the conservative opposition party here has challenged the governing Labor Party’s climate change. . .

The drama of Sputnik

The Soviet Union’s Sputnik rocket, launched in late 1957, impacted mightily on both the Cold War arms race and the efforts to bring in nuclear power. It suddenly and unexpectedly announced to the world that the East, regarded as technologically backward, might well be leading the space race. I love skilful, exuberant prose, and no doubt you do also, so I bring to you a delightful couple of. . .

Grizzling about the Aussies

On August 7, 1957, Christopher Hinton, the leader of the engineering half of the British nuclear power push, wrote to a civil servant: Frankly, I can not see that collaboration with the Australians on H.T.G.C. makes sense. I gather from Stewart that the Australians are saying that because of the limited development of their engineering industry, they do not intend to manufacture atomic energy. . .

Postwar mistrust

After World War II, defeated nation Germany held high hopes for plentiful use of the new means of generating electricity, namely nuclear reactors. There were myriad reasons for this, with political and psychological reasons ranking highly. Not until 1955 was West Germany granted independence of occupation and not until 1960 was national atomic legislation, so the German aspirations unfurled only. . .

Rivalries

In September 1957, Leonard Owen, the new head of the Risley organization that built reactors, enrichment plants, etc., was chairing a meeting of his executive, when he spoke of an upcoming tour of Britain’s nuclear facilities by America’s powerful Joint Committee for Atomic Energy (JCAE), a small group of elected politicians with oversight of the Atomic Energy Commission in Washington. . .

A wedding in Chester

Geeky is as geeky does. On August 28, 1957, three days before Christopher Hinton left the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority after thirteen years during which he fueled his nation’s atomic bombs and launched its nuclear energy master plan, he wrote to the Superintendent of the Chester City Constabulary about his daughter’s upcoming wedding. His letter closes thus: The bride will. . .

Het Atoom

In the summer of 1957, Amsterdam’s officials and the local Chamber of Commerce put on an exhibit at Schiphol Airport. It was called “Het Atoom,” the atom. As Dutch historian Dick van Lente discovered, the exhibition talked up the new technology. And Panorama magazine (one I know nothing about) featured an article about the show. Van Lente’s description includes the. . .

British atoms for war?

Toward the end of 1957, the new British prime minister, Harold Macmillan (less than a year in the job after his predecessor Anthony Eden was ignominiously outed followed the Suez Crisis fiasco) met President Eisenhower in Washington (that’s them front and left below) and hammered out an agreement that he thought very favorable to the United Kingdom. Engineer and longtime Harwell worker Fred. . .

Human fission

Something of a sideshow to the U.S. technical and political nuclear drama in the 1950s was a personality clash between two of the commissioners on the Atomic Energy Commision, the regulator and promoter of nuclear energy. The faceoff was between chairman Lewis Strauss (you’ll know him from Robert Downey Jr.’s riveting portrayal in Oppenheimer, the movie), a die-hard Republican, and. . .

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